Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Ghosts in the attic

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Funny how, when you’re young and not quite aware yet that you want to be a novelist, your experiences get parked in a special crate in your head for easy access later.

Case in point, I had this quasi-girlfriend when I was sixteen. She was sort of a tease, in a more aggressive way than I’d ever seen in a girl up till then, but she was also a Mormon. Intellectually I knew I was never going to get anywhere with her on the base paths — at least not past second — but physically I was all gangbusters. After we’d been circling each other for a couple of months, she casually suggested that I come over and spend the day at her house. It was summer. My mother worked near her house and could drop me off in the morning and pick me up on her way home.

I half wondered, and probably wrote in my journal the night before, if I was about to lose my virginity.

My mom dutifully dropped me at a major intersection near “Karen,” and I walked up a back path to the house. This because it happened to sit on a busy viaduct and Karen said nobody used their front door. I should show up at the back door.

I won’t describe the house, for reasons I’ll explain shortly. But let’s just say I was immediately disappointed, and knew I wouldn’t be losing my virginity that day, when I was greeted at the back door by Karen’s mother, older sister, and younger brother.

It turned into one of the longest days of my life, Karen and I prevented from sneaking off alone by the hyper-curious family. I was told that Karen’s dad was asleep upstairs too. Night-shift man. This girl was more supervised than I ever imagined, which made her dazzling French kisses something of a puzzle — how’d she get that good at them if she was constantly under a magnifying glass?

I won’t describe the mother or the father, or the sister, for reasons I’ll explain shortly. I won’t emphasize, either, that it was the summer of the Senate Watergate hearings. I’ll say it was hot and they didn’t have air conditioning. And I’ll say that I couldn’t wait for five o’clock to roll around so I could meet my mom down at the intersection.

Ironically, it was about five to five when Karen pulled me urgently into her bedroom and nailed me with one of her kisses. She said, “I couldn’t let you go away empty-handed.”

We never did get anywhere relationship-wise. I think the more I thought of her as my girlfriend, the more distant she got. Kinda think, too, that she had other boys like me on strings and reeled them in one by one, only to toss them back into the lake.

But the reason I’m offering scant details is, all of this is the background of a forthcoming novel of mine. Next year’s novel. And everything about that summer is in the book. I didn’t know at the time that that’s why I went to spend the day with Karen. It had nothing to do with losing my virginity. It’s because I would be writing a novel about it one day.

Funny how that works.

Advice for young writers to be: take copious notes.

12 comments on “Ghosts in the attic

  1. kingmidget
    June 23, 2016

    I occasionally think of a life experience that might make for a good jumping off point for a story but rarely can think of how to make it work. Instead, while I’m in the middle of a story, something from my past may help inform how to go about with the writing of the thing.

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 23, 2016

      I often use elements from my life, but never literally or in exact detail. Real life doesn’t usually work out the way you’d like a book to go. But experiences can sure be inspirations.

      • kingmidget
        June 23, 2016

        Yes. But the stories I’m the most proud of are the ones where I can read them and see as little of me as possible. Those stories are the ones where I feel I was at my most creative. But, on the other hand, some of those experiences seem to lend themselves so well to something incredible …

  2. S.K. Nicholls
    June 23, 2016

    That’s why I prefer reading material from mature authors. You do have to live first. Somebody great said that, but I’m not good at remembering quotes.

  3. 1WriteWay
    June 23, 2016

    I hope “Karen” reads this 😉

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 23, 2016

      Heh heh. I’m sure I’m not even a dim memory in her head anymore … And when you read the book, you’ll see why I’m glad I didn’t wind up with her!

  4. John W. Howell
    June 23, 2016

    Sounds like a winner. Thanks for the tease (you devil)

  5. Audrey Driscoll
    June 23, 2016

    Anyone looking for writing ideas might find it helpful to dig out those old diaries/journals from their youth. (Of course I mean folks of a certain age; I’m sure younger people store their experiences some other way).

  6. Adrienne Morris
    June 24, 2016

    What a fun insight. I often write things I realize only after were half-forgotten memories.

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 24, 2016

      That happens to me a lot too. You tend to forget there’s a lot of old stuff packed away in that trunk!

  7. pinklightsabre
    June 28, 2016

    Now that’s a brilliant tease, in more ways than one. Thanks for the advice my man.

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This entry was posted on June 23, 2016 by in Writing and tagged , , , .
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