Inspired by Vladimir Nabakov

Posted July 24th, 2012 by

Authors find inspiration in many different ways. I was first inspired to become an author while reading All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren during my freshman year in college. It took almost 30 years for me to realize my dream when Inheriting the Trade was published almost five years ago.

Now, thanks to my collaboration with Sharon, a second book will soon hit the bookshelves with my name on it. I’m beginning to feel like a real author now, yet I continue to seek inspiration; the type that helps me believe that I can share stories with a much larger audience than I have so far; that I can write novels and screenplays; that I can continue to, well, inspire others the way I have been inspired.

I’ll be honest with you, I keep books written by my favorite authors in plain site in my living room and bedroom. Mark Twain, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Douglas Blackmon, Joy DeGruy, Khaled Hosseini, John Irving, Somerset Maugham, and so many others stare out at me and whisper, “Keep going. Write more.”

Dmitri Nabokov, the only child of author Vladimir Nabokov, died in Switzerland in February. I read a wonderful article about Dmitri in the New York Times a few days ago. Hundreds of editions of his father’s books were arranged, alphabetically and by language, around the living room of Dimitri’s apartment. I look forward to my books being published in other languages and taking up more than a few inches of space on my bookshelves.

Vladimir Nabakov, most famous for his controversial novel Lolita, faced challenges in his life I can barely imagine. His family escaped persecution by fleeing both the Bolsheviks and the Nazis before settling in the United States. I have no doubt that his traumatic experiences inspired what he wrote far more than other events.

But all that aside, here’s what inspired me most about reading the article about Dmitri:

When my mother read this passage to me for the first time, I recall clinging to its final image: “something in a scrambled picture — Find What the Sailor Has Hidden — that the finder cannot unsee once it has been seen.” A secret trapdoor had suddenly opened. Reading was a matter of capturing a detail in a scrambled picture, which, once perceived, unveiled a new story, often richer and stranger than the one first imagined.

That secret trapdoor… the ability to unveil something startling and new that, once seen by the reader, cannot be unseen. That’s what inspires and compels me to keep writing.

Sharon and I started our blog primarily to share our writing journey; the experience of writing and publishing our book. I’m sure one of us will soon add a post about all the detailed work that goes into putting together a book tour. But at this moment, today, I’m focused on that secret trapdoor.

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