Thursday, June 13, 2013

Interview


Conducted by Wapiaponi

 
 
Why did you become a writer?
I’ve always enjoyed authors that offer instructive social commentary and exhibit a command of language.  Teaching English to eighth grade students for 31 years required me to read thoughtfully excellent works of fiction and evaluate their merit.  It also permitted me to instruct my students in basic aspects of writing fiction.  I dabbled a bit with short story writing before I became a teacher, so the desire to express myself was always present.  It wasn’t until I retired as a teacher that I accepted the challenge of writing a full-length historical novel.
   
What kind of books do you read?
I enjoy historical novels especially.  My college major was history.  I enjoy learning about how individual people lived at a given time, how they attempted to resolve their particular conflicts, and how their flaws and strengths of character defined them as human beings.
 
What is the easiest aspect of writing?  The hardest?
Narrating action and writing dialogue are easier for me than communicating feelings and expressing abstract thoughts.  Examples, for Crossing the River:
 
Having served the two officers their food, she watched the blonde-haired servant finish his tankard of ale.
 
Smiling across the kitchen at her, he placed the vessel noisily on the table. Straightening his legs, leaning backward, he sighed.
 
She walked over to him. “The bigger one in the other room. The one with the thin nose. I know him.”
 
His eyes flashed. “Oh, I don't think so. They be strangers to the county, like I said. They've not been here before.” He looked at her guilelessly.
 
Oh, he was good, likable, convincing.
 
 
In his study one hour each afternoon, recalling past friendships, recreating personal and professional accomplishments, Thomas Gage warded off his anxieties.  Intermittently, he indulged in flight of fancy: Tom Gage, suave, virile lothario; Thomas Gage, vanquishing general/enlightened prime minister.  Revitalized, he returned to his duties primed to vanquish each new outrage directed upon his competency.  Once or twice every fourteen days or so his methodology of self-renewal failed him.  This afternoon his apprehensions and resentments had not receded.
 
How long did it take to write the book?
It took me seventeen years, spaced around other activities of my life.  Crossing the River is lengthy – 413 pages.  Writing isn’t easy.  I discovered I couldn’t just "turn it on." There were moments when my brain was working and words and phrases came to me cooperatively but more often they did not. About two hours a day at my computer was about the time I allotted myself because I knew staying at the task longer would be counterproductive. Also, I learned not to go over what I had written the next day but to come back to it weeks, if not months, later. Reading what I’d written with fresh eyes was a humbling, necessary experience.
 
I learned my limitations. I would write passages that clearly needed revision and after five or six attempts to improve them, I would find them only slightly better. Sometimes the remedy was subtraction. Or, sometimes, on the seventh try, my mind would open up and the problem would be solved.
 
Like most anything people do, the longer you do something, the more you improve. I believe I am a better writer now than I was five years ago, certainly better than I was ten years ago, and definitely better than when I started.
 
How did you come up with the title?
The river in the book title, Crossing the River, is, literally, the Charles River.  It is crossed several times by British soldiers and Massachusetts patriots.  It represents a boundary that separates individual safety from possible misfortune, perhaps death itself.  Characters, crossing over, must confront their worst fears.  The novel’s title acts as a metaphor that delineates risky decision-taking from unpredictable consequences.   The earliest indication that the book title has symbolic meaning is found in this passage:
 
“Disdained by Parliament, the aristocracy, and the British mercantile class, these compatriots, these commoners, these Massachusetts toilers this day had attacked militarily the master, their action imperiling that which each man held sacrosanct! Yet they had cheered him. It was true that he had instructed them, encouraged them, in the end incited them. He, with others, had brought them to the river that could now be called revolution. They, knowing full well the danger, had, of their own volition, crossed over!”
 
Do you have any favorite characters?
The novel has many characters.  The major events of April 19, 1775, are the accumulated results of their varied experiences.  I enjoyed especially creating these three individuals:
 
Lexington militiaman Simon Winsett attempts to assist a redcoat deserter while trying to resolve his neighbors’ and his family’s ill regard of him.
 
Lincoln school master James Hayworth seeks to avenge the death of his dear friend and neighbor, minuteman commander Isaac Davis.
 
Redcoat corporal John Howe spies for General Gage and seeks to rise above his station.
 
How do you define success as an author?
I write, first, for myself.  I want to feel that what I have produced is my very best.  For me, self-satisfaction equals success.  Second, I believe I have been successful as an author if the majority of my readers judge what I have written to be worth their expenditure of time and energy.