First, I’ve finally faced the fact that I have to rekey the novel manuscript that has become what my husband affectionately calls the “eternal novel.” Eternal because I work on it, leave it, work on it, leave it, work on it . . .
The novel begins immediately post 9/11 (though I began writing it in 2007) and is about a middle-aged LDS woman who, in the 1970’s, unknowingly married a closeted homosexual. He, of course, hoped marriage and hetero-sex would cure him. The marriage didn’t go so well, as you can imagine. She harbors resentment, and the novel works its way toward, what else but redemption and peace? The female protagonist is a non-traditional graduate student in history at BYU and is working on a master’s thesis about the Unknown Man. The Unknown Man is listed on the “This is the Place Monument” as a member of the first wagon team to enter the valley. The life of this pioneer, her ancestor and a reluctant polygamist, is the secondary plotline. Basically, I strive to use his character as a sort of substitute voice for the gay ex-husband, who isn’t always front and center, since its the woman’s story. While the pioneer subplot is told in the classic, “this happened, then this, then this” structure, the remainder of the novel is a structural stew, with present and past tenses, and first and third person voices for the protagonist all mixed together. Unabashedly high brow and yet, I think, accessible.
As I said, I’ve left the novel a few times, largely because some of the political tensions between the Church and the gay community have knocked my breath from me and made me step back, to watch and wait. I’ve never considered this novel one written for the MoLit community, but for the secular, and have worked hard to ensure that it doesn’t make political statements and cannot be read as a treatise on Mormondom. I aim to craft a novel that functions as what Potok would call a bridge between the religious and secular communities. This has required me to be very sure I know what those communities are thinking, how they have been speaking to one another, and where the pitfalls may be for me in terms of crafting that sturdy bridge between secular and religious. And, of course, I’ve taken time out from work on the novel to write shorter pieces or do some editing. Once in a while teaching became overwhelming, so I quit. Priorities, people, priorities.
But all is falling into place and the novel is approaching its conclusion. Approaching. Unfortunately, I began the thing on an old computer with an old Word 2003 program. I’m taking a few mindless days now to rekey the thing into the most recent version of Word and am enjoying and gaining confidence from revisiting the earlier scenes.
Laying on the floor about five feet to my left is a great kid who is making blowing-up sounds and tossing Lego assault vehicles of his own creation into the air. I’m looking forward to the advent of another school year and large blocks of time to finish and buff up the manuscript.
Then begins the arduous task of finding Holding Back the Moon a home with a publisher so it can make it to your homes. Charge!
Watch for a review of Kathryn Lynard Soper’s memoir The Year My Son and I Were Born, to be posted Friday, and followed next week with a Discussion for Writers on the power of perspective.