My second novel, Light of the Northern Dancers, releases November 7. A long journey into print. An even longer trek into understanding my raison d’être for writing and my life in general. As is most often the case, literary writers craft a story they’d like to read not only for entertainment, but for personal growth (whether they realize this or not).
Dancers is period fiction set in 1888 eastern Wyoming. Five years in the writing, a mountain of research accumulated at my feet. I climbed the hill daily. Pages were sifted through as I hunted the perfect details to enhance my story. A journey of discovery for the novel––and for me.
How much did I use? Probably 2%. But in that little slice lay the importance of historically accurate minutia: data enhancing setting, crafting character voice, and conveying a message lurking in the author’s mind-shadows.
Any author plays each role in their novel. Authors are actors. The page is the stage, the novel a theatre. What drives that author- actor in their performance is theme. If the author is skilled, the reader slips into the protagonist’s skin, and the story comes alive. Writing the West, because its history is imbued in the DNA of all Americans (we are all immigrants or descended from), strikes a deep cord in readers.
Apparently, a psychiatric theory exists about those who emigrate: the adventurers. People of great foresight and imagination tend to be the ones seeking new frontiers. Hence the innovation found in America and then the west coast, in particular by those descended from men and women who took up the reins and moved across a desolate and dangerous territory toward the Pacific. For this reason, writing the West involves themes of transformation, as one takes life into their own hands, manifesting their own destiny
Fundamentally, the pioneer lifting himself out of the familiar to face the unknown seeks to better a life left behind. Why? Greater opportunity. More prosperity, To discover happiness. For one reason.
Joy. The ‘why’ of seeking anything.
If an author pays attention, the theme spoken through their words, sometimes hidden even to themselves until that closing line, is not only an idea conveyed to others, but an essence they must take to heart, as well. The message of a good novel––and I believe that for a story to remain in the reader’s psyche, message must exist––exists most importantly to be heard by the author. Every single time.