Nearly twenty years ago, I was properly slapped and mesmerized by a quote of Virginia Woolf’s:
“Who can pen when he is bored? The minds of leisure only can be trite.”
What I had no notion of, at the time, was how pivotal that idea would end up being in the writing of my newly released novel, THE ASSASSINATION OF GABRIEL CHAMPION.
I’ve spent the greater part of my life being an artist (a musician by trade) and constantly asking the questions: What compels us? What do we do it for? And to what lengths are we willing to go to fuel it? This kernel became the very seed of my story, a modernist tale set in Los Angeles and Paris at the end of the last century.
Exploring themes of violence and redemption, and an ode, however dark and sooty, to artists, THE ASSASSINATION OF GABRIEL CHAMPION ultimately asks its own question: What can we forgive?
During the first-draft stage, I spent two summers in Paris, soaking up the city that turned out to be the featured character in the last half of the book. Not only did I fall in love with Paris, but it maintains a mystical connection for me, and a torrid love affair, that I continue to this day. Make no mistake, however; I’m an L.A. girl, born, raised and still residing. And so the heart of the book is the City of Angels.
One of my fondest memories of this extraordinary odyssey was the enthusiasm of my beloved stepfather, Fred Hicks, no longer with us, who so fell in love with one of the book’s characters that he would engage in vigorous arguments with me over how I should resolve said character’s life. I can think of no greater example of pure love and authentic moral support. And my only real regret is that it took me so long to nurse the book into its rightful being, and finally get it published, that he isn’t around to see it.
I have lived with these characters longer than most marriages. They are inside of me, in my very blood, and I am ecstatic at the thought of finally letting them walk out into the world and introduce themselves. And perhaps even to inspire a dialogue about art and the compulsion of artists.
Years ago, shortly after discovering the Woolf quote that would end up changing my life, I wrote a poem directly inspired by it. You might even say it’s a precursor to CHAMPION.
If I have never died
felt the burning on tips of my young
fingers to scorch a tender ache
I cannot write about it
If I have never killed
to cease the living of a truth untold
or scorned the womb that held me
I cannot dance it on a stage
If I have never felt
my belly swell with the hunger about which
I have only read
if I have never embraced hate
if I have never lost my mind
to yield to the brilliant
because I sowed my seed on fertile ground
I cannot paint it on a wall
Nor can I sing it
to my artist colleagues who
have all tried suicide once or twice
because they wanted to write about it
Thanks, dear Virginia, for planting a furious seed in my brain that has fueled me as an artist ever since.
Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD. Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.