Let me tell you about how I came to write Ivy is a Weed.
First, I love telling stories. Stories are how we make the incomprehensible comprehensible. And they’re also entertaining if done right.
Second, I’ve spent most of my working life in public relations, which cynics might regard as great training for fiction writing. In a way, they would be right — not so much about the field of public relations as where I chose to practice it.
I chose to work in higher education. A major portion of my job was to handle genuine news, such as discoveries, inventions and major progress in many areas of human understanding. That was fun. But the other part of my job was something that could euphemistically be called image management. Just the very word “image” conjures up use of the imagination, essentially creating a fiction. It was a small step from that to fleshing out a full-blown story. At least for me it was.
Third, I love a good laugh. Almost as much fun as writing about the latest discovery was observing the culture of higher education. At a university you’re surrounded by people whose IQ could boil water. They think deep thoughts, devise intricate experiments, discover wonderful things, carry on clever conversations.
But when it comes to everyday behavior outside the lab, it’s a different story. People in higher education don’t behave worse than people in any other walk of life. But they often feel compelled to justify actions that are illogical, ill-informed or just plain wrong with an elaborate intellectual edifice. I think some academics have given themselves the equivalent of a brain hernia with the mental gymnastics they have employed to explain their behavior.
Now that’s funny!
This formed the germ of the idea for a novel. As I plodded through my last few working years on campus, I kept thinking: Wouldn’t it be funny if ….?
Maybe the idea of a death seems incongruous as a premise for a funny story. To you, maybe, but not to me.
A year after I retired, I had written 90,000-plus words. Voila, Ivy is a Weed.
In case you were wondering, this is emphatically not a roman à clef. It is a work of fiction, of my imagination. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true, at least in some sense.