Monday, December 21, 2015

My Next Book After the Next One

My latest novel is in the hands of first readers Ned, Jack and Christian, all excellent writers and editors who will tell me what scenes, characters, and  bon mots are staggeringly fabulous and which will surely shame me if they ever see publication. After the holidays I will send it to Larry, who will add his incisive commentary. I’m confident that it’s a great book, and even more confident that after Ned, Jack, Christian, and Larry are done with it, it will be even better.
And then, after I do a re-write based on N, J, D, and L’s comments, Gabi will read it and edit it. She tends to be ruthlessly thorough with her edits, and we usually argue a lot about them, and more often than not I end up agreeing with her.
The book is called Tupelo. It is the story of a small town in an era of radical change as seen through the eyes of a white boy born to privilege who comes of age in the time of Freedom Riders, lunch counter sit-ins, civil rights marches and demonstrations.
Kevin is the second born of a set of identical twins and the youngest of seven children, all older sisters who dote on him and his twin brother. Born in 1943 on the night when their father’s hardware store burns to the ground, Kevin grows up in idyllic times, the boom years of the 1950s—football, fast cars, rock and roll, and dates with the cutest girls in school. But gradually he discovers that he and his family live in a protected bubble while less than a block away in an area known as The Alley, a handful of black families live in poverty, almost invisible to Kevin and his family. He develops a crush on Maddie Jean, a young girl from The Alley, but they both know they can never be friends.
He watches in confusion as his white friends react to the growing civil rights movement. He witnesses the riot on campus at nearby Ole Miss when James Meredith breaks the color barrier at the university, and he witnesses the trial of another child of The Alley who is falsely accused of rape and murder.
Tupelo the novel is the awakening of Kevin Lumpkin and the awakening of the town and the nation.
While driving up to Seattle two days ago, I gave Gabi a verbal synopsis of the story, and as expected, she found major faults with it that I will have to deal with as I will have to deal with whatever problems N, J, D, and L might find.
Meanwhile, I want to get started on another book. I can’t stand not having one to work on. But I don’t know what to write about. At least I didn’t until that trip up to Seattle when Gabi said I should try to bring together characters from all of my novels in a single story, which I immediately said would be impossible. But maybe not now that I give it a little more thought. Travis Earl Warner, the main character in Until the Dawn, who is as ubiquitous in my books as Alfred Hitchcock is in his own movies, left Mississippi to become an artist in New York. So did Lane Felts, the main character in Imprudent Zeal. He worked for an organization called Everything for Everybody that provided housing and meals and clothing for poor people and was a magnet for hippies and artists of all types. Being who he was, it would have been unnatural if Travis Warner had not found his way to Everything for Everybody sometime in the mid-to-late seventies. It would have also been natural if not downright inevitable for Maddie Jean from my unpublished novel Tupelo to also escape to the Big Apple and end up at EFE. (She already knows Travis).
I’ve already written a scene in my head where the three of them meet.
Damn, this is fun. I wonder if I can work in characters from Reunion at the Wetside and the Freedom Trilogy without it becoming too contrived. We shall see.

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