Monday, October 13, 2008

An Out-of-Mind Experience

Since retiring this spring and submitting novels to a publisher I've learned a lot about myself and my limitations emotionally and intellectually. If you like action novels you'll have to go somewhere else because mine are about people and relationships and the action mostly takes place inside the characters' hearts and minds. I decided early on that I respect my readers' intelligence enough not to talk down to them. Reading my books will be an emotional AND cerebral experience.

Writing a novel is almost an out-of-mind experience in the sense that there are these extra people inhabiting my mind and telling me their stories, and I'm at the keyboard taking dictation. They exist independently, and I know them rather well, but I've never met any actual person like them. I don't even know that we have enough in common to be compatible dinner companions, but I like and admire them; they're far more interesting than I am. Once they come alive in my imagination, they start telling me their backstories. Character is plot, and every character has a history, so I don't worry much about elaborate plotting; I just let them do what they will, and a story unfolds.

In the first novel, 'Living It Down,' which takes place in 1990-91, the premise is based on this question: What would an LDS woman do if she went to counsel with a priesthood leader in her new ward and discovered that he was the reason she needed to talk to a priesthood leader in the first place? You know how ideas trigger other ideas and pretty soon you're a million miles away from where you started. That's how I got to that question, but I didn't have an answer for it, and it intrigued me. In this case, the two people involved were college students together twenty years ago and he wasn't LDS. When she, Polly Hamilton, broke up with Todd Kendall, he quit school, joined the Navy, and met an LDS chaplain. Now, 20 years later, things still bother Polly, now Mrs. Winston Burke, and so she takes a time out from her marriage to reevaluate her life. She's in her late 30's now, unhappy, and can't name the reasons why. Winston is devastated but gives her the space she needs because he is completely devoted to his wife. She moves with her two teenage daughters from her big beautiful Orem, Utah home to the student housing basement apartment in her Aunt Sophie's elegant Victorian home in Provo. Polly's first meeting with the bishop, when she learns his identity, is a disaster, but he persists and convinces her that he's the only person who can help her through this; his hope is that in the process, she will also finally forgive him. He's a completely different man now, changed by his conversion, a humble man with genuine Christian love. His goal is to help her heal so she can return to her husband.

A very important issue for LDS women comes up with the premise question - trust. You have to trust your husband enough to marry him and allow him to be the father of your children and help raise them and support you, and you have to trust your priesthood leaders enough to confide in them and depend on their leadership. There is a sub-plot involving Polly's teenage daughter who is rushed by a predatory boy. Girls have to learn who they can trust, too, and dating is the process by which people reveal the level of trust others can have in them.

This is a contemporary LDS story in which there are several kinds of love portrayed. Issues of trust and loyalty come up frequently for these characters. I vetted the teenage subplot with some teenagers I know, and they corrected some things, but assured me that there really are predatory boys out there, in growing numbers with devastating consequences, and girls really do talk like this, only worse. My how times have changed.

Sophie's malapropisms are one of the threads of wit and humor in the book. (…he's got bad arthuritis, walks with a lymph…) A malapropism is confusing two similar words with hilarious results. Sophie says, for instance that a real escape agent contacted her about selling her house, and in another place she tells Polly she's glad she found her glitch in life. I'll post a scene with Sophie so you can get in on the fun.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I personally think you should have Bobette write quotes for the book jacket. She says things so well!