How Chris wrote "Close Your Eyes"
A few comments I've heard regarding Close Your Eyes have to do with the uniqueness of the book, which, to be honest, hadn't really crossed my mind. "Uniqueness" meaning the various narrative voices and the structure of the book, but as well, since it's historical fiction, there's a bit more to writing a book like this than a modern day novel, such as my earlier Festival book. So, I've been hoping to do a post which explains how I wrote Close Your Eyes, or at least, how I did so to the best of my memory (since I wrote it 20+ years ago now).
This video (below) talks about the kind of books and reading I was doing ... not necessarily for Close Your Eyes specifically, but the kind of books I liked to read (history / historical non fiction) which gave me a lot of background knowledge to write the book.
I have some - but I don't think all - of the notebooks that I used when I was writing Close Your Eyes over approximately a five year period. I thought I'd do a video talking about my writing process, as far as writing by hand in notebooks, as well.
I also can not forget to mention that a lot of the inspiration for this book came from my year living in Poland, in 1995/96. I was teaching English as a Second Language in Poland, and while I was writing Festival at that time, I was also soaking up a lot of "eastern europeanness" as well I think. I visited Prague, visited Krakow, and saw a lot of the landscape there in Poland. And a lot of that went into this book.
And a few pages from the notebooks, for anyone who has read the book closely and might find this interesting. These below are most of the "picnic" scene, which I feel is a pretty pivotal scene in the book. And... the last photo, which has the last line of the picnic scene, shows me next sketching out a brief scene that also appears in the final version of the book... the "is this love" snippet from Tycho's journal, where the girl he asks the question to answers him by simply laughing.
And just two more... the beginning of the jeweller's apprentice story... where, in Tycho's story, the boy puts a necklace of dreams around the girls neck. The other photo is an example of many things which I wrote which ended up NOT making the book. Apparently I had toyed with the idea of having some church officials (inquisition types) visit Pawel and try to steal away Tycho and a few others.
As far as Sam being the main narrator, but there being Tycho's journal entries, the Bishop's letters to the Pope, the "1435" scenes where "present day" Sam often talks to Alexandra about how the writing is going - a few (very kind) readers have pointed out how unique THIS is.. to have so many narrative voices.
I don't really have an answer to where this approach came from. All I can say is, if one wonders why I would do this, well, why WOULDN'T I do this? There's obviously a very intimate and heart-felt feeling to this novel (or I hope there is anyway), and I think you'd be hard pressed to create this mood through one third person voice. Sure, I could still have inserted Tycho's journal entries, and the Bishop's letters to the Pope, but, without Sam's voice..... Sam's voice.... it'd all be lost. You have to have Sam, stumbling and fumbling and trying so so earnestly, to tell the story. You HAVE to have that voice... and so... I can only imagine that once I hit upon Sam telling the story, there was no turning back. Sam tells the story of his friend, and along the way, he adds in Tycho's journals and the Bishop's letters. And there you go.
Best wishes folks.
I'm Chris Tomasini.