SYNOPSIS (MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS) THE CIVIL WAR WAS ABOUT TO END, BUT ONE WOMAN’S STRUGGLE WITH HER CONSCIENCE, HAD JUST BEGUN…
It is an era of scarcity during the hostile Civil War, a time of upheaval. She is brave and she is strong, and in her world, she is a survivor. Meet Virginia Mae Mercy, a conflicted young woman whose fate seems uncertain in the year 1863, where all is not well in Kansas, nor in the entire world―Virginia‟s world of uncertainty. Savage Dogmen have just killed her unfaithful husband, Birdy and apparently it is not a random crime. Suspiciously, and in an effort to bring order to her troubled life, Virginia packs her meager possessions and heads west in search of a dream, traveling with her sickly daughter, Triste. But shortly into their journey westward, Virginia‟s dreams fade into despair when an unruly member of her wagon train clashes with Sioux Indians along the fringes of the Oregon Trail. Their horror escalates, as the seeds of this regrettable journey, apparently sown in blood, and where turning back was no longer an option. A Death for Beauty or An Immortal is ultimately a story of conflicting choices in a world filled with deception and harsh losses. An exploration of fate versus random circumstances and the ideologies we ultimately choose to believe. Choices that weave their way to a dramatic end
with a poignant twist that questions everything this heroic character believed in, and every reason sheâ€&#x;d fought to stay alive.
*** PRESS RELEASE *** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Alberto Rios Arias Email: firstname.lastname@example.org „
Man with Marfans Syndrome Challenges Himself to Publish Bestselling Novel Jacksonville, Florida--March 7, 2009 Bedridden over a year, former advertising copywriter, Alberto Rios Arias, now hopes to meet his ultimate deadline: to publish a bestselling novel, A Death for Beauty or An Immortal, before he's back on his feet. Diagnosed with a rare connective tissue disorder known as, Marfans Syndrome, April of 2007, Alberto Rios is prepared for the worst, but hoping for a full recovery. He is under the care of the Veteran‟s Medical Center in San Juan, Puerto Rico where they have already performed open-heart surgery and replaced his damaged aortic heart valve with a bionic, ceramic valve. “I can‟t believe I‟m bionic,” he admits. “My new heart valve ticks like a loud clock and keeps me up at night. My right hip needs replacement with a full bionic prosthesis too,” said Alberto. “Hopefully I can call attention to this very rare disease that silently affects one in every 5000 Americans. I encourage anyone with a heart murmur to take it seriously.” Alberto is optimistic for a full recovery after hip replacement surgery and with proper rehabilitation, he plans to manage the disease successfully. “My deep faith in God and the support of my family keeps me going. I choose to believe that my affliction is a blessing in disguise. I‟ve also taken advantage of my spare time and I've written what I feel is a very important story. And I‟ve put my heart and soul into it because I believe there‟s a deeper purpose in the story‟s details.” Alberto‟s debut novel, A Death for Beauty is published by Freedom Rivers Books and available on Amazon.com, May, 2009. Author‟s website: http://www.adeathforbeauty.com ABOUT THE AUTHOR Alberto Rios has published numerous essays throughout the internet and on his BlogSpot for the past 5 years, and has also authored two feature screenplays.
Born in Jersey City and raised in Hoboken, New Jersey, as a young boy, Alberto filled his leisure time writing and illustrating short stories and considered a writing career after reading J.D. Salingerâ€&#x;s, Catcher in the Rye in high school. After a three-year stint in the Army, he pursued another obsession and enrolled in the popular School of Visual Arts in Manhattan under the G.I. Bill. Although he majored in Fine Arts, his creative writing class inspired him to keep writing. His hard work paid off and he was soon working as an advertising copywriter. His advertorials appeared weekly in The New York Post and The Daily News. Meanwhile he continued to hone his writing skills and upon early retirement, he decided to give creative writing another shot, recently finishing two feature screenplays and his first novel. Alberto is currently developing another novel, a short story collection, and a memoir. A Death for Beauty or, An Immortal is his debut novel. Learn more at: http://www.adeathforbeauty.com
THE CENTRAL CHARACTERS VIRGINIA MAE MERCY (PROTAGONIST) On its surface, A Death for Beauty is the remarkable story of a troubled young woman who is the quintessential survivor. Certainly, the Civil War was not ready for her, just as she was unprepared for this era. Virginia was a woman whose faith was unwavering until tragedy struck and she suddenly questioned her convictions. She‟s opportunistic—righteous one day and defiant the next. Yet, this is her inner conflict at work. Her unconscious desire kept in check. On face value, Virginia Mae Mercy is the perfect believer. God‟s humble servant who believes God has stricken her abusive husband with a cruel and vengeful death on her behalf. “Birdy got what he deserved. I just can’t see it any other way. When you wrong someone, the universe always finds a way to right it.” Revenge is one of many themes in the story—a story that at its core ultimately speaks about life‟s uncertainties and its many guises. The storyline is a search for truth, but it is Virginia‟s own truths that surface time and again to take over the story and direct it in ways that only she sees, in ways that only she can decipher. Yet, Virginia knows she is not immune to punishment. In fact, she expects it, even as she seeks immortality. “So let God’s justice roll down like waters, because sooner or later, we all must pay the ultimate price.”
TRISTE MERCY Triste is a special little girl with the uncanny power to heal dying creatures. Although, born mentally challenged, her insights about her personal turmoil reveal much more about the mysteries of the world, than the mysteries of her troubled soul. BIRDY The story opens with the telling of one of Birdy‟s pranks gone wrong, and how his demise came about, although Virginia, the voice behind this narration, through her journal, does not reveal all the motives behind his death. Birdy is an enigma in this story, and since the telling opens with his demise, most of the details we know about him are only revealed through Virginia‟s conversations with Triste. We learn he was a cowardly soldier who Dogmen murdered and scalped, which leads to the central question: Did Virginia plan Birdy‟s murder? Some events point to her involvement, while other events obscure the mystery surrounding his death. Virginia often displays mixed feelings for him throughout the story, which also raises more questions than answers. MR. CLAYTON FARQUHAR AND SISSY Mr. Farquhar represents the story‟s subconscious, its underbelly. He is in effect a charlatan who tries too hard to fit the mold of a successful adventurer, a capitalist. While his wife, Sissy, is his submissive partner with unfound self-esteem. Together, they form an unwitting team for Virginia Mae Mercy‟s many quirks, which adds tension, as well as comic relief. HATTIE Virginia‟s mother, Hattie, is more like a friend than a mother. Their relationship is open and utterly transparent but at the same time, volatile for reasons unknown to them. She stands firmly as the detestable voice of reason throughout the story.
PASTOR WAKEFIELD The pastor is a mirror reflection of who Virginia Mae Mercy really is. Everything he says and does reveals not only who he really is but, who Virginia is by association. He is in effect, her guilty pleasure, and Virginia uses him to seek comfort from Birdy‟s infidelity. CHIEF STANDING BEAR Chief Standing Bear, as we might expect from the chief of a grand Sioux tribe, can be callous and unforgiving. However, in this story we are privy to another side of this magnificent warrior. He also demonstrates warmhearted affection when the moment presents itself, and although the story suggests an intimate relationship between the chief and Virginia Mae Mercy, its details are left to the reader‟s imagination. WHITE STONE White Stone is a key player surrounding the mystery of Birdy‟s murder. Suggestions abound, but few revealed regarding his involvement until the end of the story. Many details are left to the readers own conclusions. This statuesque warrior, as Virginia describes him, is also the white man‟s conscience in the story. He is a half-breed of mythical proportions, and Chief Standing Bear‟s main rival.
READING GROUPS—SPOILER ALERT About this guide: The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group‟s discussion of A Death for Beauty, but includes spoilers.
1. Which books does the author reference in the novel? The author mentions three of his favorites: The Holy Bible, Nathaniel Hawthorne‟s, The Scarlet Letter, and Jonathan Swift‟s tale, Gulliver’s Travels. 2. What are the symbols used throughout the story? White roses, the apple, the rainbow, the serpent. 3. What does the name Triste mean? It means "sad" in Spanish. 4. What do white roses symbolize in this story? Traditionally, white roses symbolize purity, beauty, and innocence; three character traits, which Virginia Mae Mercy lacks, but she is in desperate search of. Arias, juxtaposes these traits to counterbalance her character. White roses in this story also represent sacrifice and death. 5. Why does Virginia Mae Mercy feel that her daughter Triste is God’s punishment to her? Since Triste was born mentally challenged, Virginia feels that Triste is God‟s reminder and His punishment to Virginia because of her sinful ways.
6. What does Clayton Farquhar mean when he says Rusty looks like a “lady killer?” Virginia also makes a similar reference when she says: “He’s most likely to throw me to the dogs…he got what he deserved.” This is an allusion to Jezebel, The Phoenician Queen in the Book of II Kings, verse 9:30. Jezebel is killed when several eunuchs, at Jehu‟s command, throw her out a window. She is then devoured by dogs. 7. What is the leading premise of the story? This story works off two premises. Its leading premise—life on Earth is always uncertain and we are not in total control—the second premise speaks to the rewards of life after death and that immortality is possible, and above all, that death should not be feared, but honored. Hence, the title. 8. What inspired the title A Death for Beauty or An Immortal? Borrowing part of a title from one of Emily Dickinson‟s poems, I Died for Beauty, But was Scarce, the author also added An Immortal as homage to early works of literature that used this literary device. Virginia references the title near the ending. Dickinson's poetry graces the chapter headings throughout the book. 9. What does the artwork on the book jacket mean? At one point, while on the run with White Stone, Virginia dreams of a foggy canyon with galloping horses. Arias‟s inference to this imagery is that the canyon represents Hell and the free horses represent an escape from its depths. Ironically, Virginia relates this imagery, “as clouds in heaven.” 10. How does the depiction of Sioux Indians serve the story? The author wants to emphasis the struggle of humankind and
suggests triumph in the midst of adversity by showing their means of survival and procreation against all odds. The Indians also serve as a contrast between Whites and Native Americans during a turning point in Americaâ€&#x;s history, as well as the struggle among many cultures to co-exist in a prejudice world. 11. What is the meaning of Virginia's three strange encounters at the end of the story? By the end of the story, Virginia is unsure about everything in her life, and she can no longer distinguish between reality and fantasy. This part of the story is where the author also explores prescience and its many guises. Virginia encounters bizarre entities that foreshadow her fate, as well as the ending of the story. 12. What underlying themes does the author explore? Loss, uncertainty, spiritual weakness, forgiveness, betrayal, broken promises, denial, life after death, rebirth. 13. What does the short story in the Prologue mean? The author wrote this short, curious prologue as a parable that speaks to our precarious journey on Earth through the eyes of unborn children. In this case, through Tristeâ€&#x;s eyes as she relates her story from Heaven. 14. Discuss the surprising ending. How do you feel about the storyâ€&#x;s outcome? Why do you think the author chose to end the story this way? Does the ending make sense to you?
Suggested reading: Cormac McCarthyâ€&#x;s Border Trilogy; Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; Beloved by Toni Morrison; Finn by Jon Clinch; The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold; A Good Man is Hard To Find, by Flannery Oâ€&#x;Connor.
AUTHOR Q&A A NOTE ABOUT SPOILERS: Too much information can ruin a good thing. Over the years, my curiosity about literature and its authors has led me to discover too many behind-the-scene tidbits that have spoiled my favorite stories. If you‟re an aspiring writer, read on. Readers: please beware of spoilers.
Who inspired you to become a writer, and why did you write this kind of story? I think it was a combination of things that I always wanted to express, thematically at least. The meaning of death, the meaning of life, the meaning of lots of curious things. Those eerie moments of prescience we all experience. That‟s a lot to cover but I touch on all those things and a lot more throughout the story through Triste‟s character in particular. She‟s really the story‟s inner child, its conscience. I also love reading classic literature, especially Greek mythology, but the first book that planted the thought of writing in my head was J.D. Salinger‟s Catcher in the Rye. I remember being so curious about that title and I was hooked the moment I began reading it. I was 15 at the time so it‟s easy to see why that story had such an impact on me. That, plus many other things had slowly steered me towards writing a novel. I‟d thought of this particular story about a captive woman for the
longest time after college, but I never really had the time to dedicate myself to writing it until recently. That itself is a bizarre story, but for another time. It turns out, during an unplanned retirement and suddenly with plenty of reading time, I‟d come across Fanny Kelly‟s captivity narrative and I was drawn to its many implications so I expanded the idea from there. I had my work cut out, but I think the movie Dances with Wolves and its author, Michael Blake also inspired me to write this kind of story, although, originally my idea was about a little girl who‟d been captured and raised by Indians, and how that affected her life and theirs. I started tinkering with a few paragraphs and soon realized how difficult it would be to tell this kind of story from a child‟s point of view so I went with a young woman as the protagonist instead. It was a natural progression to set the story during the Civil War era because that‟s when the escalation between Indians and Whites was at its peak. I‟ve always been fascinated with that time and place. As far as the tone of the writing, I‟ll credit Miss Emily Dickinson‟s poetry, which was a huge inspiration for Virginia‟s voice. There’s more to this story than meets the eye. What does it all mean? This is not an ordinary story and my intentions have always been to make it extraordinary in every way. Aside from its historical setting—its backdrop—it deals with many themes and motifs regarding life
and death, human curiosities and mysteries. That alone opens up a Pandora ‟s Box. Questions and possibilities about our short life on Earth, to which there are always more questions than answers. What can we do with all the evil thoughts in our hearts and minds? How do we process the mysterious world around us? How do we react to our circumstances? How do we find solutions to our most profound problems? Can we live forever? How do we remain positive, affirmative and proactive? Who is really in control of our life and death, our Creator, or us? These are important questions to me. My intention with this book was to reveal these questions in an enlightening way, rather than posing pseudo spiritual answers throughout. Ultimately, it‟s everyone‟s responsibility to seek his or her own answers; to search for the truth, wherever you can find it. In a sense, I built the constructs of this story around a metaphor for life. In this case, captivity represents bondage; the Sioux Indians represent oppression and slavery, as well as seekers of spiritual matters and freedom. The story in essence is a parable, and it is up to each reader to decipher his or her own meaning and come out of it with something positive and useful. To figure out the great mystery its protagonist is searching for, and to ultimately be free.
Some readers find the opening to this story confusing. It is somewhat complex but very readable and understandable when read with an open mind. Which writers have influenced your writing? Too many to mention because I learn something from each of them, but I think without question, J.D. Salinger, Cormac McCarthy, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to name just three that have been the most influential. Marquez is probably my favorite writer, although there are so many I admire. And as you can see there‟s a huge gap in that literary map among these writers but they have all inspired me and I‟m grateful to have learned from them. (Let‟s not forget the many writers in the Bible who have influenced every writer, before and since Aristotle.) Other contemporary writers include, Barbara Kingsolver, Mark Twain, Roberto Bolaño, Harper Lee, Toni Morrison, Ernest Hemingway, Annie Proulx, Flannery O‟Connor, and so on. It‟s a never-ending list that seems to grow by the day. There‟s so much to learn, technically that is, about this craft, but I like to break the rules or make my own rules as I go along, so influences are a misnomer as far as writing style. You can only be yourself and write as yourself but within that realm you‟ll always reflect a little of someone else through shared human experiences. Writers are known to pay homage to their favorite authors within their
stories so if you look closely enough you‟ll find a few references in mine. I also like the screenplays of Oliver Stone, Quentin Tarantino, Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick, and lately, let me include Lars Von Trier, to name just a few. Let‟s face it, I‟m a fan of any writer that has something interesting to say and a unique way of saying it. But I try to do my own thing, in my own way and I don‟t let other writers inside my head when I write. It‟s the only way to maintain a unique voice throughout the work. A lot happens throughout this novel. What is the story’s main premise? Actually, this story works off two premises and many themes bounce off those premises. The opening and central premise is that life is short, unpredictable. The theme is that we are not in total control of our lives. The second premise, which fades in later is the fear of death, the fear of life itself—or an unfortunate death. Not all deaths are unfortunate, you know. We all know we have to die some day. It‟s not so much about our dying as it is about the kind of life we‟ve lived. Many people live their lives to the max and when their time of dying comes, they have no regrets. Yet that‟s the exception, rather than the rule. Most people waste their lives on unimportant things, and when their time of dying approaches, they‟re resentful and miserable. In other words, dying fulfilled is possible for many people,
especially if they believe in immortality, or as the title suggests—a death for beauty. And that‟s the real meaning behind the title, in fact. It speaks to that premise in the story and not a theme, as in the death of Birdy, which is thematic to the story. The circumstances surrounding his death, that is. Denial, for instance is one of many themes I use and in this case, it plays off Virginia Mae Mercy. She owns that theme, and she is also the quintessential skeptic and her views rely more on the assumption that believing random acts of violence in the world are more than fate, possibly even God-ordained. A lot does happen and keeps happening, like a toppled row of dominoes. Nothing but conflict and one thing affects the other, which is how to structure dynamic plots. Otherwise, you wind up with a mash of events that may be interesting but have nothing to do with each other. My plot is very linear, but at the same time, filled with palpable beats that don‟t flat-line. Not in my eyes anyway. The plot must affect your character and vice versa. I‟m sure every writer has his or her own unique way of seeing it. Some readers say that you portray the Sioux people in an unflattering light and are offended by parts of this story. There‟s a lot to tell about the great Sioux people. In this story, they represent the unexpected things we experience in real life. The moments we don‟t see coming and how circumstances side-track us from our daily routines and propel
us into the unknown. The Sioux also represent power and dominion, and pride of life. In essence, they represent another side of humanity. The dark side and the bright side all rolled into one. They are a spiritual presence, a force of nature, so to speak. The last thing I wanted to do was portray any people, especially the great Sioux Indians in a negative way. Part II, where the Sioux appear, is actually based on a true story, Fanny Kelly‟s captivity narrative, in fact. Had I mirrored her sentiments throughout the novel, it would have been a much more undesirable image for the Sioux. Instead, I chose to present her story, as close to her original narrative, albeit, with redeeming values wherever I could show them regarding the Sioux tribes of the times. I‟ve always realized how difficult this story can be for the Sioux, however, parts of this story strive to show why the Sioux were so defensive against the U.S. Cavalry and strives to show both sides with as much humanity as possible. Many other stories have depicted the Sioux just as I have done here. The bottom line for me is simple. Flaws abound in every human being, and every culture has flaws of their own. I‟m not out to sugarcoat historical facts. I‟m trying to present a story as honestly as I can, without condemning anyone. As a minority, I can certainly relate to the plight of Native Americans and how the Whites of the era sought to malign
them and seize their land. None of this, however, is the reason for this story, and so it‟s not an integral part of the telling. It‟s unfortunate some readers might misconstrue certain plot omissions as a statement against the Sioux. What is Triste’s role in this story? Triste plays a very important character since by design she is one of the sub-plots of the story. And that is to say that Triste mirrors Virginia in many ways, as does Mr. Farquhar, but the main difference is that unlike Farquhar, she reflects the opposite of Virginia. Almost as if Triste is what Virginia some day wants to be like, from an empathetic point of view. She is, in effect, a contrast to Virginia‟s conscience. Triste‟s innocence and her subconscious mind is everything that Virginia struggles against, but at the same time, it is everything she strives to become. This storyline has elements of a love story. Is that fair to say? Very much so. In fact, I use one of the major story beats from the love story genre, which is conflict between two people when they first meet—a guarded attraction. I think readers get the sense, right away, that both Virginia and Mr. Farquhar will eventually fall for each other, at least to a point. Whether their relationship worked or not, is open to interpretation.
I‟ve taken a clue from Hollywood, whereas, most screenplays these days go beyond one genre and delve into two or even mix three genres within the same story. It‟s a lot like layering different, but related storylines into one. I think the hardcore genre formula of yesteryear, so-to-speak, is stale by comparison. Audiences and readers today demand more, and that‟s correlated almost directly to shorter attention spans when it comes to entertainment. Both audiences and readers want more “bang for their buck” and they get it with hybrid stories in both cinema, as well as literature. In essence, it‟s the evolution of story, as we know it since the stage plays in Aristotle‟s time, for instance, and that‟s not comparing apples to oranges. Stories, whether they are in the form of a stage play, or in the form of a screenplay, or a novel, have always been driven by a main premise, the story engine. At least the best ones are. That may never change, but what drives the engine, the separate storylines, the characters, subplots, and how they converge, that‟s where the magic happens. Not always easy to pull off. One of the most successful stories of modern times is Andrew Lloyd Webber‟s, Phantom of the Opera. Great performances certainly have a lot to do with that, but at its core, its concept—the unusual love story—is the common connection.
Writers in every media these days really have to pay their dues and examples of great writing is evident today in TV shows like The Mentalist, Mental, Burn Notice, The Ghost Whisperer, and the list goes on. It‟s hard to say that for feature films since they depend on high concept ideas and A-list actor performances. Once in a while, that rare combination sneaks by and succeeds taking viewers by surprise. The movie “Stone” with Robert DeNiro and Ed Norton is a good example. In this particular film, Ed Norton steals every scene with his narcissistic portrayal of a man about to hit parole—a brilliant performance that elevated an ordinary idea. Then again, I think it‟s fair to say that cinema or stage might have an advantage over literature, whereas performances and/or musical scores can sometimes make or break a story. Fair enough but printed stories have a secret weapon of their own. In fact, novels (ebooks notwithstanding) can offer a very potent, a visceral effect on readers unlike film or plays, because readers can hold on to a real book. That physical connection to the story, its narrator, and that “indirect” connection with its author is extraordinary, palpable. Kundera puts it this way in The Art of the Novel: he says, „the reader's imagination automatically completes the writer's vision.‟
True enough, although, writers must realize that works by squelching the need to explain and decipher every thought, every moment. In essence, reading novels becomes a concerted effort, much like a work of art, whereas the artist expresses his vision on canvas and viewers complete that particular vision—in their mind—by attaching their personal interpretation. Sometimes there is a consensus of opinion about the work, sometimes disparity. With only words on paper, it‟s the novelist‟s job to bring character performances to life within the reader‟s mind, and writers can accomplish that with either many details, or the lack thereof. Too much detail can dilute a reader‟s interpretation, based on his or her own life experiences. However, if a novelist succeeds by re-imagining a story and presents it to readers in a tantalizing way, a way that readers can internalize it and personalize it, the written story can be just as powerful as film. I‟m inclined to use enough detail to spark a thought in the reader‟s mind, as opposed to spoon-feeding the entire story by way of relentless detail. Readers are smart enough to get what writers are trying to say without having to spell out everything. That‟s known as OTN (on the nose) writing in scriptwriting circles, and where the good use of subtext comes in. Some things need to be left to the imagination.
Where do the character names come from? I looked up Victorian era names and came up with a good list and worked off that but some of them like Virginia‟s name I made up entirely. I love the name Virginia and in her case the “Mae” seemed like a good middle name, and “Mercy” was what she needed so, there you have it. It was the third name I had used while writing the script. Maxine was my original pick but her sister-in-law wound up with it. All the other names were off the list, except for Triste, which means “sad” in Spanish and just right for this endearing character. I think it fits. The name of Mr. Clayton Farquhar has a sophistication to it that contrasts with his personality, his pretentious ways. There‟s something comical about that combination and I think Mr. Farquhar lives up to his unusual name. Birdy‟s nickname adds warmth, but his last name, Kelly, I borrowed from Ms. Kelly‟s original narrative.
It feels as though you’ve really captured the many nuances of this era. What kind of challenges did you face when drawing from historical information? I‟ve always been interested in the American Civil War so I had internalized a lot of things that are specific to this era, but I still had to do quite a bit of research in order to get everything as accurate as possible. That always takes a lot of time and
meanwhile the writing can‟t stop, so you wind up going back and forth, filling in gaps and details you missed the first time. Some of the facts I had to skew in order to better serve parts of the story and I mention that in the preface footnotes (Hardcover) about the use of passenger trains at the time, for example. And so, a lot of details are also added after most of the writing is done too. I added several events about President Lincoln that I thought were interesting. It‟s easy to go back and fill in small details that make a big difference in the mood of a scene. I also read as much as I could about the Civil War online and looked up many expressions, customs, foods, news events of the time, and so on. That‟s always a lot of fun to do when you have a curiosity about another era. I think most of my research went into writing the preface (Hardcover) because it‟s loaded with factual history relevant to this story and so I spent a lot of my time piecing that together.
How does Emily Dickinson fit into this story? Emily Dickinson, in a way, is also a character in this story, even though she‟s only mentioned, but her presence, her words, her beautiful poetry hauntingly resonate throughout the narrative. She was a must for me to include and the perfect backdrop as a fierce woman of the 19th century.
How long did it take you to write this novel?
I worked fast and wrote the first draft in about three months but it was a scant 60k words and most of that I saved for the middle of the story, or Part II. Later I added another 35k words when I expanded the beginning and the ending to the story. I worked within a typical Five Act structure. All together, I spent the better part of four years working on it day and night most of the time. I‟d written only a small part of this story from the outset and just had captivity scenes to begin with. Everything else I developed and plotted methodically, but a lot of it came by pure serendipity. Once you have a solid concept in place, your mind tends to run with it and somehow it all ends up working out. Somehow, you fill in all the blanks. It becomes your life. Most readers find this story very interesting and rewarding, but then there are those who like to tear it apart and misinterpret what it all means. I don‟t think I‟ve ever read a novel that I thought was perfect. There are so many faults to find in any work of literature. Even the very best stories fall short in the eyes of many readers, while others find ways to praise them. It‟s all so subjective and every writer has a certain way to get their words and their stories across. Sometimes, things get lost in translation, as they say, and people take offense. That‟s to be expected. You
just can‟t please everyone. Some readers will get it, while others won‟t have a clue. I‟m the type of writer that doesn‟t coddle readers. I realize they can read between the lines and come to their own conclusions. Nor do I sugarcoat the truth. I strive to balance the story from all points of view. There‟s a reason why novels, for the most part, are not illustrated. The writer supplies only words and the reader‟s interpretation, understanding, and imagination regarding those words is what they absorb and what they take away. That‟s the art form. Sometimes for better; sometimes for worse. Although, I‟m confident enough I‟ve done this story and everything it represents, due diligence in every way. Let‟s remember that it‟s through fiction, where we most often tell the truth.