OUR CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS, “SHELTER OF LEAVES,” BY LENORE GAY, “THE MAN BACK THERE,” BY DAVID CROUSE AND “GLASS FACTORY,” BY MARILYN McCABE, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON THE AUTHOR PAGE.
I always find the “Back Story” question on the Snowflakes in a Blizzard template intriguing. This week, Charlie Quimby uses it to provide the writers among us with a lesson.
Charlie writes: “I started Monument Road in January 2009 with a premise based on a fragment of a radio transmission I overheard on a ride-along with my brother, a police officer in Grand Junction, Colorado. A woman who had a dispute with her boyfriend thought he might be headed up into the mountains to take his life. Although the story evolved from my original concept, I kept the image in my head of a man making such a lonely drive. As I worked, I also heard echoes of David Rhodes’s Driftless, which powerfully evokes an influential landscape and close community relationships.”
In other words, all writers must be open to serendipity. Sure, you may have your next five novels already written in your head, and a game plan to get them published. But don’t close yourself off from an unexpected idea, either.
Nor do these ideas need to be adopted verbatim. As a long-time journalist, I was bombarded with them, and one formed the germ of my first novel, “The Kudzu Kid.”
A man came to a Board of Supervisors meeting in Appomatox County, VA, to offer a piece of land he owned for the new county landfill. The county could use it for free, he said, provided it redraw the existing landfill ordinance to allow out-of-state waste.
Immediately, rumors spread that the generous stranger was only a straw man for a Mafia-backed company prepared to poison the community. This was never proven — and, indeed, the offer was ultimately rejected — but it got me thinking: “What if organized crime really was involved? How would that play out in a small, rural area?”
Not long after I started writing the book, however, “The Sopranos” became a big hit on TV — Mafia types in the hazardous waste business. Afraid of being a copycat, I then put “The Kudzu Kid” aside for nearly 10 years before picking it up again.
It’s wonderful if you can conjure up vivid and believable stories out of your head. But don’t forget what real life has to offer, either.
UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, SEPT. 20-26
“MONUMENT ROAD,” BY CHARLIE QUIMBY
Leonard Self has spent a year unwinding his ranch, paying down debts and fending off the darkening. Just one thing left: taking his wife’s ashes to her favorite overlook, where he plans to step off the cliff with her. But perhaps he’s not as alone as he believes.
Stark, beautiful landscapes attract all kinds. Artists and gawkers. Love birds and the lonely. Believers and scientists. Seekers and losers. Many have taken this same road past estrangement and loss to healing and hope. Though not all have returned, they can still help Leonard answer whether his life is over after all.
“BURIED,” BY FRANK TROY
In the year 385 CE, Aeneas, the only son of a Roman statesman, is sent to Alexandria for his compulsory military service and falls hopelessly in love with Hypatia, a beautiful and brilliant scholar at the Library of Alexandria. Aeneas and Hypatia become lovers and plan a life together, but at the end of his service his father orders him back to Rome.
The empire is rapidly destabilizing and Aeneas is charged with taking his only sibling Honoria north across the Alps to join their father at the supposedly safe military outpost of Augusta Raurica. Within months the entire empire erupts into warring factions. When their father dies as the result of a military conflict, Aeneas and Honoria make a dangerous journey to safety at a family property on the African side of the Mediterranean. A short time later Aeneas travels to Alexandria to find Hypatia. He discovers that she has been murdered by Christian monks because of her prominence and refusal to embrace Christianity. Devastated, Aeneas returns to his African estate.
He is genuinely happy when Honoria finds love, marries, and has children, but Aeneas is unable to find a wife because all women, in his mind, pale in comparison to Hypatia. He remains true to her memory as the years pass. Growing old, he and Honoria watch their beloved Roman civilization fade into history as the West descends into the Dark Ages.
“PERFECTLY NEGATIVE,” BY LINDA CARVELLI
As spring approached, Linda focused on beginning her first marriage until she received the devastating news of her mother’s terminal illness. No one could have anticipated the avalanche of tragedy that filled the next ten years. What surprised Linda the most was that when she eventually reflected on that most painful decade of her life, she realized how each tragedy gave her more courage and strength to face the next one.
Perfectly Negative introduces a cast of real, relatable characters who will have you crying, laughing, and ultimately rejoicing in Linda’s triumph and determination to make sense of the overwhelming heartbreak she endured. This insightful memoir reveals nuggets of wisdom to reassure you as you face your own life lemons lessons.