“I slipped into that absorbed state I have come to associate with the writing process, or rather, that part of writing that precedes actually putting any words on paper.”

Susanne Dunlap, from her essay “Men Seldom Make Passes at Girls Who Wear Glasses” in For Keeps; Women Tell the Truth About Their Bodies, Growing Older, and Acceptance, edited by Victoria Zackheim.

This sentence by Susanne, a friend, startled me. I know that feeling well. Quakers talk of being “moved to speak.” This sensation is similar, a welling up intense interest, a tumbling of voices and thoughts. It’s like falling in love, a feeling of inevitability—a feeling of being blessed.

This sensation of “possession” makes writing vital, addictive. It is also what makes its absence distressing. Writing Mistress of the Sun, I was “possessed” for almost eight years. Now that the novel is out in the world, I’m experiencing that same flat disinterest I felt after The Last Great Dance on Earth—the last of the Josephine B. novels—was launched. It helps to remember that I’ve been here before, that it takes time for the well to fill.