This wasn’t in the big plan

It retrospect, it seems a cruel irony that the protagonist of my novel Subway Visions would die in an avalanche a quarter-century later in What’s Left – that is, underground. Here he was on the Roof of the World when it happened.

I never intended the parallel, really.

How would you define this audience?

These days, writers are advised to know their audience.

Not what they feel they need to express, mind you, but who they might connect with to sell the story.

It’s always bothered me. Sounds too much like pandering.

Still, with news stories back when I was a newspaper editor, we could begin by the places where they lived. Where they worked or sent their kids to school, too. Voted. Paid their taxes. And then work out from there. You could never go wrong with pictures of dogs or children.

Advertisers think in terms of demographics. They might want something like unmarried females age 22½ and then look for a radio station whose programming hits that market.

But books? It gets trickier.

When it comes to my novels, maybe I can define it this way:

  1. New adults trying to get their act together and want inspiration.
  2. People curious about the hippie era and want to be amused by it.
  3. People who were part of a counterculture and want perspective.

This still isn’t quite not where I’d like to be but maybe coming closer.

In fact, Cassia in my novel What’s Left seems to speak for those I hope she can reach out to.

What advice would you have?

Requiem for hippie

In revising the novel that has been recast as Daffodil Uprising, I began grieving. It wasn’t the feeling I had expected. This was supposed to be a celebration of a remarkable time in world history. Some things really did change as a result.

Not all of them for the better, alas. And many of the lessons arising from Vietnam, especially, still haven’t been learned in realms of political power. And while much of the environment has been cleaned up, the global climate is still headed for disaster.

Repeatedly, I felt this was a requiem.

Part of that must have been a consequence of my long effort of drafting and revising What’s Left, which picks up on the central character a generation later. Or, more accurately, his daughter, Cassia.

But moving on with his story, in what’s now released as Pit-a-Pat High Jinks, I’m feeling wounded. Not by the novels, mind you – I think you’ll find them entertaining, enlightening, and delightful. No, the wounds are from, well, all kinds of losses, many of them my own fault.

I have heard that in the retreat from the outburst of the Quaker movement in the radical uprisings of mid-1600s Britain, many of them had a something of a shellshock look for years after. They had come so close to truly revolutionary societal change and lost that to the Restoration. Well, some of those ideals did come to flower in the American Revolution – the Bill of Rights, especially – but even there, we’ll still falling short.

As the liturgical chanters sing out in accompaniment to prayers in Christian Orthodox worship, Kyrie eleison – Lord have mercy.

Yes, mercy. And hope. And grant us peace.

About that floating three-day weekend

In giving Kenzie that three-day weekend once every four weeks in the new novel Pit-a-Pat High Jinks, I was leaning on a work schedule I had on a newspaper out in Ohio. I sure wish I had it when I was living Upstate New York and assigned to a typical split week like his in the story. It was brutal.

Of course, in this round of revision, I was looking ahead to his experiences in my new Subway Visions. He would now have a chunk of time to head off to the Big Apple and return home.

As I reflect on my own forays into the city and its mass-transit tunnels, I think I made as many trips during my time in Ohio as I had in a similar period when I was living only four or five hours away from the metropolis. In other words, Kenzie gets in a lot more time on the underground tracks than I ever had.

Living an hour north of Boston, as I do now, I can admit to spending far more time on its subway system that I had in New York’s. And I’ve also relied on the systems of Philadelphia, Chicago, and Washington in the years since I drafted the original Subway Hitchhikers.

Have you ever had a special twist in a work schedule that had an impact like this?   

It helps when a writer finally comprehends more behind the story

Because of What’s Left, I had a clearer sense of Kenzie’s youth when it came to the revisions that led to Daffodil Uprising than I did back when I published the earlier version.

It’s surprising what a few more years of perspective can add, especially when you now have someone like Cassia sitting beside you.

Is there a personal event you’ve come to understand quite differently now?

 

When it comes to viewing the world, real photography will always stand out

To call me visually oriented would be an understatement.

For most of my life, I’ve viewed the world through imaginary frames and lenses.

I had four years of art training in high school and when recently reviewing many of those pieces was impressed by their high quality. I seriously considered continuing on into college and a career beyond but realized the struggles of making a living that would follow. And so I veered into journalism, where I applied many of those skills in designing newspaper pages, photo essays, and cropping pictures. Thousands and thousands of them.

It also led to a love of typefaces and calligraphy and book design.

Maybe I haven’t strayed that far.

I’ve also worked with some of the best photojournalists in the field and known a number of outstanding artists. I even married one.

On a more mundane level, I sometimes shift into cartoon mode and begin seeing people as whimsical drawings. Or I ponder how they would photograph. (No, I’m not staring at you the way you think I am, sorry if it’s making you uncomfortable.)

Well, for that matter, I did meet some famous cartoonists when I was working for the newspaper syndicate and selling their work to our clients.

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