This is Danika

This is the first paragraph of the novel I am now working on; it is called “And It’s Only Love,” from a line in the song by Anna McGarrigle called Heart like a Wheel. This is the source of both the title and the story.

The coal-smoked late winter air is pure Central Europe.  Outside there is snow and the leaded glass windows are frosted at the edges of each thick square pane.  Everything smells of old.

This is the girl who can wreck a human being and turn him inside out.

Her name is Daniela … Danika.

I don’t really know what this girl’s name is.  I took her photo as she stood on a corner in Recoleta, Buenos Aires, waiting for the light to change.  I had never seen her before and have never seen her again.

Before I happened accidentally across this young woman on a street in Buenos Aires, I had been struggling to make my way into the story inspired by the song, Heart like a Wheel, stalled for a very long time only 20 or so pages into it.  I knew the story, but I had no image of or feeling for the girl who could wreck a human being and turn him inside out … until I saw this girl. From then on, I knew exactly who Danika was, what she looked like, how she stood watching the busy traffic just a little nervous, her fingertips against her lips, and I came home after seeing her and wrote the rest of the opening chapter.

She will never know how real she is in this book.

Part One is finished and I am into Part Two.  Part Three will be short and more of an epilogue, and I think I am about halfway through now.  These are the lines that begin Part Two, which I am happy with now and probably will not change again.

The mountains at dusk are the color of a wet beach, light moves along the crevices and sheer walls and changes everything, as waves describe sand.  They are on a steep trail, often narrow and precipitate.  Danika closes her eyes against vistas that would terrify her, clinging to a strap on the back of Tom’s pack, so he is guiding her like the blind, and he moves slowly for her.  They will reach the mountaineer’s cabin before dark, but only because they have the lingering light of early summer.

This novel is a sequel to “Possessed by Shadows,” which came out in 2005, taking up the life of Tom Valen more than 10 years after his wife’s death.

How things like this happen can only be magic.


Categories: Books, Literary Life, Writers, Writing

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8 replies »

  1. before i checked this page again, i was just walking in my apartment, thinking: ‘in the end there’s only one reason for everything: good writing.’

  2. You are right as usual Don, writing is both an honour and a curse.

    I’ve read the extract and my first thought upon doing so is how satisfying it must be to pick up a character where a foundation of history has already been laid. Beginnings are exciting of course, but being deeply involved in the story confident that the journey was worth getting on board for no matter what the outcome, has to be an experience worth striving towards.

    Thank you for returning to us Gandalf the White.

    • I don’t want to be Gandalf the White, I want to be Galahad the Hot.

      There is an ease in knowing fully who one of the main characters is before writing even the first page, but an unease in not knowing who the other one is. So thank you gorgeous young girl on a Buenos Aires street for giving me the perfect and distinct model.

      It is so odd that I feel like I know this girl so intimately, and yet in reality I have seen her only once, for less than two minutes, and will most probably never see her again.

  3. Nice tone there. I feel sorry for Tom already, but can’t wait to see what wrecking Danika wreaks upon him. Dude’s been through a lot. It’s Tom Valen in this book, right?