I eventually started seeing the street signs through the fog and started getting an idea of where I was and where I was going. It was like finally deciding to open up the map when you’re lost.
The first, and most essential, was the idea that the narrator’s mother had abandoned him. This provided a massive amount of characterization for all my characters at that time. Another major piece was the idea that she was manic-depressive.
I started fleshing out these characters, realizing they needed careers and interests (this perhaps seems obvious, but for some reason I thought these things would just manifest themselves as I wrote the story. I didn’t realize I would have to sit down do some actual thinking about these characters. These are two very separate processes for me: thinking about structure and doing the actual writing.).
That was how I spent 2004. I owe great debts to Kay Redfield Jamison for introducing me to the world of manic-depression and to all the wine I was drinking for the idea of making the father a winemaker.