Friday, July 01, 2011

What My Novel, Traveling Through, is About

This is the 600th post on this blog.  That's a lot.  I long ago learned that if I wanted traffic, I had to post, a lot.  Sometimes it's every day, sometimes it's a couple times a week; at Lent I stopped.  What I need to do is archive my posts in a coherent way, rather than by date alone.  However, in celebration, I am going to write about something I'm very proud of, my novel.

Why did I write it?  Because I knew some persons who had  gone through related experiences and I wanted to see where the story would take me.  Because I am very interested in the pro-life movement, its successes and excesses.  Because I am fascinated by the connection of religion and politics in American history, specifically certain denominations and traditions.  Because I have always wondered about people who get swept up in social causes and what happens to them.  Because the life of a pastor's wife mystifies me (I would not be a good one, at all).  Because one of my favorite plays is Antigone, and after I had written the novel, I realized I had rewritten Antigone.  Both are stories of women who make the personal political and the political personal, as the feminists of the '60s told us to do. Because the story was in my head and was kicking to get out (the only reason to write fiction!).  Because I wanted to see if I could do such a thing as write a novel, since I have a M.A. in Writing.

Glenn Beck, a person I would almost never quote (and whom I am glad is off Fox News) did say something profound last night.  Be careful what you want; it can consume you and kill you.  Or something like that.  I think both my main character and Antigone do that. Ultimately my book is about a woman who goes through something horrid, who makes a decision about it, and how she lives with the consequences and tries to find sense of it for years.  You can read the end either as her search consumed her, or she was a hero.  The ending is ambiguous, which is what people don't like.  Antigone is the same to me:  the Greeks would have seen her as unbending and guilty of hubris, just like Creon; Americans see her as someone who stands by her convictions.  Take your pick, but read it as its culture did.

The novel has not been as "successful" as I would have liked.  Some people love it; some hate it, but don't say anything because they are too nice; some think it's good writing but don't like where I took the story.  I am sympathetic with all three groups.  It is a dark book:  rape, abortion, religious strife, marital discord, racial tensions, disobedience to parents, suicide, and accidental death.  Hummm.  What does that say about me?  Maybe I should write true crime?  That people would look at me and say, "she looks so sweet, why did she write such stuff?"  (I do look sweet, although I am not).  One woman, a student, said it would be a good Hallmark movie without the political stuff.  That made me laugh.  I think it would be a great movie, but not Hallmark or Lifetime or even a Christian treatment.  Although the characters are Christians, conservative Protestants, and I was trying to recreate a subculture, even making up a denomination, it is not Christian fiction.  (Christian is not supposed to be used as an adjective.)

But I am proud of it nonetheless.  It has sold over 100 copies, and I've been told that puts me in the top 7% of novelists.  So there.  (Of course, I don't know if that is true).  It is increasingly cheap on Amazon (they are trying to get rid of stock, I think--everything is cheaper) but it's not very high in sales rank.  Of course, there are over 11 million books on Amazon, so if I am at the 2.7 million point, it's not that bad (not that good).

I have notes for writing six more novels, maybe seven:  on a Lee Roberson type character, on a missionary who loses his way, on a murder mystery involving the Latino community of Northwest Georgia, on a Christmas story based on the traditional Tolstoy story of the visitors at Christmas, on my husband's family, on my mother's family, and on a "dumpling" festival (that one will have recipes and be very Southern).  I have too many ideas, and not enough discretionary time or energy. 

Fatigue is a problem for me now, but the addition of two dogs in the last four months is part of it. They wear me out.   Watching my brother die is part of it, too, and added responsibilities there.  Worry about my son getting a job, now that he is a college graduate.  The economy possibly tanking, and the fact that we faculty may be furloughed because there aren't enough students at our college.  The worry is wearing me out

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