Debut Romantic Suspense author J. Wachowski writes about her art.
A long time ago, I read that a finished piece of art (book, painting, or song) is the beautiful corpse of a time of creation. Sounds a little creepy but that idea resonated in my head. A writer gives a book energy and passion to bring it to life. After the story’s complete, it exists separate from you.
“The End” always brings a mix of relief, accomplishment, and sadness. I celebrate with a present. I find a piece of art to represent the story--a print, painting or photo—something to hang in my office, maybe? Sometimes, I find the perfect thing at a craft fair. Sometimes, they come from friends or family.
Sometimes, there’s magic involved.
After I wrote my first mystery, In Plain View, I happened to wander into a store up the road from my house. There was a poster on display. A panorama photograph of a farm house surrounded by weather worn fences and bare limbed trees.
My story is set in the deep Midwest, where hundred year-old oaks rise from oceans of grass. These trees embody survival. Shaped by fire, lightning, drought and snow, they rarely have perfect forms. They’ve seen too much for that.
In the book, the search for justice begins when a man wearing Amish clothes is found hanging from one of these ancient trees. At his feet, lay a pile of pornographic magazines.
It’s magic hour in the poster’s photo, the moment when light slices through the atmosphere at the horizon and paints the world that luminous pink of dawn or sunset. Maddy O’Hara, the heroine of In Plain View, is a news photographer. She knows about light and shadow. She knows about that moment between—between day and night, good and bad, between who you are and who you might become.
Maddy has returned to the Midwest to care for her orphaned niece. Although the barn in the photo needs painting and the fence needs mending, the house seems solid. One window glows like a beacon. The light of home.
It is the perfect image for Maddy’s story.
I asked the shop owner about the poster.
Not for sale.
I explained that I was a local author. Turns out, the photographer was a local artist as well. In fact, we were from the same town. And the photo was taken only a few miles from where I’d actually set the book.
“Are you sure it’s not for sale?”
“Sorry,” she said.
I wandered in and out of that shop for months, convinced that nothing else would do. Convinced it would never be mine.
Until I saw the words New Ownership appear in the window. The new guy was in the process of changing the displays on the very day I saw that sign.
I explained the whole story. “Would you sell me the poster?”
“You can have it,” he said. “I was about to put it in the dumpster.”
So I saved that poster, a beautiful reminder of a time of creation, from certain dumpster death. Perfect.
Justice served for a mystery novel.
It hangs in a place of honor now—In Plain View, of course.
- J. Wachowski
P.S. Gary Irving is the artist who took my panorama poster photograph. You can find his book of photographs “Visions of Illinois” on Amazon.com.