I’ve written a private-eye novel called “Petchy Maligula” and I’d like to tell you how Petchy was “born.”
At first I thought my private eye would be a lot like me — a heavyset, homely, timid, paranoid, superstitious, obsessive compulsive guy with Asperger’s Syndrome. But I realized there was a glut of male private eyes in mysteries, so I decided to make my gumshoe a woman. Petchy had no problem with my physical description of her, but she didn’t like the psychological aspects, and she sure as hell wasn’t timid. I didn’t want to argue with someone twice as strong as me, so I made the changes she demanded.
The missing archaeologist in my novel was inspired by a real person, Josh Bernstein, who was the host of a show called “Digging for the Truth.” Ironically, after I began writing my novel, his show ended and he started another show on another cable network. And not long after that … he just seemed to vanish. Fortunately, he didn’t mysteriously disappear like my fictional archaeologist did; his show just went on hiatus while he pursued new adventures. Still, it was a rather eerie coincidence that he dropped out of sight so abruptly.
My writing career has been full of eerie coincidences. Here are some more of them:
* In an unfinished sequel about Petchy, she’s flying in an Aeroflot plane over the Ural Mountains in Russia, scared to death that the plane is going to crash. Several months after I wrote that chapter, I was looking over the second draft, and when I was done I got on the internet to check my email and look at the latest headlines. Guess what the top news story was about? A plane crash … in the Ural Mountains.
* I wrote about a beautiful Russian tennis star inexplicably killing herself by jumping off a bridge in Moscow. Not long afterward, a beautiful Russian supermodel inexplicably jumped off the balcony of her apartment in New York City.
* I wrote about a character being menaced by a dog, and then a big black dog I’d never seen before showed up on my front porch and growled at me. Why it was on MY front porch instead of its own, I’ll never understand.
* I wrote about two characters who wound up in the Himalayas, and right around that time, two UNO professors were in the local news regarding their recent visit to the Himalayas. This would not be strange if I lived in Nepal. But Omaha?
* I wrote about a monk engaging in self-flagellation, and then a news report came out, revealing that Pope John Paul II — in his early days before he became pontiff — used to do the same thing.
* A few months before O.J. Simpson was arrested for allegedly killing his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and a companion, Ron Goldberg, I wrote a short story — a murder mystery — and sent it to a small literary magazine. The assistant editor sent me a postcard saying she liked the story and would pass it on to the editor. Unfortunately he rejected it, saying it just “didn’t fit.” Later, during the Simpson trial, Johnny Cochrane gave a speech to the jury containing the now-famous line, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” This would not be a strange coincidence, except for the name of the assistant editor at the magazine … Nicole Brown.
* Some years ago, a literary agent accepted one of my novels and asked me to make some copies and mail them to him. As I took them to the post office, I thought, “This is certainly a historic day.” The agent turned out to be a loser and the project fizzled out, but I still have the receipt I got from the post office that day. Because it represents a happy moment in time, just before all the dreams were dashed. The date was September 10th, 2001.
A little about me:
Not everyone with Asperger’s Syndrome has the same traits, of course, but some of us tend to grimace a lot. It’s just the way our faces work. I get stared at a lot because of my constant grimacing, and I also have trouble making eye contact with people, as many aspies do. Since I’m not looking people in the eye, sometimes I inadvertently look elsewhere. Their stomachs, usually. This offends women, as you can imagine. And men too.
I also talk to myself a lot at work and drop F bombs when my computer doesn’t do what I want.
And there have been times in my life when I’ve said nasty things to people or made cruel jokes at their expense, and only later realized what a jerk I’d been.
That’s why I like writing. It allows me to retreat into my fictional worlds and create characters who look people in the eye and act they way they ought to.