The inclusion of images in Good Things evolved out of a happy accident. I commute long hours by train to my academic job–as does my narrator, Jeanette–so I started photographing my desk (laden with research) and importing the photos into my text documents. It was the closest thing to carrying all my books and papers with me that I could come up with. I’d sit on the train, writing, and then when I got stuck, I’d study the images. After a few months of this, I realized these images were fast becoming cornerstones, essential to the story I was trying to tell.
Incorporating images into my writing (which I’d never done before) made visible what had been previously obscured: the relationship between the novel’s historical figures (Clara and Robert Schumann; Johannes Brahms) and its contemporary echoes (Jeanette and Hart.) Each story became more thematically resonant–and more personally meaningful–as a result.
Want a writing exercise? Collage/combine your own contemporary images (let’s say, for argument’s sake, your oldest child’s birthday party) with a seemingly unrelated historical event that has held your imagination/fascination (let’s say Austin de Iturbe y Green, the two year old Heir Presumptive to Maximilian von Habsburg, who was installed by Napoleon as Emporor of Mexico.) Does a third story–somehow greater than its parts–suggest itself? Begin.