Meet My Main Character Blog Tour

Diane M. Denton, author of A House Near Luccoli, The Snow White Gift and other works, asked me to participate in this blog tour. To read her post, click here.

I’ve been asked to respond to the following questions about My Main Character in a Work In Progress.

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person? 

My stories are primarily character-driven, with what I hope are strong settings and varieties of inter-relationships. My last book, Tally: An Intuitive Life (All Things That Matter Press 2013) is non-fiction, and could be seen as a character study. The main character, PJ, was a Greenwich Village Bohemian, one of the last of the early 1900s tribe by the time the other major character, Erin Yes (yes, from the Greek, erinyes, The Furies) meets him. With their mutual friend Rogue they become “entangled” as human beings who find one another interesting do, leading to a mental and emotional dance of ages.

Recently, I’ve been writing about Leila Payson, a fictional schoolteacher in Miami. It’s a complete change of pace for me. Leila is inspired by a woman I knew in New York City, and several other remarkable women.

2) When and where is the story set? 

The story is set in contemporary Miami, specifically South Miami. This neighborhood is next to Coconut Grove and Coral Gables. Leila lives near Fairchild Botanical Garden and Matheson Hammock Park, one of the most popular parks, especially with locals, in Miami. She meets friends at a South Beach café. The setting allows me to write about Florida, a place I love.

3) What should we know about him/her? 

Leila is forty-something. She is a Social Sciences teacher, with tenure and a Masters Degree that is also beginning to age. Teaching is her life, and most of her waking moments and a good portion of her REM sleep, are dedicated to her students.

In her work and everything she does, Leila tries to act in a way that does the most good and least harm. Upon graduating college, she works for a social service agency in inner city Miami for two years. Her boss is the energetic Sally Lacrosse. After this, Leila begins work as a public schoolteacher. After the first few rough years, she settles in and the work is exciting. In time, though, she feels the narrowing that comes with too much routine.

Leila joins a relief agency in a foreign country. While there she learns of the debate about giving aid to others and whether it fosters dependence rather than responsibility. The aids groups are re-evaluating their role, becoming more holistic in their approach. Leila also becomes the friend of and helps out an occupational therapist. What she learns she takes back to her job of teaching, and into her life. She revives a local playground, where she meets the neighborhood families. Her personal and professional aspirations and values are integrated, and that makes it a spiritual experience as well.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life? 

After 15 years on the job, Leila wonders if she is “aging out” of being useful to her students and to the kids in the playground near her home. A world of opportunity has opened for women in her lifetime and she wonders if she is doing as much as she could. There are still stereotyped behaviors and attitudes toward women, especially women who engage in critical and philosophical thinking.

In her personal life, there have been several loves, but for some years, she has lived alone. She has close friends, who are younger and busy with their new ventures. After lunch with them one day, she sees at another café, a “man with a book.” She is surprised to see him again at a local art gallery’s exhibit of bird photographs. Is he a philosopher? An artist? An ornithologist?

Once again, she re-evaluates what she is doing and how it matches to her sense of a life worth living.

5) What is the personal goal of the character?

Leila is working to find just the right niche to maximize her abilities, particularly a way of living that enables her to use her wings and fly.

 6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it? 

The working title is Leila: Bird of Inspiration. I am contemplating putting some excerpts on my blog once it’s nearly complete.

7) When can we expect the book to be published? 

This is in the budding stage and will take months to complete.

And now, I’ve tagged these four extraordinary authors (and I don’t say that often) who have agreed to join the blog tour. Their Meet My Main Character blog post will be online May 19th.

Matthew Peters

Matt’s first novel, Conversations Among Ruins, is coming soon from All Things That Matter Press. His second novel, The Brothers’ Keepers, will be published by MuseItUp Publishing. Currently, he is working on his third novel. The link to Matthew Peters’ blog is: http://www.matthewpetersbooks.com/blog/ Read his Meet My Main Character blog post.

Marta Merajver-Kurlat

Marta is an Argentinean writer, translator, and psychoanalyst publishing with Jorge Pinto Books Inc., New York. She has written three novels, a self-help series, and other works. To learn more about her, please visit her Amazon page, and her website, and on Facebook. Read her Meet My Main Character blog.

Marylee MacDonald

Marylee writes literary fiction and creative nonfiction. Her book, Montpelier Tomorrow, to be published by All Things That Matter Press in 2014, is about a mother who would do anything to keep her family from harm. She blogs and writes about writing, long term illness, and caregiving on two sites: http://maryleemacdonald.org and http://maryleemacdonald.us

Jo Robinson

Jo is a South African writer and blogger. My 4-star review of her novel, African Me and Satellite TV, is on Amazon. Her new book is the science fiction/paranormal/fantasy novel, Shadow People. Please visit her website, African Colonial Stories.

The Human Act and Other Stories by Angela Lam

My review of The Human Act & Other Stories, by Angela Lam, All Things That Matter Press

Paperback Edition

These are real stories and as a writer, Angela Lam is the real thing. Set in California, the stories tell of women’s lives in urban-sprawl suburbia “too far from the beach, and too close to the desert.” Lonely and bored, they seek the company of anyone who will bring moments of friendship, passion or change to their lives. These women acknowledge the choices they have made and struggle to get back on track. “I had already chosen,” one says, “and my decision was not on a whim,” but “how lonely I was losing who I imagined myself to be.”

They overcome the negative twists and turns, some by choice, some by chance, of their lives by holding onto a hard inner core of hope for self-fulfillment, a light we all carry inside. They are always restless. Some jump at the opportunity to transform their lives and their relationships: “Dana falls in love with her future,” and in another story: “I was no longer married to Howard, just as I was no longer married to the What Ifs of the past.” Others hesitate: “I glanced away, afraid of my heart expanding, opening with possibilities.”

Rescue is a major theme, the act of rescuing, or being rescued. They can be simple acts of reaching out. These rescues appear to occur by coincidence, but are actually the culmination of choices made as a result of their longing and striving. At the same time, they have an element of pure luck about them. In the title story, “The Human Act,” Lam hits her stride. Here the story is told from the dog’s point of view, beginning with: “I see her feet first.” Marcus is a rescue, by the woman whose story he tells. She is a successful career woman with “a rambling, open field heart.” She brings in another stray, a man separated from his wife. During the emotionally abusive relationship that ensues, she struggles to keep her independent identity. Most of all, she is seeking a way out and the real affection she shares with her rescued dog helps lead the way.

Lam is adept at turns of phrase that catch both the physical and emotional and mental state of the characters and reinforce the themes. “A gulf of cold air swept down between us, rattling the leaves on the half-naked sycamores.” She uses all the senses. “Burnt chicken and ribs and charcoal saturated the thick gauzy air.” In the laundry room scenes, you can smell the detergent and hear the swoosh of the machines.

Among the stories are those of women in relationships with other women, or with their best friend’s husband or boyfriend. There is a fluidity of sexual attraction and its ties with an imagined future, a different identity, and ultimately, freedom. Many have had their chosen future disappear before their eyes at a young age: a father’s financial losses, or a husband’s career down-sized by an economic downturn. Marriage and children end college educations and potential careers. Others quit odd but oddly-fulfilling jobs to stay home with “baby and bubble baths.” These are women with few resources and little or no family support. However, nearly all have a woman friend who sticks with them through thick and thin. Some have a male friend who plays a support role but wishes for more.

The Human Act is an evocative, contemporary look at women’s lives. It’s a bracing, and sometimes abrasive, blast of fresh air, hot off the desert.

Mary Clark
Review posted on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/568367540