IN AN AIRPORT || Pondering Purgatory, Connections, and Fictional Places

Layover at O'HareIt’s Wednesday, midday, and I’m sitting in O’Hare Airport waiting for the next leg in my journey to Albany, New York, home of the Bouchercon 2013 World Mystery Convention, where I will no doubt become more sleep-deprived than I already am.

Airports…What better place to ponder place? Airports are the purgatory of places. Neither here nor there, everyone having departed but not yet arrived. They’re kind of surreal, the way airports differ but feel the same. That sense of transience, of passing through on the way to someplace better.

They’re also disconnected type places even as people run for their connections, hoping or assuming that whatever’s on the other end of their journeys will connect them to their lives in one way or another, whether they’re starting fresh, returning home, or vacationing.

I probably won’t have a wise point with this blog post. I might not even be coherent because I’m bloody exhausted. I woke up at 3:00 a.m.

What comes to mind is my friend B, a midlife-crisis writer who has since found herself and opened an antique shop. At one point, she asked me why I wasn’t married. I’m pretty. I’m smart. I’m this. I’m that. She was perplexed because, obviously, my singleness was not in the natural order of things.

The first thing out of my mouth was: “I guess because I have trouble connecting.”

You see where I’m going with this? (If you do, you’re ahead of me.)

I’ve lived most of my adult life with one foot out the door. Ever the wanderer, even at my most stable. It’s a state of mind, this sense of not being quite grounded. The funny thing is, in my novels I ground myself totally in place. The place being Ireland. It’s a place I can travel to that doesn’t feel like purgatory, that isn’t transient or surreal.

Truth is, I wrote KILMOON as a standalone. Then a  funny thing happened. I didn’t want to wander away from Lisfenora village with its annual matchmaking festival. I longed to know what came next for my main characters, Merrit, the matchmaker’s long-lost daughter, and Danny, the detective sergeant. I longed to feel grounded in this place that doesn’t exist except in my mind. I don’t know how long my fictional sojourn in Ireland will last (I am, after all, a wanderer at heart), but I’m revising the second in the series and have an idea for the third.

I’m connected when I write. And B would agree. In fact, when I confessed that I had trouble connecting, she said, “Ooh, that’s why you write.”

So, I leave you on that note, because now I’ve got to run for my connecting flight. If wandering is a state of mind, then so is connecting, and so is place.

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Lisa Alber is the author of KILMOON, A COUNTY CLARE MYSTERY (March 2014). Ever distractible, you may find her staring out windows, dog walking, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging at Lisa Alber's Words at Play round out her distractions. Visit her at www.lisaalber.com.

9 thoughts on “IN AN AIRPORT || Pondering Purgatory, Connections, and Fictional Places

  1. Two comments:
    Speaking as somebody who was divorced some decades ago and who has been single (and quite happily so) for the majority of the years since, being single requires no explanation or justification. I don’t think it implies any kind of defect or weakness.

    “I longed to know what came next for my main characters…”

    That’s a great feeling, isn’t it? I’ve been writing about the same ever-expanding cast of characters for over 20 years now, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I know this isn’t how most people do it, but, like being single, it seems to be right for me.

    • Thank you, Anthony! You are so right about being single. I do get sick of getting asked about my marital status.

      It is lovely having a fictional place I can return to, that’s for sure. It almost a relief to go back there!

  2. This is one of my favorite posts of yours so far. And it makes me even more excited to read your book, because if you can inject just a short blog post with this much ambience and suspense, then I can only imagine how great Kilmoon must be!

    I love your description of airports as being neither here nor there, as purgatory. As I was reading it reminded me of where we all are in the publishing process. Not yet published, but not not-published. There’s a lot of waiting, and lot of anticipation for that arrival at our destination. Through all of it I’m trying to remember that even the airport is part of the journey, and one we’ll only get to enjoy it once (we only get one first, after all).

    • You’re so sweet, Natalia. Thanks! And it’s so true that we’re in a publishing purgatory right now, aren’t we? In fact, I wish my thoughts had gotten that far because maybe that was where I was heading!

  3. “IN AN AIRPORT || Pondering Purgatory, Connections, and Fictional Places |
    The Debutante Ball” was in fact a wonderful article and also I really was quite pleased to
    read the blog post. Thanks for the post-Vicky

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