All I know is once I picked it, I knew it was exactly the right choice. Not only for internal reasons, but I started to get small outward signs. I'd run across a sudden reference where it was seriously unexpected, Or, the biggest sign, while researching values on rare (scant even) original signed first editions with what's known as The Pendula included, I came across a copy inscribed by John Steinbeck to a man bearing the same unusual first name as the missing father the teens are searching for in the book. Even the last name was similar.
All I really knew is that it would be about two troubled teens and that it would have some important tie-in with Van Gogh.
I got the kids off to school and signed on to my computer to start writing with that overwhelming urge to get first thoughts down that any of us who write, know. I jotted three quick paragraphs and switched screens to attend to my morning ritual of email and facebook.
And there it was, my friend Lori's status update for the day: a quote by Vincent Van Gogh. And not any quote, but one that seemed to clearly resonate with the first paragraphs I'd just written, to mesh with the nebulous ideas swirling so frantically in my head.
Friday evening, I left Long Island for Washington DC for a whirlwind wedding weekend (and ten-plus hours of driving). Saturday morning, after breakfast -- and given that my mother, a talented artist, was with us -- we decided to squeeze in a visit to the Phillips Museum which happened to be around the corner from our hotel. We had heard it was a great museum (it is!) and my mother had always wanted to go.
As we reached the front entrance, I could see it was draped with a building-sized poster of Van Gogh's House at Arles. Sure, Van Gogh is a reasonably-obvious choice for any museum, on the other hand the museum was chock-full of amazing masters: Renoir, Cezanne, Degas, Monet, Manet, Bacon and Rubens, to name just a few.
When I reached the actual painting House at Arles, I stood for a while, feeling strangely connected. I've never spent a ton of time studying Van Gogh or anything, but certainly his paintings have always moved me. In person they are more beautiful.
There was no glass covering the work and I kept thinking how I could simply reach out and touch the very same paint Van Gogh touched and how magical that might be. The museum guard seemed to read my mind and hovered close by.
At any rate, I'm inspired now, and I hope the small signs continue. I believe in some minor way they let me know I'm on the right, if somewhat, mystifying path toward a new book.