One of the areas I had most fun with when working on A Year with the Harrisons--when it was first drafted or this year when it was published--was the music theme. Music is something I've always loved (I am practically glued to my MP3 player and I've run through more pairs of earbuds over the years than could be counted.) But it hasn't played a large part in any story except The Harrisons, at least so far.
There are two aspects of music that spiral their way through The Harrisons. Mainstream popular music--a blend of pop and country, very likely to be heard on the radio or even in grocery store background music; and music played in churches. The church scene is quite diverse--classical cantatas, traditional choir music, modern worship choruses, and a dash of instrumental and orchestra, and a lot of story is generated by the conflict between people who argue about these different kinds of music. On the mainstream music end, a prominent subplot concerns the Harrisons' cousin Betty and her family, all of whom do popular music professionally.
Snatches of lyrics poke into the story now and then. Music isn't just a plot device in A Year with the Harrisons--it's part of the story's heart and one of the reasons it might continue to resonate with people. Music has a unique way of capturing emotions that no other medium can express and keeping a musical tone throughout the story is a way of trying to describe things best said through song.
And there will be more updates.
This book has taken a long time to make it into my collection, but I'm finally going to be publishing it in a couple of months. it’s a really fun read that adds a lot, I believe. So I’m glad I moved it on into a more permanent position. I started writing it over 10 years ago, and about 8 years ago added the subplot of Betty Hilligan and her family to the initial idea of the Harrisons, 3 girls who had been educated at home and were now moving into the world. Betty added a lot of comedy to keep the story from getting too dull (social issues about homeschoolers is a topic that easily becomes tedious.) Her mother’s plot with Mr. Shotgun, which was created literally on the spur of the moment as I was writing rapidly, made me able to tie me in some of Letty’s adventures so all the storylines came full circle and interlocked together.
There’s a ton of local flavor and hints of daily life based on where I lived these earlier years of my own life in Texas. Small towns, country fields of corn and wheat, churches—even the college buildings are based on real places I went to constantly. I think the authentic hum of daily life is what really stands out about this book. While the characters are invented and not based—for the most part—on anyone I’ve ever known, the setting is real. It’s a place you can really sink into and live because it’s based on the places I knew.
What I hope would be a lasting impression from the book is the theme of being genuine and honest. It’s a story with real, ordinary situations, even if some of them are exaggerated for fictional effect, and I would like to think I talked honestly about those situations. What it’s actually like to go through them. Even if it’s topics that don’t come up in most people’s lives, like church politics, TV families, and getting framed for a blind date because you accidentally ran into someone popular, there’s a thread of emotional genuineness about how it really feels to deal with things. Honesty is fundamentally the only thing that gives relationships integrity and I think that shows in The Harrisons.
And there will be more updates.
Pleasant Fiction in an Age of Noise
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When I set about defining my books, I wanted them to be positive places where a gentleness emanated from the pages. A hopeful safety lies in gentleness and there's also an honesty to it. A whirlwind of pushy book blurbs and hot characters (or whatever type character the author wants you to admire) can conceal a reality underneath. A quiet--possibly even lurking--reality that's more visible if you dial down the volume. That lurking reality isn't necessarily bad, but like anything quiet, it gets drowned out by conflict and angst. Peaceful fiction can help explore the truth that noisy books ignore.
Bellevere House has been featured on Ezvid Wiki video "10 Wonderfully Inventive Retellings That Interpret Classic Stories in a New Way." Click to see the video.