In the spring of 2002, my son Brad and I had dinner with Steven Pressfield and then shared a beer with him at his house. He’s a good man, Steve Pressfield is. As we chatted in his sitting room, I asked him if he understands and recognizes when he writes something very special.
“I don’t really think about it,” he answered.
I smiled and then pulled a copy of Gates of Fire from his bookcase and read,
“I wrote that?” he asked with a twinkle in his eye.
I pointed to the passage on page 259 of the hard cover edition and showed him.
He smiled and said, “Wow. I guess I did. That’s not bad!”
That, Steve, is an understatement …
Six years later, I began work on my second novel, The Hamsa, which I refer to as ‘a Holocaust story.’ The Hamsa was published late 2010.
Last month, I befriended a wonderful woman from Chicago. Her name is Teresa. We met through Teresa’s interest in The Hamsa. You see, her parents lived in Zakopane, Poland, the home of The Hamsa protagonist Bronisław Czech. Teresa happened to be staying at the Desert House of Prayer, a retreat house visited by truth seekers from all over the world. The Desert House is ‘across the street’ from the Redemptorist Center I regularly frequent and only about three miles from my home in the desert.
I chatted with her soon after she had started reading the book. “The very first sentence brought me to tears,” she said in her enthusiastic way. “I’m telling you it brought me to tears.” I wrote the first sentence of the book – excluding the prologue – in Polish. Teresa obviously knew what it said, even though I repeated the sentence in the first few pages in German, Norwegian, French and finally English.
One year ago on March 5, 2014, we posted an article “When Readers Get It!” Teresa definitely ‘got it.’
Teresa returned to ‘the real world’ yesterday, but left a note at the Redemptorist Center addressed to “E.S. Kraay.” I read the note in the dim, early morning light of the chapel. Teresa definitely ‘got it.’
“I cried as I read the first sentence,” she wrote, “and I cried when I read the last sentence.”
She continued with a lengthy list of “SOME EXAMPLES OF WHY I ENJOYED READING THE HAMSA.” She noted passages that touched her spirituality – “Move over Meister Eckhart” she wrote – and she noted passages that put her into a reflective mood. She concluded with examples that made her laugh out loud.
Teresa identified each passage with the page number in the book.
I shared the note with Marie when I returned home. I read aloud each passage that Teresa noted (from page 250 for example)
“Light snow falls like God’s tears from the black sky. He rues what happens here but denies free will to no one.”
I will admit, after each passage I looked up at my wife and said, “Wow! I wrote that? I guess I did.”
Even as I plunge forward with my new manuscript — my seventh novel — it is important to look back at its predecessors. The note from Teresa with such specific examples gives me pause to reflect and say, “You know what? I think that was a pretty good story.” Thanks to Teresa and so many others who take the time to comment and send emails with encouragement. It is the greatest, professional satisfaction I get.