Monday, March 7, 2011

Story Notes - Still Working on That Autonomous Moral Maturity

Yesterday's excerpt was from The Wife of Freedom, a book I finally have decided to call a "melodrama."

When I first finished writing this book, I realized that I had written something different. I didn't know what it was. It's not historical, because it doesn't take place in real history -- just a place that's kind of like the American Revolutionary war. It's not fantasy, because there is no magic. It's not a romance because it's about an unfaithful wife, and the real love story involves people who are apart for almost the entire book. Women's fiction? Not literary enough.

I wrote this book as an experiment, at a time when I needed to get away from pressure and just write. I remembered how I had done something similar for The Adventure of Anna the Great, and I started thinking about those elements I had chosen not to use in that book - the romancy, pot-boiler aspects of the swashbuckler formula.

As I thought about those tropes and archetypes, something clicked. I suddenly had this image of a world. It wasn't the real world, but it wasn't a fantasy either. It was like... a stage. It was history not as it happened but as it appeared in folklore and on TV shows like Daniel Boone and in pot-boiler novels and in plays. Especially as it appeared in old melodrama plays: a sketchy backdrop, the surrounding society and politics made into symbol, and all the attention could stay focused -- as it is in a play -- on the drama of the characters.

Melodramas were originally defined as stories about ordinary people. (High drama is about kings and gods, low comedy is about fools and crooks.) I wasn't thinking about the technical definition of "melodrama" when I wrote it, of course, but in retrospect, what is the folklore and mythology of American history but the glorification of ordinary people?

And that's why I think the most interesting aspect of this story (at least to me) is a subtle thread, half hidden. It's in the character of Jackie the Freedom -- Mary's husband.

You don't see much of him in yesterday's excerpt, and in fact, he stays mostly in the background for the whole story, and yet I feel he is the core of the story. He's... the muse. I swear, he was the one who told me this story. It isn't told in his voice, and couldn't be, but he is the one who told it to me. He's the anarchist who understands what all this freedom and rebellion mean -- both politically and personally. And yes, though he seems oblivious, he is the one who understands Mary.

Jackie describes Mary as a kind of freedom unto herself, a freedom that goes through steel bars like water. A freedom, he tells his compatriots, that will save our necks.

But for Mary, that freedom feels destructive, as she finds herself drawn into betraying everyone around her. She's not an intellectual. She can't justify it. Inside she's just the wild orphan she once was, made shy and proper after being raised by puritans, but the rules never touched her inside. Later in the story she says it was like she'd been folded neatly and locked in a box. And it wasn't until her lover Henry came along and undid the catch that Mary popped out, "all on springs," and all hell broke loose.

But that's only the beginning of her story.

The Wife of Freedom is on sale at Smashwords for half price this week -- $1.49. The coupon code is RAE50, which is also on the purchase page so you won't miss it. (Note: ebook only.)

(You can also find The Wife of Freedom at the regular price of $2.99 at Amazon's Kindle Store, Kindle UK Store, and Barnes and Noble's Nookstore. Look for it at Apple's iBookstore, Sony, Kobo and Diesel, too.)

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