Sunday, February 24, 2013

On the Road to Thebes


Last week I shared my Amazon Breakthrough Novel pitch with you and asked for your response. Several of you liked it as is; others gave me excellent suggestions for what might make it more intriguing to an agent. This coming week I’m going to begin honing that pitch to use in agent query letters. In a future posting I’ll share with you the process of finding agents to whom I might send a letter.
         Today, however, I want to return to the novel on which I’m now working—Three Roads Diverged. Two weeks ago I shared with you the research I did back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Let’s pick up from there.
         Crown published A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Story in October 1992 and then sold rights to publishers in China, Japan, Korea, and Germany. The advances and royalties enabled me to purchase a new Mac and a printer, take six months off from freelancing, and travel to Greece to do research.



Here I am on the road between Thebes and Delphi.
        
         I’d wanted to see Greece, especially Thebes, since sixth grade when our class studied Ancient History. In late 1947 when Sister Mary McCauley introduced us to Greece, I saw Thebes on a map. Suddenly a frisson of remembrance about that city-state gripped me. In the depths of my mind, I could see ancient Thebes; my senses knew it. That was my first déjà vu experience.
         In November 1993, forty-six years after my introduction to the Bronze Age, I flew to Greece with a friend. For three weeks, we visited many of the sites I knew would be part of Three Roads Diverged. We rented a car. My friend drove; I navigated. We visited Athens, Knossos, Thebes, Delphi, Dodona, Olympia, Pylos, Mycenae, Lerna, Tiryns, Nauplia, and Epidaurus.          
         With a small camera I took pictures, as did she, of all these places. As the months pass, I’ll share with you some of the ruins I visited. Sometimes the photographs will be blurred because I really knew nothing about framing a scene. However, they will show you the sites about which I’ll be writing.



This is the path at the foot of the Parthenon in Athens.


When we flew home in late November, I began to write. For six months I used all the research I’d done to produce the beginnings of a first draft for the novel I hoped would one day be published.  
         Then in June 1994, I ceased to write. Why? Because the words of a fellow writer had burst the bubble of belief I had in myself about being able to write anything well, much less a novel. From then until now, that draft—the first third of the proposed novel—moldered on the computer, awaiting the click of reactivation.
         Then, two weeks ago, I printed out what I had—some 60,000 words. For nearly twenty years, I’d expected the novel—if ever completed—would divide itself naturally into three sections that would reflect the three Oedipus plays written by Sophocles.
         Using those three dramas as a foundation for the arc of Antigone’s life, I’d weave a story of who she was, what she did, and why. I’d search out the definitions that prompted her actions. By doing so, I planned to fill out the bare outlines of her life as given in Sophocles’ plays.
         His was the skeleton; I’d provide flesh, blood, tears, and sweat. Antigone would be given lungs with which to speak to a new audience. She’d be given a mind with which to enthrall us. A heart to woo us.
         As I read those 60,000 words these past two weeks, I’ve succumbed to her charms. Now I’ve realized how best to present her life. I’ll share that realization with you in the next couple of weeks. Peace.

14 comments:

  1. Your blogs are fascinating--your books even more so!!

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    1. Dear Fishducky, thank you so much again and always for your unfailing support of my writing. Peace.

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  2. I would love to see Antigone come to life in your words. I know she will be very special. I also want to read The Reluctant Spy as I love to read books from that era, so I hope that somehow it will be published.

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    1. Dear Inger, like you, I hope both Antigone and Ephraim ("The Reluctant Spy") will find publication and meet many wonderful readers like yourself. Peace.

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  3. Since I love Greece and so enjoy Greek literature, I can't wait for Antigone's story to become available to us all! I know with your fine hand with novel writing it will be an epic we all will enjoy-

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    1. Dear Shelly, one of these days I so hope that Antigone will be speaking to you as well as to me! Peace.

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  4. I am so so sorry that the words of another writer were able to force you to shelve a significant part of who you are. Because you are a writer. And I cannot tell you (without being very, very rude) what I think of the person in question. Unkindness is a sin in my books. Regardless of whether the person thought they were right or not (and they were wrong) they were still unkind.

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    1. Dear EC, what I wish is that I'd had enough belief in myself that I would have just marked the day as a bad one for my friend. But I've never truly believed I could write. And among all the wonders of blogging has been for me that readers like yourself have repeatedly commented that I write well. What a blessing this has been for me. It's given me the courage to look at this "moldering manuscript" and decided to work on it. Thank you. Peace.

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  5. Long ago I saw a wonderful production of Sophocles Play with Genevieve Bujold as Antigone and Fritz Weaver as Creon that shook me to the core with its power. I can't wait to read your book. Greece has long been on the top of my list of places I must go. Once of my favourite books about Greece is Henry Miller's "The Colossus of Maroussi". In it he describes his reaction to Mycenae and Epidaurus -- one place he described as 'hell-like' and the other as a place that evoked 'the peace of all understanding' ...

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    1. Dear Broad, thanks for telling me about Henry MIller's book. I'll look to see if the library has it. Epidaurus does have a peace about it. Just as a cathedral has. The prayers of millions of pilgrims and worshippers have wafted to the Universe from cathedrals and the beliefs of so many ancient people as well as modern have been affirmed at Epidaurus. I so would have liked to see "Antigone" with you! And I can just see Genevieve Bujold playing that role. She would have given Antigone such strength of character amidst an innocence of belief. Peace.

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  6. Gosh, I'm agog for what comes next, Dee! I love the myths and legends of ancient Greece and the novels which have brought them to life for me, especially those of Mary Renault, so I do hope all your hard work can be brought to fruition.

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    1. Dear Perpetua, Like you, I have enjoyed repeatedly the novels of Mary Renault. I think that many scholars consider her one of the two finest historical novelists of the twentieth century--Robert Graves of Claudius fame being the other. I've read the two books on Theseus several times. They have helped me picture the time in which I'm writing the Bronze Age Greece novel. Peace.

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  7. I'm so excited about this one! :0)

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  8. Dear Elisa, I'm excited also. It's time for me to finish this manuscript. Peace.

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