Monday, June 5, 2017
A very personal guest post from Edward Lorn, author of The Sound of Broken Ribs
The Inspiration of Pain
Pain can be crippling and depressing, but it can also be inspirational.
Hello, everybody. My name is Edward Lorn, but everyone calls me E. Pleased to meet you. I’m here today (thanks to Frank Errington) to talk about my inspiration for my upcoming Thunderstorm Books release, The Sound of Broken Ribs. Now that the boring intro is out of the way, let’s talk.
To date, I’ve had five back surgeries. The previous four were almost exactly three years apart from each other, always in the Summer, starting in 2005, then repeating in 2008, 2011, and 2014. Finally, in January 2016 I found a doctor that fixed the issue instead of simply treating the symptoms. Due to all this, I live day-to-day with pain. It’s an old friend who’s not going anywhere. My pain has thus far inspired two of my novels Cruelty and The Sound of Broken Ribs. The latter, the one we’re here to talk about today, I feel is my best work to date.
The Sound of Broken Ribs is loosely based on personal experiences I had while recovering at home from my last surgery. Some early reviewers have mentioned that they were reminded of Stephen King’s 1999 accident, wherein he was run over by a speeding van while taking his daily walk. I see the similarities, of course, as I’m a lifelong King fanboy, but Lei’s accident in the book actually stems from my own experience, right down to the neon yellow shoes. You’ll understand more about the shoes when you read the book.
After my fifth (and hopefully final) back surgery, I started walking every day, without fail. I began by shuffling through the house with a back brace until I could manage going down my porch stairs, of which there are seven. Seven steps might not seem like a lot, but before my surgery, I’d been bedridden for three months. Once I was able to get up and down the steps without assistance, I started walking to the end of my driveway—about fifty yards. Then the end of my street—about a quarter mile. Then onto the surrounding country roads. Out in the middle of nowhere. Where my phone gets zero reception. Anything could have happened to me. And one day the worst case scenario almost did.
I live in the southern United States and am surrounded by the sort of people who do not take kindly to my wife being African-American. We’ve had threats and have seen some harassment, but for the most part, as long as we keep to ourselves, they leave us alone. Things settled down quite a bit when the neighbor’s oldest boy moved out, but I’m getting ahead of myself…
I had just wrapped up a novel and felt up for a walk, so I saved my work and got dressed. I’d made it about two miles from the house when I noticed my shoe had come untied. It’s damn near impossible for a fat man (I’m 350lbs, last I checked) who’s a month post-op to tie his own shoes, but I managed the task by dropping to one knee. I was in the process of doing so when a truck swerved off the road and onto the grass at the side of the road, barely missing me. I fell backward into the tree line and just laid there for a while, counting my lucky stars.
Did the driver of the truck intend to hit me? I haven’t a clue. But I do know three things:
1. Given my size, I am really fucking hard to miss. Especially in my highlighter-yellow sneakers.
2. I wasn’t on a curve. This was a straightaway. Nothing could have obstructed their view of me.
3. I saw the same truck later that day. My neighbor’s son was driving it. I was out on the porch when he pulled in and headed up the hill to his house. He waved at me. I didn’t like the look of the smile on his face.
Having no proof of what I expected might have happened, I decided against calling the police. After all, it could have very well been an accident. Who knows? Certainly not me. I’m just glad it ended the way it did because it could’ve ended very badly.
This whole incident got me thinking about the driver’s motivations. I couldn’t help it. That’s how my brain works. Then another thought came to mind. Perhaps contact was never the purpose. Maybe the driver of the truck was simply trying to scare me. (Yes, I know this could have all been an accident with no ill-will intended whatsoever; things happen. He could’ve been on his phone and drifted, or… any number of things. But I’m an author of terrible things. My brain automatically dives into the deep end of suspicion when things like this happen.)
The final inspiration for the book came when I started imagining the driver as an otherwise decent person, someone who’d had a horrible day and wanted to scare or hurt someone as a way of sharing their pain. Perhaps they’d just lost their home… their spouse… the life they’d worked so hard to build... Such a mindset is certainly plausible, if not completely understandable.
And that’s where Belinda Walsh’s character came from.
In the end, Lei and Belinda balanced perfectly when stacked against one another and the book basically wrote itself. The best ones always do, I feel. Here you have a woman who has everything reduced to a maimed and crippled mess on the side of the road by a woman who has just lost everything—the emotionally damaged dealing physical damage to another soul to quell their inner pain. It’s where the book went after the accident that I never could have expected. I can’t say this enough: I’m super proud of this one.
I think that’s enough for today. Thanks for taking the time out of your day to read this diatribe. Many thanks to Frank for having me, and I hope everyone enjoys The Sound of Broken Ribs.
If you’re interested in the limited edition hardcover from Thunderstorm Books, you can pre-order it here: http://thunderstormbooks.com/thunderstorm/book/the-sound-of-broken-ribs/
Take care of one another,