On April 29, I was one of three speakers at an event at my alma mater, Dickinson College; the student group Idea Fund hosted a TED Talk-esque event as part of their Our Community Their Ideas series, the theme of which was “Alter Ego: Who’s the Other You?” Below is the fleshed-out version of my notes for my talk.
My husband is a pilot and flies a 1979 Piper Arrow, which is suspiciously like the one the character Walt Federman flies in my first novel, The Sense of Death. I travel as a passenger in the Arrow quite frequently, and a couple of years ago I decided to take a "pinch hitter" course which teaches a non-pilot passenger how to control and land a plane in case the pilot is incapacitated. I took my first lesson in a Piper Warrior—a sort of baby Arrow—at Brandywine Airport in West Chester, Pennsylvania (which also makes an appearance in The Sense of Death) and I was hooked, and I continued taking lessons.
On the surface that sounds like classic Superman—after all, what’s more Superman-like than flying?
In addition, I started learning about how the engine works and doing the calculations necessary to plan for fuel consumption during a flight, despite the fact that I never thought of myself as particularly mechanically- or mathematically-inclined. And those Clark Kent parts contributed just as much as the Superman parts to my belief that I could do this thing that at one point I might have thought was beyond my abilities.
The fact that I was able to do all those things—the flying and the taxiing, the landing and the flight plan calculations—made me believe that I could take on the creative right-brain challenge of writing a novel, and then that I could take on the practical left-brain challenge of publishing and promoting it.
Or, to paraphrase another “superhero”—Dr. Frank-N-Furter from Rocky Horror Picture Show …