Monday, May 2, 2016
In Times Like These
Gail Kittleson has just released a beautifully-written novel based in hometown USA during World War II. Layered over the WWII setting, she addresses the issue of verbal abuse in a marriage. In fact, this novel has the endorsement of Patricia Evans, author of The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Controlling People, and other books. Ms. Evans coined the expression "verbal abuse."
Gail, I understand that you have developed a strong relationship with Addie, the heroine of your historical fiction release. Please tell us about her.
Addie first whispered her story to me four years ago. A couple of years later, I thought I’d completed the novel . . . wrong!
Elie Wiesel wrote, “There is a difference between a book of two hundred pages from the very beginning, and a book of two hundred pages which is the result of an original eight hundred pages. The six hundred are there. Only you don’t see them.”
Boy, can I relate. With further editing and research, the word count diminished, but each word’s power increased. My internal editor, always at work, joined several editors in making suggestions. True, that meant rejection, but I so appreciate them taking the time.
One agent suggested I chuck this story, count it a learning experience, and start over fresh. But Addie wouldn’t let me. She’d become far too real. So I plunged ahead, changed the title, layered the moral premise deeper and deeper, and labored to give each character several dimensions. Addie’s controlling, egotistical husband Harold challenged me, since his verbal abuse arose from wearing blinders to anyone else’s needs.
Still, he wants to fight the Axis because of patriotism, and having his desire squelched drives him to the edge. But the big question was, how could Addie find her voice and claim her God-given right to be herself? How could the tamped-down music in her soul burst forth into everyday joy?
The backdrop of World War II and Iowa’s severe winter weather highlight the victory garden Addie plans. Her best friend Kate’s letters from London support her through the roughest times, and Addie’s older gardening neighbor offers her pithy life philosophy along with advice about flowers.
All along, I believed Addie assured me she’d make it—I just knew she would. That certainty played in my ears during the whole time of creating and conjuring, editing and honing. Then a professional editor tweaked some things I’d still missed.
But finally, Addie’s out there, ready to meet readers. I’m very grateful, and hope they cheer her along her path to victory. I’d so enjoy hearing first impressions of her story from your blog readers.
Would you give us a sample of the story?
This excerpt is taken from the beginning of the second chapter, as we begin to see that Addie's marriage to Harold is not the dream world she had anticipated:
Harold burst into the big farm kitchen with a practiced scowl and accepted a steaming cup of coffee. He took a miniature spiral notepad from his overall pocket and scribbled, speaking as he wrote. “January 13. Temperature -22. If it gets any colder, we’ll lose some stock.”
“Did you get all the sheep out of the drifts?” He flung back the shock of sandy hair brushing his steel-gray eyes and disregarded Addie’s question. Maybe this pie would ease his mood, but today’s crust turned as cantankerous as the weather.
Berthea’s warning . . . more than two tries toughens the pastry tensed Addie’s shoulders.
Aware of snow clumps from Harold’s blue and white striped overalls forming pools on the faded gray linoleum, she muttered, “Come on, you stubborn crust—cooperate.”
Fern, the Esther Circle leader, said cleanliness and good food made for a happy husband, but those muddy splotches on the floor would have to wait. Harold moved closer, jutted out his chin, and spread his feet wide apart.
“Last night I read about the unjust judge finally giving in to the persistent widow. Maybe today, the draft board’ll take me, although if Pearl Harbor didn’t change anything, I don’t know what would.”
His volume increased as cinnamon wafted like incense. Addie stirred an ample spoonful into the apple filling. She folded the crust in half, lifted it into a glass pie plate and patted the soft, curved edges.
The Golden West Coffee tin holding her egg money caught her eye. Its beaming cowgirl belied the tight knot cinching her stomach, and the irony struck—like this gaping pie shell, she waited to be filled.
A few biographical notes about Gail:
After instructing English as a Second Language and college expository writing, Gail Kittleson lives in Northern Iowa with her husband, where they enjoy family and friends. In winter, Arizona's Ponderosa pine forests provide another setting for her historical women's fiction stories. Gail also instructs a creative writing class and facilitates women's workshops on spiritual growth, creativity, and memoir/fiction writing. She's a fanatic about grammar and quotes, and does a little editing on the side. If you'd like to know more, please visit her website at http://www.gailkittleson.com or contact her through Facebook.