Writer Showcase: Veronica Knox
Why do you write?
I started writing journals to work through a particularly challenging time in my life and never stopped. I became, in effect, an ‘ongoing story’ – a memoir, naturally unfolding, one day at a time. In my imagination, I was a full-length novel. And when life was too routine, my dreams stepped up and presented a more fanciful alternative to non-fiction And since fiction is essentially writing lies (‘telling stories’ as in telling lies), I decided to make my stories unbelievably true.
Writing is a stabilizing energy as vital as food, water, and childhood. I write for the joy of words to keep spiritually young.
‘ONLY ART IS TRULY IMMORTAL’ is the banner displayed on my Facebook page and website.
What are your preferred genres?
I create a book in this order: a ‘WHAT-IF’ story premise presents itself, I design and print a mock up of the front cover, and then write an opening sentence.
I write ghostly rather than ghastly by celebrating a positive curiosity of the afterlife rather than fearful visions of ‘the void’ at the end of the world.
My preferred genre is a crossover of time-travel, historical fiction, ghost story, magical realism, sometimes middle-grade or young adult but mostly literary fiction, and supernatural romance.
I often pitch agents using the genre I invented: ‘ART HISTORY DELIVERED IN A GHOST STORY’
The purpose of a time-slip novel or a ‘cozy’ ghost story is to reconcile the disparities between WHAT-IF & WHAT-IS ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE, embodied, or in the case of a restless ghost protagonist, disembodied, with a sense of emotional truth and a backbone of historic facts.
Eyes are said to be the seat of the soul. To a sensitive observer, staring at vintage sepia photographs can be creepy because the ‘still-life’ of a photographic portrait is a ghostly image of who was once alive. Similarly, staring into the eyes of a painted portrait is an artful portal to time-slip into what is essentially considered immortal. Was the essence of a sitter’s lifeblood captured by accident or by design? Portrait or portal or both? You decide.
What Started You Writing?
Writing novels was a natural progression from keeping a journal where I documented the stories of my own life as they unfolded every day. I’ve always been a ‘what-if’ person, so, it wasn’t much of a stretch to dream and embellish humdrum events. It was second nature to imagine time-traveling, listening to objects in a museum, talking with sentient painted portraits, or resolving historical mysteries. Nutshell confession: I am a curious child who never grew up.
What was the first piece of writing that you were really proud of?
‘THE UNTHINKABLE SHOES’ was inspired by the tangible lifeforce I sensed surrounding a pair of child’s shoes in the Titanic exhibit of the Halifax Maritime Museum. The thread of a story to honor the lost child in the cemetery haunted me for seven years: Finn Cleary, a nine-year old victim of the Titanic disaster, carries a shameful secret on his doomed trip to New York.
Finn’s next incarnation and the love of the girl survivor he’d been destined to marry wait between heaven and the deep blue sea. Finding a pair of lost shoes is their one chance to reunite in the future. A BAREFOOT GHOST REMAINS EARTHBOUND TO KEEP A PROMISE MADE IN HASTE.
When did you realise that writing was going to be an integral part of your life?
In 2001, when I wrote the opening hook for what became ‘Lisabetta – a stolen glance’ in 2017. Lisabetta narrates, referring to her older brother Leonardo da Vinci: [ In the springtime of 1519, my brother, Leonardo still believed he could fly. ]
Why did you choose this particular piece to post on showcase?
I chose ‘DISAPP’EARRING TWICE’ based on a true art historical tragedy, because it streamed into being, smoothly, as if I were taking dictation. It was a joy to write. I love reconciling fantasy with documented facts.
The tagline came easy: [ IMMORTALITY MAY BE LIFE-THREATENING ]
PROLOGUE - first line: [ When I was a child I learned that fairy tales contained truths too powerful to believe out loud and that storybook princesses who lived in castles were sitting targets for dark deeds. ]
ISOLATED PHRASE: [ It took me a lifetime to learn how to be a child, and now the restless girl in the painting is teaching me to be old. ]
STORY PREMISE: ‘Disapp’earring Twice’ is a metaphysical ‘art history mystery’ of love, reincarnation, and sacrifice inspired by a true event when eternity drives a pair of estranged lovers to manipulate the rules of immortality.
What is one thing that is unusual in terms of your individual style?
The one thing that is unusual in terms of my individual style is the injection of artfulness – suggesting the fullness of fine art, created to captivate the viewer, from enchanting to possessing, enticing to luring, or teasing to seducing. As humans we are hooked on emotions, body language, faces, and tales of the unknown.
I recently, asked myself: When is a ghost story not a ghost story? The answer came: when ghost protagonists are metaphors for emotional, philosophical, and psychological, deaths. When a ghost story intrigues without horror, and paints a future world without dystopian angst?
The ghosts in my novels invite readers to come alive. And, in the words of Marcus Aurelius, whose philosophy drove the story plot of ‘Disapp’earring Twice’: “It is not death that man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” No fictional characters have to die in my ‘ghost stories’.
Does art imitate life or does life mirror art? ie. the abstract subconscious cycles of life and death where human losses, regrets, secret longings, human failings and failures, victories and defeats, courage, sacrifices, and burying the past to spiritually connect with a reader’s life, reside?
Who among us, says they don’t believe in ghosts but nonetheless remain afraid of them and dark creepy spaces? Wake up and smell the truth in fiction that puts living ghosts in true perspective. We authors of fiction wrote the book on make-believe. We only ask readers to suspend reality a few pages at a time.
Studying art history was equal parts fascination and frustration that drowned out the angry voices of paintings that had ‘died’ from being lost, stolen, hidden, unfinished, copied, damaged, or destroyed. Where are they?
I asked these questions too: What-if portraits by master artists were sentient? What if they were telepathic or embedded with psychic energy? What, if anything, lives on in Fine Art after 500 years? Where can we go to resolve missing provenance, deliberate false trails, ambiguous iconography, puzzles, and the confusing identities of unsigned works and forgeries? What did master artists actually paint? And more importantly, what did they purposely leave unpainted to shroud forbidden knowledge in plain sight? What clues, political sleights of misdirection, and obscure red herrings of the artist’s guild were tricks of the trade? The ghosts in my novels know.
Paintings are akin to ‘flies on a wall’ with perfect vantage points to observe human dramas unfolding beneath them. Wouldn’t it be great if they could communicate with sensitive humans and each other? My novels think so.
To me, a painted ghost is a desperate human presence in need of a gallery, a microphone, and an empathic writer with extrasensory perception. I’m looking at you ‘Mona Lisa’.
What are your long term goals as a writer?
To become financially independent from my writing.
An excerpt from Disapp’earring Twice:
Monmouth Senior High – November 1, 1965
My clearest memory is the metallic clatter that imprinted on my brain when a slide carousel shifted in the dark airless lecture hall of Art History 101. It was the sound that changed my death. I was seventeen, in love with a boy named Zee, and duly captivated by a promising future. A week of cluster headaches had a lot to answer for.
It was nearly lunch time and hunger pangs momentarily overshadowed the art until I experienced a warning vision in my right eye. I huddled in my seat, a hand pressed over my eye to quell the pulsating aura of whirling lights, a sitting target for the migraine barreling its way towards me.
Had he been there, Zee, would have serenaded me with a line from a Beatle’s song about a girl with kaleidoscope eyes. It was our song. He joked that song lyrics were secret messages from outer space – a daft notion coming from a dedicated enthusiast of astrophysics.
For a brief pause, the room darkened. I sat in the front row, staring at a blank screen with my good eye, and rummaged for the bottle of Aspirin I always carried in my purse.
But the whirr of the projector reached inside me and I realized too late it was a mistake to stare into the beam it emitted. I held my breath as a sweep of dust particles and pixels caught in a stream of light cut through the dark and deposited a splash of colors onto a white canvas wall.
I was immediately transfixed by the haunting eyes of a famous portrait.
While the instructor, Mr. Hughes, spoke, his laser pointer played restlessly over the painting in a red spotlight the size of a pearl, drawing random circles around the girl’s earring and mouth, and settled on her left eye. I winced as if the light had been shone in my own eyes but it was the girl who blinked.