Beat the Blues Final Preview

This blog gives a more concrete preview of my forthcoming novel Beat the Blues, being released June 21st by Unsolicited Press.

Two summers ago when I re-read Willa Cather’s My Antonia, a particular line stuck with me. Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again. I found that notion interesting. I had a love story already in mind, so I set out to write a love story about memories.

With love at its core, I began to think of specific characters and settings. I decided on an event to steer and complicate the plot. I believed I had my protagonist set. With what I thought at the time were sufficient elements to get started, I got to work.

I rewrite as I work, and this novel went through quite a few rewrites before it reached anywhere close to fifty pages. I eliminated characters and settings. Scenes large and small were relocated or deleted. Something wasn’t working.

Characters steer my plots, and I knew my protagonist, Ronny, from my trilogy The Belmar Series. But I realized Ronny no longer carried my interest. Luckily, like Ronny I fell in love with Katie. Having her become a split-protagonist energized the writing.

I think the idea of discovering a new voice in a work-in-progress is an important point to examine. I originally had Ronny figured as my main character. Katie was around, but sometime during the writing, it became more her story than Ronny’s. How and why that happened might be another blog. For now I’ll keep it simple–I liked Katie’s outlook on life.

I think most readers will, too. As for writing from a feminine viewpoint, I’m not a big believer in the saying “write what you know.” I believe you can mix up what you’ve been through and know in your bones with what your imagination tells you. Raymond Carver said, “There are significant moments in everyone’s day that can make literature. That’s what you ought to write about.” That’s what I tried to do with Katie.

The novel’s first half takes place over twenty years, from 1968-1988. Those years are presented episodically, a sort of yearbook over two decades. Following a twenty year span when Ronny and Katie do not meet, a twenty-four hour reunion takes place. Watching them over the course of their big day gave me much joy, as does sharing their story with you.

A wise character in the novel declares, “We’re not here to get you into any trouble. We’re here to beat the blues.” I like to think he’s speaking to you, the reader. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

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