I was in Saint Petersburg, FL, this past weekend for the Historical Novel Society conference. My first time attending it, and it was terrific. I attended informative workshops, met talented authors, and discovered tons of new books. (Good thing I was driving!) My husband went with me, as it happened to be our wedding anniversary weekend, so I also enjoyed some magnificent dining (I’m still salivating over the tuna ceviche and the violet gelato–um, no, not served together). I also skipped out of the conference for a few hours to visit two art museums located in the heart of downtown—The Salvador Dali Museum and The Chihuly Collection—and I’m really glad I did.
Why? Because those two museum visits did more than any panel discussion, slide show presentation or workshop could have done to remind me that every artist, no matter what form or medium they use, has a unique “voice”. It’s easy to hear in music. We’ve all heard hit songs that are remakes. Anyone remember You Can’t Hurry Love by The Supremes? Or how about the same song by Phil Collins? Same song, same melody, similar tempo, but there’s no confusing the distinctive Motown sound with the 80’s post-disco British pop sound.
Salvador Dali has long fascinated me. His art is unique and complex and brilliant. He was once described as a madman, because his imagery was so different from the norms of even the avant garde and modern artists of the 20th century. Dali embraced that description, and portrayed the madman with his trademark upturned mustache and wide-eyed expression. I swear, he helped define fabulous for the post-WWII generation. I wasn’t allowed to take photos at the Dali museum, but you can see examples of his work in Enchanted Beach with Three Fluid Graces and The Ecumenical Council (includes a self-portrait of Dali).
Our next museum visit was The Chihuly Collection, a tiny museum featuring the wondrous glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly. He’s made many famous museum and botanical garden installations around the globe, as well as chandeliers and the famous lobby ceiling in Las Vegas’s Bellagio hotel. I’m not talking glass paperweights or delicate prisms, but large petals, bowls, spheres and flowing tendrils of brightly-colored glass. His work is designed to take you to faraway lands, to make you look at the ordinary in an extraordinary way.
Each of these artists shared their unique visions and messages with creativity and skill. Viewing the various exhibits, I was reminded that as an author, my goal is to share my story and characters in such a way as to evoke specific emotional responses from the reader. Every author develops a style and voice that grows from their unique vision of relationships. I don’t think there’s a book out there that doesn’t involve a relationship, even if it’s only the relationship between the sole character and the reader. And no one I know will tell a story exactly the way I would.
The final high point of my weekend was meeting Diana Gabaldon, who graciously posed for a picture (look, she’s holding my book!!). She was charming and gracious and so completely approachable and down to earth. I did my best not to go all fan-girl on her, because I’m a huge fan of the Outlander series. Gabaldon describes the series as “Big, Fat, Historical Fiction”, so how could I resist? She’s even added a graphic novel to the series this year (illustrations here, be aware that they border on explicit). And yes, STARZ is making a television series of the Outlander novels–so watch for exciting news on that.
How about you—do you have a favorite author with a distinctive voice or storytelling style? Or perhaps you’ve had a fan moment with a favorite author—let us know who you met!