It’s March 28, 1994. Boxes are still stacked against the walls of my westside Toronto flat. I moved in four weeks ago, but I almost immediately put my back out, so I have been slow in getting things put away.
I won’t be doing any unpacking today, however. I’m hosting a writing class here this evening, and I need to come up with some ideas for the six students who will be ringing my doorbell in a few hours.
I settle into my favorite armchair and shut my eyes in meditation. When I open them a timeless period of time later, I still have no compelling program for the evening. Then my eyes light on the pastel shades of The Celtic Tarot, which has been sitting on a table across the living room for a couple of days, ever since I brought it home from Toronto's Omega Centre bookstore where it so seduced me that I couldn’t not buy it, even as I failed to understand the impulse.
Now I do. I will have each student draw, closed-eyed, one of the deck’s major arcana cards. Then with their eyes open to the chosen card, I will lead them through a guided visualization into writing.
I rarely write during workshops I’m facilitating. Instead, I keep an eye on the participants in case anyone needs my help. This class would be different.
Once the six women are engrossed in their writing, an inner imperative insists that I draw a card of my own. I reach into the deck and pull the Chariot, and without full awareness of what I’m doing, I pick up my pen, pull my yellow-paged notepad toward me and begin to write.
What emerges after a rambling preamble is the tale of an odd-looking man in an odd-looking coach pulled by horses as oddly colored as those on the tarot card.
A year later in rural Nova Scotia, on the March 28 anniversary of that Toronto class, I complete the first draft of my first book — a novel I never planned to write, a novel I knew nothing about except as I wrote it word-by-word, a novel that wouldn’t even reveal its title to me until about a third of the way through: that novel was The MoonQuest.
It is now March 28, 2019, 25 years, more than a dozen books, many thousands of miles and countless Chariot rides and lifetimes later. Through the quarter of a century since that writing class, The MoonQuest has won six literary awards, earned dozens of five-star reviews and attracted the serious interest of an independent film producer. It has also spawned two sequels in a Q’ntana Trilogy that my Muse must have known about, even if my conscious mind was largely clueless, because without realizing I was doing it, I set up both The StarQuest and SunQuest in that first book.
Today, it’s hard to remember that Toronto writer who was so stressed by the loss of control The MoonQuest demanded of him. After all, when you have no idea what you’re writing from one word to the next, you have to surrender a hell of a lot of control.
Or maybe it’s not so hard to remember him. A few weeks ago I recalled Eulisha’s words to Toshar early in The MoonQuest — “There’s more to every story. Tell me how it continues.” — and realized that my Q’ntana saga had not concluded with The SunQuest as I had always believed. And so a few days after that, I began work on a new Q’ntana story.
For the first time since those early days with The MoonQuest, I am writing a novel that I know absolutely nothing about from one word to the next and that features characters I have never met before. I would be lying if I claimed that, as exciting as it is to be reconnecting with that world, it isn’t stressful. Abandoning control always is, in writing as much as in life. Yet the experience of The MoonQuest and all that it has taught me, revealed to me and created for me through these past 25 years makes this stress considerably more manageable than the last time.
As with those early MoonQuest days, I have no title, at least not for the book. For now, it’s simply Q4! But given that you can’t have a four-book trilogy, I have renamed the series: The Q’ntana Trilogy is now The Legend of Q’ntana, a name that is not only more evocative but that is already inspiring me to consider more books in the series after this one.
As an author-parent, I should not admit to having favorites. I should love all my books equally. I should…but if you promise not to tell anyone, I will confess that my Q’ntana books are my favorites. As much as I have written each of my books from a deep inner place, the Q’ntana stories feel as though they emerged from a still-deeper place, from the deepest depths of my soul.
These stories have always been bigger than me — from the moment the first one insisted itself onto the page. These are stories that have so long been such a part of my life that it’s as though they live deep within my cells. I am every one of their characters, villain as much as hero, and have lived each of their joys, triumphs, disappointments, betrayals and disasters. For decades, I have watched their themes play out in the world around me, just as I have experienced them play out in my own life…and not always comfortably. In the end, I am more than their storyteller. I am the story.
I am excited to see how this newest chapter unfolds!