Thursday, December 4, 2014

Back to the Past

Stuck in the Fifties

     You Are My Song is nearing completion and I hope to have it released by early to mid- January. This whole writing adventure started in May of 2013 with a first novel, How I Grew Up, based on a true event from the mid-twentieth century. The awful slaughter of three members of one family by an unstable son-in-law turned my hometown of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, upside down. My close friend Anita’s parents and another brother-in-law were shot in one murderous evening while everyone in the family was at home except Anita, who had gone to the movies.
     This happened the weekend before our high school was holding auditions for the annual spring musical, which that year was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. Anita was expected to have one of the leading female roles in that show. She was an exceptional actress and singer.
     The show’s directors opted to delay the auditions for a week, and Anita won the leading role of Julie Jordan. Carousel is an emotional story, and somehow Anita portraying Julie gave her the strength to deal with the horrific tragedy she and her sisters and their young children were faced with.
     That production of Carousel has resonated throughout my life and I eventually directed high school productions of the show twice. Each time, I was reminded of Anita, and her remarkable courage and poise. Finally I gave Anita a voice and wrote How I Grew Up at the encouragement of a friend to whom I had told the story.
     Even before my first novel was in print I had begun Eli’s Heart, based on two characters who first appeared in How I Grew Up. And before Eli’s Heart was made available I had the idea for You Are My Song, following yet another high school student who had been part of that memorable Carousel production through hills and valleys as he embarked on a career in opera.
     So without even planning it, I am finishing up the third book in a trilogy of sorts. I say “of sorts” because each book stands on its own, yet they all have their origins in that one high school production, and some characters from each book appear in others. I’m not even sure what to call it, and I’ve been wandering through the maze of print on demand and eventually self-publishing along with writing. I suppose at some point I could re-release How I Grew Up on Amazon through my now favorite place to publish … myself, by virtue of some computer skills and a great staff at CreateSpace … so the books could be tied together somehow.
     I like my protagonists. I wrote How I Grew Up in the first person and tried to recall some of Anita’s speech patterns as I wrote. She said “that” a lot. What a surprise. She also said “really” a lot, but I took many of those out before releasing the book. It was a challenge in Eli’s Heart to become the third person narrator (I never had any formal creative writing courses). I’m still not sure I quite understand what the third person narrator is or isn’t allowed to say. I’ve had different people give me different advice.
     You Are My Song had another challenge; creating a protagonist who was born totally in my imagination. Well, maybe not completely; when I created Jamie Logan in How I Grew Up, he was kind of a combination of two high school students I had been acquainted with. But Jamie became more and more his own person, and his second wife, Meredith, is definitely a product of my imagination. I like Jamie and Meredith.
     And obviously, I like revisiting the past. The high school years are formative as few other periods in our lives are, and my sons would read this and shake their heads and remind me I am a master of stating the obvious. But I think writing these books made me more aware of this than I had been.
     It was also great fun to revisit my college years in Eli’s Heart. While the book is fiction, there are some elements that are autobiographical, especially the student rebellion. (Ha! A hook!) There actually was one in my college, and I played a small part in it.
     Now that You Are My Song is nearing completion, I am considering what to write next. It still surprises me that at this stage in my life I’ve discovered I have this passion for writing, but there it is. After a long, full life as a musician/teacher/musical theater director I’ve found a new outlet, one that is gratifying in a whole new way. I think I’ve followed through on all potential story lines from the first book. Time to move forward in time, I think!
     Here’s the shameless self-promotion you’ve been expecting: both How I Grew Up and Eli’s Heart are available on Amazon, paperback and e-book. My kind readers tell me they are good stories.
And if you’re curious, here’s the link to my website