Guest post: The dream that sparked the book

The Saint of Florenville, by Alfred J Garrotto

On the morning of July 26, 2010, something quite unexpected happened to me. I had published five novels, the most recent in 2005. Since then I had turned my attention to nonfiction projects. I thought I’d told all the stories I had in me, except for one half-finished and dead-in-the-water novel.

That’s why I was surprised to wake up from a dream that July morning with a rough, but complete, narrative arc in my head, plus three strong characters who would carry the story from beginning to end. I even had a working title, A Train to Bruges (later discarded).

For the next six weeks, I continued to awaken most mornings with additional snippets of story and characterization, all of which I scribbled in a notebook I keep by my bedside, just in case (rarely) I think of something brilliant during the night.

As always, writing the first draft was exhilarating. My “dreamed-up” characters came to life. My villain was insanely evil. Best of all, I knew from Day 1 how the story would end.

Studying the completed first draft, I realized as most novelists do in that situation, that all I had in hand was a skeleton. My story needed flesh, which came only with grinding effort through subsequent drafts.

I embarked on the research I needed to make the settings ( Brussels , Bruges , and Florenville , Belgium ) and my characters (an American priest, a Belgian nun, a young female reporter, and a psychopathic villain) jump off the page.

By mid-July, 2011, I had arrived at Draft 9 and could finally add the # # # symbols, indicating that I had come to “The End.”Somewhere along the way, my working title had yielded to the published title, The Saint of Florenville: A Love Story.

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