I hear voices. My characters talk to me – Billy, Eva, and Jolene in Old Wounds to the Heart, Nate and Christine in The Closing, and a host of characters you will never meet because they’re confined in the jail cells of my aborted novels. They all spoke to me. In their own voices.
In Old Wounds, Eva Gitlow sprang into existence almost fully formed. I tweaked aspects of her persona as I wrote, but the essence of her character came over me in a rush, and she took off with my story. For three chapters the words ran across the computer screen like they knew where they were going, even if I didn’t. She said and did things that seemed not to come out of me, but out of her, as though she existed independently from my imagination. She, rather than I, seemed to control the interplay between her and Billy Kirby. Billy was proud that he looked much younger than his years. Eva asked him how old he was. “I’m eighty,” he said, and I heard her deep voice reply, “Isn’t that amazing, Mister Kirby? You don’t look a day over seventy-nine.” Billy flinched. I did, too, and then I laughed out loud. Later in that scene, Billy and Eva stood on her front porch, talking. Out of the blue she grabbed him and kissed him full on the lips. Billy was shocked. I was too. I didn’t see it coming, and yet I know it came from me. Everything Eva said and did in those chapters fascinated me, and I don’t know where most of it came from.
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By Ken Oder
Ken Oder was born in Virginia in the coastal tidewater area near the York and James Rivers, where military installations during World Wars I and II fueled the growth of urban centers like Norfolk, Hampton, and Newport News. His father worked for the Navy Mine Depot in Yorktown and later as a Hudson dealer until he heard his calling and became the minister at Mount Moriah Methodist Church in 1960. The family moved to White Hall, Virginia, a farm town of about fifty people at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The mountains and the rural culture were a jarring contrast to the busy coastal plains, but once the shock wore off, Ken came to love it there. He found the mountains and hollows spectacularly beautiful and the people thoughtful, friendly, and quietly courageous. White Hall became Ken’s home, and his affection and respect for the area and its people have never left him.
Ken and his wife moved to Los Angeles in 1975, where he practiced law and served as an executive until he retired. They still live near their children and grandchildren in California, but a piece of Ken’s heart never left White Hall. That place and time come out in his stories.