Below are descriptions and notes about each of my novels.
Carnsbury Abbey was my first novel and was written in the early 2000s. The genesis of the book is a little hard to describe. There were some initial themes I had in mind, but the layout of the story was somewhat unclear. I am a stream-of-consciousness writer, so when I have a set of themes, or objectives, I let those guide me in story development. The themes of this first novel were 'stress of the contemporary age', 'belief systems', 'the nature of relationships', and 'self-discovery'.
The protagonist is Henry Stewart, an American who has a reasonably good life, a successful career and a wife with whom he has a strong relationship. However, a tragic accident involving close co-workers provides a crushing blow to his worldview and he realizes that there is almost no wat to make sense of the tragedy or to concentrate on his 'normal' life.
Stewart embarks of a journey of re-discovery to his ancestral home of England. Someone has told him about a place called Carnsbury Abbey, which is a type of institution that assists people who are struggling with psychological issues but are not considered candidates for mental health facilities. He travels to England with the objective of being admitted to Carnsbury Abbey and engage in a process of deep self-reflection and discovery. The Abbey provides the atmosphere he feels is appropriate for him and he is eventually accepted as a guest.
Another key figure in the book is Father Clive, the founder and director of Carnsbury Abbey. He is a highly educated and wise host whose sole interest is helping people return to society as mentally healthy individuals who can deal with the pressures and stressors of contemporary life.
The book follows the months of Stewart's stay at Carnsbury and the people who meets and interacts with. This includes those who work at the facility and assist Father Clive and other 'residents' who have struggled to integrate into society. Stewart has deep conversations with many of those at the Abbey and those discussions are central to his recovery.
Carnsbury Abbey includes several 'stories within the story' as this is something I like to include in my novels. I believe one of my strongest assets as an author is dialogue. All three of my novels include extensive dialogue as it is for me an ideal way for idea and story development. Having been a college professor, I know the value of the Socratic Method of teaching, which is based heavily on dialogue and very little on lecturing. It proved to be successful, I suppose, since I was fortunate to be voted Outstanding Faculty Member seven times in the fifteen years I taught.
A Delicate Imbalance
My second novel has some thematic connections with the first one. However, the central theme involves the protagonist, David Lavaliere, and an injury he suffers to his brain as a child. It is one thing to try to deal with life's complications of anxiety, stress and the attempt to 'make sense of it all' without a damaged brain. It is far more complex and challenging when the brain has been altered.
The story follows Lavaliere from childhood and the accident that occurs that will have consequences for him, especially as he gets older. A Delicate Imbalance is about a man who must increasingly deal with an injury and some psychological issues while growing up. My interest in having a 'story within the story' was increased when I was writing this novel. There are several of these 'outtakes', with perhaps the most significant one involving a German girl, roommate to the eventual wife of Lavaliere, who has the challenge of dealing with the ambiguity of her sexuality.
A completed this novel about twenty years ago, and I must say that much of the story and the characters have stuck with me. My style of writing is based mostly on telling a story. The best example of this is demonstrated in my latest novel, On the Precipice of the Labyrinth. The story is critical in this one even if there are some underlying key themes. The first of these is the tragedy of the Spanish Civil War. I went to undergraduate school at the Universidad de Sevilla in 1971. Images that remain very vivid to me are of the many Spanish men I saw who were amputees - missing arms, hands or most often a leg as a result of the Civil War. Those images were part of the reason I had to know more about the history of Spain, especially in the twentieth century.
The other central theme of A Delicate Imbalance is that of the relationships between two people who are closely attached (I don't like using the expression 'in love' as the word love is so incredibly complicated). David and Pamela clearly have a close relationship, but they must contend with the increasing problems David suffers. There is the relationship between Pamela and her German roommate, and the relationships David has with other women as he explores the emotional and physical complexities that seem to always happen.
On the Precipice of the Labyrinth
My interest in Spain goes back a long way. When the family lived in France we traveled through much of Western Europe. The trip to Spain included a few days to Barcelona. The two clearest memories I have are of attending a bull fight and a day at the beach. The beach memory is strong because the surf was rough and at one point I felt I was in trouble in the water. My older brother noticed my struggle and quickly pulled me in toward the shore. It was for me a moment of danger, and memories of things like that can linger for a long time.
My undergraduate major was in Spanish with a minor in History. This may seem odd since I had lived in France and had a decent introduction to the French language. However, when at Punahou School, and pressured to choose a foreign language, I decided on Spanish. It was a decision that has had repercussions my entire life. Having been exposed to a foreign language as a young child, my ear and brain became acclimated to the different sounds and allowed me to learn Spanish quickly and easily.
I have been speaking and studying Spanish for some fifty-five years. I have achieved native fluency in the language and can easily fool people into thinking I am from a South American country. As part of my undergraduate program I spent the fall semester in 1971 at the Universidad de Sevilla. That school is located on the grounds of the old tobacco factory that was immortalized in Bizet's opera Carmen. It was during that stay that I developed a strong interest in the culture and history of Spain, both side and outside the classroom.
I had taken a course in Early Modern Spanish History at UVa, so I had some background before returning to Spain. It was a fascinating time for sure. Francisco Franco was still the leader - El Generalisimo and Caudillo. I was told that the unemployment rate was essentially zero at that time. It did not take long to see what this meant. A common 'occupation' was car watchman, a person who would keep an eye on cars in the city when people parked for shopping or dining out. Those workers made their money with tips. I also recall walking in the Parque Maria Luisa, near the area my wife and I lived in, and seeing women carrying clay pots of water for anyone who needed a drink to deal with rather substantial heat in the summer. Again, the income was in the form of tips (probably the equivalent of five cents per swig).
As mentioned on another page, I distinctly remember seeing lots of people, almost always men, who were missing limbs. These were casualties of the Civil War that had ravaged the country in the 1930s. That was one of the very early signs that the Spanish Civil War was an event that I would have to learn more about.
On the Precipice of the Labyrinth is a book that was 'cooking' in my brain for some time. I was thinking about combining my interests in the Spanish language, Spanish culture in general, the sub-cultures of the Basque Country and of Andalucia (the region where Sevilla is located), and the history of Spain. That history was focused on two periods. The first was during the first half of the sixteenth century when the Spanish undertook the Conquest of the Americas. I taught a college course that dealt with the Conquest of the Inca Empire and the ramifications for the countries of Peru, Chile and Argentina.
The second period was that of the turbulent 1930s in Spain and the Civil Wat that ensued during the latter part of that decade. I knew my story would have to have the Civil War as the backdrop, and that there would inevitably be some discussion about the Conquest and how it influenced Spain even centuries later.