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One of my faithful readers asked me recently if I would be writing a sequel to my first novel released through Musa Publishing, Road Apples (December 2nd. 2011). She wanted to know what ultimately happened to the characters of Madeline and Wyatt. Although the ending of the book makes reference to the future of these two mismatched lovers, she appreciated them too much to part ways. It was almost as though she’d developed a personal relationship. Her desire for follow through was gratifying, and secured for her a sense of realism in my characters.
How often, as writers, do we revisit our characters? Obviously, if they’ve been killed off, then the answer might be “never”.
But I do have a personal connection to my characters. One, Christian Muir, who died twenty years ago in ponderous self-published novel of mine, was revived in a collection of short stories, Death By Bitter Waters, scheduled for release through Musa Publishing on June 22nd, 2012. In the storyline, the ghost of Chris visits his brother Theo in the hospital, suggesting that the brothers’ interaction was the result of the side effect of Theo’s pain medication. However, subsequent details in the story may leave the reader wondering if there is indeed life after death.
That’s the great mystery of life, and a personal journey. I can’t answer if life exists after death, but I do know that a great number of my characters experience resurrection, at least in a literary sense.
I have been challenged by personal relationships—friend, family, and coworkers. I don’t think it’s an issue exclusive to me alone. The trials and tribulations of real life can’t be measured as they are in the pages of a book. The variables of human emotion and human behavior aren’t as controllable as the individuals who inhabit one’s intellectual property.
I enjoy the escapism of writing. I appreciate being able to express my political beliefs in my blog, and being voyeur to the scores of personalities that live in the alternate universe of my books.
It takes courage to write, whether in an opinion piece, or a work of fiction. For me, a common theme in my novels is race relations, and how individuals manage to cope in crossing the gap between cultures. Although America has been touted as a “melting pot”, the balance between what is considered “American” by the dominant culture (e.g., Eurocentric Christianity), and Aboriginal people (Native Americans), becomes an endless forum for discussion, and fodder for fictional relationships.
In Road Apples, (Musa Publishing—December 2nd, 2011) the love affair of Madeline Benités and Wyatt McLain overcomes not only their difference in age (Madeline is 25, and Wyatt 52), but also the collision of cultures. Wyatt was raised by his maternal aunt in relative poverty on the Quinault Indian Reservation in Washington State. Most of his biological family is dead, though his strong Quinault culture is intact, despite seven generations of assimilation. Madeline is unique in that her racial heritage encompasses many ethnicities, including Caucasian, Filipino and Lakota. Growing up in the more progressive and urban Bay Area, her family culture has embraced her father’s Filipino-American heritage.
The characters in The Curious Number (Musa Publishing, March 9th, 2012) fight a similar battle of culture clash, and small town paradigm between whites and Indians with fascinating overtones of racial intolerance, spiced with blind love. The principal female characters are strong women, whose lives are upheaved through physical and mental illness, adultery and divorce. The Curious Number is an examination of racism and sexism, and how the archetype of “good behavior” has changed only incrementally over a span of three generations.
All of this is tied into Death By Bitter Waters, a collection of short stories about Native people in northeastern California. The theme of cultural conflict hasn’t changed, now enhanced by a perspective not often visited in mainstream novels. The world is viewed through the lives of individuals whose ancestors were limited by de jure racial segregation, and wholesale slaughter. In Death By Bitter Waters, we see the revival of a culture that has survived genocide, and yet is still intact, with hope for the next seven generations. And as always, I have borrowed characters from other novels, and written them into Death By Bitter Waters, revisiting a time and place populated with familiar friends.
Whether real or imagined is entirely meaningless when somebody asks me what Madeline and Wyatt have been up to, as though they’re flesh and blood, and just at the other end of a telephone call.
My Blog Contest STARTING FRIDAY, MAY 25TH AT 12:00 A.M.: The first three people to sign up to follow this blog will win one copy of the book of their choice (either Road Apples or The Curious Number), in the preferred format (Kindle, Nook, Apple device, or pdf). Winners will be determined by time/date stamp.