When it comes to my traveling circus, I don’t include a lot of “normal” circus tropes. My circus doesn’t have an elephant, for example. But there are a few tropes I want to play with, because I think they’ll fit well.
I also like writing about my home state, so when I realized I was going to write about a tightrope walker, I started wondering where in Colorado this person could walk. The Royal Gorge seemed daunting and perfect.
My ridiculous muse is largely responsible for what came next. I couldn’t get a handle on this character — I knew he was tall and thin and strange, but he refused to tell me where he’d come from. “He’s a Russian Jew,” my muse said, “running from the pogroms that destroyed all he knew and loved.” My muse can be painfully insightful.
And then, everything clicked.
Of course you would walk tightropes — you always had, though not as literally. Always running, never looking back, never looking down because down was doom. But what if you walked into something very strange, into a world of ghosts that only you could see?
I spent a lot of time reading about wire walkers, in circuses and out. I spent a lot of time with Philippe Petit and his charming story about walking between NYC’s twin towers while they were still under construction. I read about the Royal Gorge and its bridge, and how humanity thinks they can fill all empty spaces, even though some should possibly stay empty as a reminder of what was once there.
This story was born in those spaces, but doesn’t strive to fill them. It seeks, rather, to cross them and keep going. To walk the sky like Vasily does.