Backstory

Authors tell you what inspired their work

Kristy Kiernan, Author of "Catching Genius"

I daydream a lot. If my mother had been the sort of mother who kept boxes of elementary school mementos, I could prove it with the comments sections of my report cards. "Kristi (I changed the "i" to a "y" sometime during adolescence, forever confounding my grandparents) is very bright, but tends to daydream too much," or "Kristi could be an "A" student if she stopped daydreaming." So my mother wasn't the sort of mother who kept every scrap of my childhood perfectly preserved, but luckily for me she was the sort of mother who didn't get all worked up about curtailing daydreams.

What I was doing during those fugues was making up stories, and I never stopped. So that's what I was doing three years ago when Catching Genius came to me, sitting on my porch with a book, unread on my lap, daydreaming. This time I was playing with words, seeing where seemingly unrelated two-word combinations took me. I didn't plan those rules, they just happened in my slack-jawed, unfocused-eyed state.

And then: Catching Genius.

I blinked. Catching Genius? Where did that come from? And I was off. Catching? Like genius was a communicable disease? Writers reading this will recognize this process, often called the what if, question piled upon question in a panicked jumble, as the story works itself out.

Who would think genius might be a communicable disease?

(A child.)

Why would that be big enough to change her life?

(Because it's her sister, because they were best friends and now because of genius they are irreparably damaged.)

How (and why is it important)? When (and why is it important?)? Who (and why is it important)? Where? (You get the picture...) What about later? What if? What if? What if?

And here's where it gets really weird... for weeks after this seed germinated, everywhere I looked was another element: sunshine, rain, fertilizer, everything I needed to make this thing fully bloom was presented to me. I turned on the television and there was a documentary about child prodigies. I went to the library and the newly acquired shelf was full of math theory books. I fired up the computer to research a question about Tesla and wound up at a violin site. I turned on the radio and a Baroque period piece floated out (and considering I'm usually an AC/DC kind of gal, this was of particular note).

Everywhere I looked I found offerings. And in my own past I found them too: sibling rivalry, parental and societal expectations, misunderstandings too far gone to make right again. For the first time I let it all come to me, rather than chasing it down.

And sometimes it got the better of me, particularly the math research. I'd always been told I was bad at math (I failed algebra...twice), and yet the most successful jobs I had as an adult were math-related: accounting (on the accrual method, which basically means you get to play with numbers) and construction purchasing and estimating (now if you play with numbers there, somebody gets a really funky corner in their house that they paid for eleven times).

So immersing myself in the historical side of math was a revelation. Learning about the golden proportion and how music and math are related, how everything in the world can be broken down to numbers, to symmetry in nature and art, and how fascinating people who get it, really get it, can be. Do they get it because they're a little mad already? Or do the possibilities and endless connections drive them mad? See? I'm getting carried away again and the book's long finished!

At one point I found myself sitting in bed at four in the afternoon, still in my pajamas, my hair Einstein wild, with books about math spread open around me, the computer online to a numerology website, and the movie Pi on, thinking that I was just a few connections away from grasping some secret about the universe. This from the girl who failed algebra... twice.

I carefully closed all the books, shut off the movie, and flipped from the Internet to my manuscript and finished the book. Two months later it sold. Catching Genius came out on March 6th, and I am quite proud of the fact that I've not researched the numerical import of this date. And if you work out some equation about it, don't tell me. I'm working on my new book and am currently obsessed with researching the nature of faith and food allergies. And yes, I'm in my pajamas, but my hair still looks pretty good, so I think I'm safe... for now.

To learn more about Kristy, please visit her website here.


Rate this article:

Click here to read more articles from Backstory.

Join the conversation

Comments from our users:

Wednesday March 28th 2007, 8:08 AM
Comment by: Patricia L. M.
Hello,
I am a 25-year veteran science and mathematics teacher with the public schools, Jefferson Parish. I spent an additional 10 years in hospitals, clinics, and open-heart surgery suites helping people recover from health problems. I am continuously concerned with making dynamic connections between the subjects I teach and real-life problems and issues. How do you separate English language writing and reading skills from science or math? You don't! It is imperative for students to become well-rounded literate citizens, and a good teacher is always trying to make the lesson come to life by making pertinent connections with individual student's lives. Thank you for your excellent article. As a published writer and artist myself, I congratulate those teachers who bring such impact to the eyes of educationally-minded other professionals.
Sincerely, Dr. Patricia L. Krist, ThD, DCA, MAST, BS [MT(ASCP)]
Friday May 4th 2007, 1:38 PM
Comment by: Michael D.
Kristy Kiernan's article was interesting and thought-provoking. She got me back to the keyboard. Thanks.

Do you have a comment?

Share it with the Visual Thesaurus community.

Your comments:

Sign in to post a comment!

We're sorry, you must be a subscriber to comment.

Click here to subscribe today.

Already a subscriber? Click here to login.