When cleaning, I came across the original mind map that I made at the very beginning of writing a novel VIGIL…
Oh my god, how important for me were these clippings! They moved me toward my fictional characters!
Since childhood I have such a “defect” that I dress from the feet upwards. I have my boots already on my legs and only then comes the blouse …
It is the same with my writing. First I have to “see” the character and only then I let her act and let her tell her story.
So my mind map is not about the ideas at all, but rather a clear picture of the group of characters that I thoroughly combined together and with which I have decided to spend some time. Very pleasant time.
I will never again say that desperate sentence, not even to me: “What else can happen to me today?” Not once, this sentence costed me a lot. Probably, it is the most provocative question targeting “somewhere above”. And there is always a clear answer coming back. I will seriously remember it!
After a day hectic to the max, when the turbulence and the hurricane of bad news calmed down, I went to do some shopping. I had planned to spend the weekend at home and spend it creatively. I was not sure yet whether it would be painting or writing, but I knew for sure I would be creating. I had not been a creator for so long that I became a creature in fact.
I struggled carrying the two fully loaded bags of vegetables and meat. The fatigue was so strong that I almost crawled on the sidewalk near my house. It was a beautiful sunny day and I was almost at the door. For a moment, I stopped and breathed in and as a long-runner, I planned to sprint the last few meters exhausting the last bits of energy (only in my head, really, because it was impossible to run with those bags).
I made a decisive jump towards my goal and suddenly, I felt such a strong hit on my head that, for the first time in my life, I saw stars in front of my eyes. The hit was as if someone chopped an axe in my head. In just a second, I was lying on the sidewalk. When I opened my eyes, I found out that I am surrounded by tomatoes, peppers, radishes, celery, chicken legs and all other yummies from my shopping bags. And also, I found that there was blood on my forehead…
As I was lying on my back, looking towards the sky, I noticed him – the little three-year-old terrorist from our house, who was bending over the balcony with open mouth as he was trying to find where his beautiful, red, metal train was… Ladies and gentlemen, I was really hit by the train! On the sidewalk!
After a while, the young neighbor rushed towards me and helped me get of the ground. She was murmuring something about being sorry for not recording it on her mobile. She said it could have been the most viewed video on YouTube: a lady falling on the sidewalk as in an old black-and-white comedy movie and a few meters above her a blond-curly-haired boy, which could be taken by any filmmaker for the role of an angel. Little Patrick was the nicest child on the block.
The train suffered from nothing serious, just a little scratch on the machine that could be repainted. Two stitches on my head will be covered by my thick hair. The important conclusion is that when you meet Patrick today on the walk around the house, the boy has (preventively) a beautiful helmet on his head.
Whenever you switch on your TV, there’s always something on that can get you hooked. I’m a movie maniac and I admit I’ve fallen prey to the modern trend of TV shows. I can see why creators bet on the format of TV shows. When I come back home and it’s around midnight, I can rarely make it through a two-hour-long feature. TV show episodes only last about an hour and in case the show is good, you get sucked in very fast.
My favorites like Game of Thrones, Westworld, Twin Peaks, and others, those are all fine. But that’s not the right movie night. An all-out movie night means a bowl of popcorn, a comfy blanket, a switched-off phone. God, it’s been so long since I’ve given myself permission to enjoy this luxury!
I only ever touch the DVD shelf when dusting it, slowly forgetting all about this type of relax. How is that even possible? I could swear there were times I would treat myself to a movie night even twice a week.
Blade Runner, Piano, Libertin, K-Pax, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill, Team America, American Beatury, Million Dollar Hotel, Fight Club, Snatch, Full Metal Jacket… that’s just me going through the titles on my top shelf mechanichally. There’s more than three hundred titles there and each and every one of them was once a movie that made my night. Only now do I realize that also means at least 300 bowls of popcorn!
I don’t know if this is good or bad (please, don’t let anyone assess or judge me), but my child grew up watching movies, TV shows and reading books. And he’s kept his respect for movie making until this day. Because it’s my son who carefully engages in film production these days.
I used to have similar ambitions once. I wanted to write scripts. When I write now, I can see every situation in my head as if I was watching a scene on the big screen. Some people say this actually shows in my writing.
But now, there’s only one thing going through my head – What film am I gonna treat myself to tonight??? I don’t have any popcorn, pistachios will do. I’ve jut pulled my four-leaf-clover blanket out of the dryer so it’s soft and it smells nice… What am I putting on, then?
Oh, I know! The brilliant Kevin Spacey’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil takes the crown. Because everyone has been so mean to Kevin lately.
My friend Matúš, a professional actor, writes amazing short stories. He’s only been writing them for himself mostly. It’s exactly the writing style and genre I love. Sometimes, we will exchange a couple stories and then have long talks about them.
We basically write about the same thing and yet, the stories are completely different. In one way or another, we inspire each other in heaps. Matúš is one of the few people I’m willing to let into my literary kitchen and let him peak under the lids of my overflowing pots.
I let him peak under the lid of my latest novel Caligo today. I was a bit apprehensive. You see, from time to time, I will get this feeling that some of the topics in this novel are “crossing the line“ a bit. He could see it in my face, which is why he said something to calm me down, “You are only limited and hindered by your own imagination.“
His short story Baba Yaga was written at the same time my Hugo, the Monster was. We had a laugh about it. We both wrote short stories about the same topic at the same time. The only difference being placing our bogeymen in different time periods.
Matúš’s usage of commas (or lack thereof) drives me nuts. But he has a way with words and he’s a gifted storyteller. I believe he’s an up and coming master of the short story. This genre really becomes him. He reminds me of myself at his age, but he’s much more strict and persistent.
I think it’s a very nice thing for an author – to have a partner in crime like this. Especially one who belongs to a different generation. That’s when you know it’s real. He could easily be my son, but sons don’t share these things with their mothers. Your own children’s views aren’t detached enough, more factors always come into play. And I’m glad he’s not my son.
I have to admit (mostly to myself) that I’ve been feeling somewhat incomplete lately. Many things came crashing down on my shoulders at once and their weight makes it hard to pursue all the activities in every aspect of my life. Which is why I am grateful for afternoons like the one I had today. I survived it with green tea, my box of Malboro’s, a pie, some martians, exorcists, monsters and Matúš.
Some days you feel like you could change the world. Make it fall off its axis with your own actions. Anything you touch turns to gold. You have the strength and the equipment to do it.
I have no idea what the best thing to do on such days would be, but I’ve decided to sit down at a computer and type away. My muses keep kicking me so hard I sometimes wonder how I don’t have any bruises.
I will always remember this day. This is the day my new Universum was created. The Vigils, you see, have slowly and inconspicuously taken up residence in the next novel I’m writing called CALIGO. They have squeezed their way into all parts of the story and have become its integral part.
The social topics of the previous novel have shifted into an eco-political theme today. With the never-sleeping Vigils taking center stage. My muses have kicked such conspirational ideas into me that I can see the following weeks will be spent with me sweating, trying to get them out.
It has been about 60 years since the death of Vigil’s main character. His offspring are getting into things Roden Wagner could’ve never even dreamed of. And neither could I – that is until last night.
That feeling of something else moving your fingers over the keyboard, typing things that haven’t even appeared in your thoughts yet, is an enthralling one. Today I actually felt the muses kick me. One of them kicked so hard it turned a marginal character into a main one. I don’t get it! And then the muses shattered my mysterious ball. The ball I vouched to never let go of. They shattered it into a thousand little pieces and on top of it, they even managed to scold me, telling me to never get swept away by any clichés again. So many other serious topics lay ahead of me, they said.
I bowed down my head, sat down at the computer and in a few hours, I found my way to an epiphany – I created the Vigils and no matter what I did, they’d always be present in my life. Always awake, these beings will not let me simply ignore them in my new novels.
The character of Sofie claimed her rights today and pointed out to me that she was, after all, the offspring of the man whose invention provided people with the opportunity to never sleep again.
Sometimes, my characters direct my thoughts. They become alive, they have notes and they will often make me see things in a new light.
It’s time to buy a ton of coffee, stock up on a good chunk of this year’s tobbaco harvest, switch off my phone and ride the wild wave of ideas. I’ve been sucked into the world of Vigils. A world where just about anything is possible. Wish me good luck!
I don’t exacty remember the first time my fascination with the ball as a three-dimensional object started. I do know, however, that it has been quite serious since early childhood. I liked everything rounded. I would not put any fruit in my mouth, unless it was the shape of a ball, and as a ten-year-old, I joined a sports club to start with shot put. I wished for a fortune-telling ball for Christmas and I would call our kitty Little Ball.
Later on, I fell in love with bowling and I started celebrating the full moon as if it was the most important holiday. And I will probably always remember the mathematical definition saying that in the Euclidean space, a closed ball of radius r is the set of all points of distance less than or equal to r away from x.
I am now writing my new sci-fi novel, CALIGO and, hooray, I have finally found a place for my ball. A beautiful, magical, mysterious ball. It fits perfectly and I have been playing around with it for some time. To me, a ball in a sci-fi novel is a marvelous idea.
But when I mentioned this to a couple of my friends, they tried talking me out of it. A ball has already been mentioned in hundreds of other sci-fi stories, they said, and I should probably take it out…
My dearest friends! My ball is different. It’s completely different from any other balls. What the hell do you all have against it? A ball is the most perfect shape, after all. And it’s all around us. Should I give up all the beautiful sentences I have already written in my novel for my majestic ball? Should I give it up when it already has a name? I call it INCOGNITA and will not reveal why. I already have feelings for it… Can’t you understand??
The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that I’m not changing the shape of the Incognita. No one can expect me to turn it into a cube.
I gave it a supporting role in the novel. Nothing huge and nothing that would move the plot one way or the other. It doesn’t have a shining eye, it doesn’t expand, nor does it levitate. It does not make sounds and it definitely does not speak. It is the size of a cantaloupe and its role lies in clearing things up a little, giving clues and then „rolling“ away on a whim.
It’s not that significant in the novel but it is to me. I know it wouldn’t fit into any of my future books I’ve already been playing around in my head with. So, please, let me have this one, ok? Do not take my ball from me! I’m not giving it up.
Sometimes, I get tired of how carefully you have to work with the term sci-fi in our country. You move your writing a bit beyond the limits of the possible and suddenly, you’re put in the literature ghetto. This is exactly how Ondrej Herec, the grand master of Slovak modern fantasy and sci-fi theoretician, phrased it. “Fantasy is a genre which, in our country, belongs to a literature ghetto. It operates parallel to the acknowledged ‘high’ literature. Fortunately though, it’s been slowly building its self-esteem.”
After tens of mystery stories and two “light-fantasy” novels, I wrote a collection of short stories called VIGIL. More than anything, I find it romantic. Its main theme makes it a part of the sci-fi genre, which also puts it on those shelves at the very back of book stores. In my gallery, however, people can find it right on the counter. All those people who have been buying my pictures and paintings for seven years now are somehow intrigued to read my book. They get a signed copy, after all. So, why not?
Science fiction – what a revolting and uninteresting term to an old granny! But when I start talking to her about the plot of my novel over coffee, the amount of curiosity I inspire makes her decide to flirt with this genre as well. She soon understands that sci-fi is not just about extraterrestrials, spaceships, and robots. I know it’s personal. I know she will only read it because of me.
In literature, science fiction is defined as an image of the world typically projected into the future, built on the knowledge of contemporary science and technology with its expected developments.
Ancient Greek Myths and Legends was the first book I ever read. Fantasy travelogues and ancient myths were being written in the ancient times and this trend continued in medieval times, too. I have always been obsessed with the marvelous pieces written by Jules Vern. That is exactly why I often wonder whether the label of science-fiction, put on this genre in the early 1930s, might have actually harmed it.
If there was one person in my life I “infected” with fantasy and spread the infection right into his veins, it was my son. Which seems pretty natural. Even though he was “nurtured” by Tolkien, King, Clark and many other authors, he would have probably never thought his mother would attempt to write sci-fi one day. Eversince he was little, he would mostly see me with a brush in my had, surrounded by paint.
I’ve always wanted to show him the world not only as it is but also as it could be. Good or bad, reflecting our hopes as well as our fears. The world we desire and the world we reject.
He would typically end our talks about books saying, “I know this is not true, but it could be. Right, mom?”
Last week, I was just cleaning the dust off the shelves in my gallery, thinking about a plot line of my new novel, when the door swung open and I heard a voice saying, “We converted to sci-fi!”
I turned to face the door and saw it was Mrs. Irenka, smiling. There was something new in the face of this 86-year-old lady standing in the doorway, wearing a hat, leaning on a beautiful, carved cane.
“How did that happen?” I asked. “And who’s we?”
“Your book was making the circles at Cross Street,” she smiled. “All of the girls that come here have read it. Can you recommend some other sci-fi to us? I’m planning a trip to the book store.”
The curious grannies from my street turned into this strange phenomenon to me. A new species that can only be found in my vicinity. I prescribed to them The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and Needful Things from King, to move the girls into this genre cautiously.
Irenka and I drank some coffee and as she was leaving, her last sentence flew through me like an arrow. She said it with a kind of smirk that resembled my 10-year-old son back then.
“These things are not real, but, well, they could be. Right, Mrs. Monika?”
Not having any connection to the Vigils and without me influencing it in any way, my day has been all about the colour purple.
First thing in the morning, a lady in the biggest, most purple hat I’d ever seen walked into my gallery. She was looking for some light bulbs. I asked her if she thought my shop looked like a place that sells light bulbs and smiled at her. She seemed taken aback, then she looked around and ended up buying a scarf. A purple one.
An hour later, my friend brought me a cheesecake. He knows I like the chocolate one (I’m Aries, after all), but in his words, they only had blueberry. So I put this purple delicousness on a plate next to my coffee and went down to work.
I wanted to print something, but as I’ve just run out of yellow toner, I ended up with a purple picture. I smiled to myself because at this point, I was starting to see this as some sort of a sign. I am not a fatalist and I’m not one for fate giving you signs, but this was actually comical. There’s one thing I forgot to mention first, I put on a purple shirt and purple socks in the morning.
The highlight of my purple day came with a “greeting“ from a friend, who gifted me a limited edition Courvoisier cognac bottle which, you guessed it, was purple.
But the best thing about it was the slogan on the lable:
NO VISION IS TOO BIG WHEN NO DETAIL IS TOO SMALL.
The “real sale” of English translation of VIGIL is launching today. At the same time I found out that there is the last print of the Slovak version of Vigil in my gallery…
It occurred to me that I should “make it special” to a future reader.
As I work with hand-made production and prefer to recycle old materials, I decided to make a custom cover for this book. On top of that, from my own jeans!
It still needs a few moments of work with textures, a few with Swarovski’s stars on the night sky and the unique cover of my book is ready to go. Who is going to get it? Let me tell you later.
What do you say, do you like it?
It is November 11, 2017 and in a few days, my novel Vigil in English will go on sales.
I have not realized it properly until this day, but just today a close friend asked me:
“Monika, are you looking forward to the start of sales of your book in English? This is exceptional for you, right?”
I admit that only these questions got me to stop and leave the spiral of events around me. It got me to think a bit.
Hallo? Is it true? Is this really happening?
Then I remembered little Monika, who thoroughly kept all her scribbles and poems, bound them with a thread in the middle and provided them with a “cover” page. Then she put her “books” into her parents’ library, among Les Misérables, Wuthering Heights, or Taking the Bastille. She was dreaming about once becoming a prominent writer with famous movies made according to her books. As a ten-year-old, she even wrote her acceptance speech for the Oscars.
I laughed and tried to remember something from that acceptance speech. I was swiping through my memory and I am quite sure I (of course) thanked God, parents and Alain Delon for accepting the role of the prince and for the great cooperation with him.
I suddenly felt a weird feeling that what is happening these days is actually absolutely natural and normal. This is what I have always been imagining.
Vigil came into existence under very peculiar circumstances. At that time, I had been fighting with fevers for few weeks already and I could not focus on my regular work. Basically, all my literary works were created under peculiar circumstances and under very bizarre conditions…
I was writing my first book of stories Hidden Facts during the most difficult period in my life, when I was literally fighting for life. Another novel Bruno in the Head was written “in exile” in Prague, Aluni, which has not yet come to its time of publishing, was created in a prison and Vigil was a result of fevers.
This may sound unbelievable but since the first moments this novel lived its own life. Somehow, it was different from all my previous works. Without me intervening into anything in any way, at first, my friends started taking it and working with it and then, after a short while, my published did. Only occasionally, I got some information about what is happening with it and what is to happen. I am really curios about its next next “part of the trip” will be.
I am excited mainly for Vigil being liked by the people I care about. One can think that publishing a sci-fi tale in the American and English market is like holding a candle to the sun. The whole world is flooded with sci-fi tales. What can I, a starting writer from the small Slovakia, contribute with?
I am fascinated by the trust vested in me and my work by my publisher. It may not be such a bullshit then, I guess. There must be something about Vigil! I got a few people around me, with whom I share information about my creative work. Recently, we have concluded that when it comes to Vigil, everything happened exactly the way I hoped somewhere deep in my soul. Really, everything.
Now, too, I wish few things, but I am not going to write about them… I will let Vigil “live” and let him clearly show me in the near future whether my writing is worth publishing at the huge market it is about to enter in a few days. I keep my fingers crossed!
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