People often ask writers where their ideas come from and usually the answer comes in many ways that you never expected. Everyone’s mileage might vary, but when I’m looking for ideas, they never show up. Usually, it happens when I’m bored out of my mind.
Take, for example, Catholic School in Connecticut in ninth grade. My dad is Jewish and my mom is Catholic, so I was raised with both but eventually you take the religion on your mother’s side, so I was destined to be Catholic. I was in confirmation class—where you are confirming yourself as Roman Catholic, and you must do quite a bit of studying to do this and choose another middle name for your confirmation name for some reason that escapes me. I had just taken Holy Communion for the first time (typically one does this in first grade), and while bored out of my mind in the confirmation class this thought bubbled up into my mind:
What if the Bible was made up like every other book? What if it’s a work of fantasy? Like The Hobbit.
I said this out loud.
You can imagine that did not go over so well. I was whisked to the Monsignor’s office. I sat in a stiff chair in front of the Monsignor–a gregarious Brooklynite Italian who laughs at his jokes in his sermons–alone.
He asked, “Do you believe that?"
I don’t remember what the rest of the conversation was about, but I probably lied to him. That was a thing I did in those days, the days just before taking writing seriously.
Later that year I learned about parallel universes from my computer teacher, and reading a lot of comic books–most notably the Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. The thought hung in my head for four years and while riding the bench on the baseball team my senior year of high school, the thought popped in my brain: What if I wrote something down and it became true? What if I wrote down that I was batting .400, with 3 home runs, and 23 RBIs, and stole five bases that season—the only season I played baseball, (and where I sat on the bench most of the season.) What would just happen if I wrote it down and it changed my reality?
Well, it didn’t. But that was the beginning, that’s when I knew I wanted to be a fiction writer, that "shit, did I think of that?” moment when years of connections are made and I’m vibrating, talking to myself.
My mom would always criticize me in high school for talking to myself as I walked to the car.
“People are going to think you’re weird."
"I’m rehearsing dialogue,” I would respond.
And that’s how The Human Library came to be.