The Song that Birthed Flynn Conlon

When I began working on Watermarked, I was a different sort of writer than I am.  Younger.  More naive. Likewise, Watermarked was a drastically different story than the one it became.  I won't detail all the ways, but it was basically a traditional meet cute, fall-in-love, experience a problem, break up, and get back together kind of romance.  A fluff piece.  Jack and Audrey were the main characters. Though Flynn and Ray were present, they existed solely to be friends to the main characters.  They had no story arcs, no development, and barely any personality.  When I finally published the book, Flynn Conlon had gone from a one-dimensional side character to my personal favorite.

The driving force of the transformation was a song. A simple song, but powerful and persistent.

Watermarked didn't really start to take on its current shape until the summer after I graduated college.  I moved into an apartment with my college best friend and enjoyed all of the freedoms that came with it.  Mainly that I was no longer sharing a room with my sister, and no one could tell me when to go to bed. I'd stay up writing long into the night.

My boyfriend at the time was very much into music.  One of his chief pleasures was creating and gifting mixed CDs.  On one fo rme, he included a track by Bright Eyes.  (First Day of My Life, in case you're wondering.)  Being the twenty-one year old girl that I was, I fell in love with Conor Oberst's voice and heartfelt lyrics and bought both Digital Ash in a Digital Urn and I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning.  I'd blast them as I drove home from my day job as a gallery assistant.

Twenty-one was a very good year.

But anyway, during these drives, I found myself frequently replaying "Lua."  I can't say what it was that initially grabbed my attention. It's a quiet little song.  Just a guy and his guitar.  Imagination got the better of me, as it tends to when I'm driving. I started to envision the kind of person the song would be about. Someone young, living in a big city.  A talented loner.Depressed, perhaps, but hiding it under a mask of confidence.  Searching for meaning in his life, but having no success in finding it.

There's this one particular lyric that is now cemented in my mind:  "It takes one to know one, kid. I think you've got it bad." Once I heard it, and I really heard it, not merely listened to the song as it floated by, I knew. This song was about Flynn. This was the Flynn I'd been trying to write. He was real and flawed and broken.  But not lost.  No, not yet.

Flynn's quest for redemption became, in my mind, the strongest narrative in the book.  It was also the easiest to write. Turns out, once he started talking, he never shut up.  He's still my favorite to this day.

Her eyes widen at the sight of me.  Incensed, she tells me, “Go away, asshole.  I hate you."   Her hands go to the door and push hard.  I put a foot in its path just before it can slam in my face.
“That’s okay.  Most of the time, I hate me too,” I say through the crack I’ve made.

Listen to Lua.


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