What gave you the inspiration to write this novel?
My inspiration for Shine out of Bedlam, which reaches into the drama of 1968, came from a multi-pronged imaginative nudge. I’ve always written fiction although I’m a poet with a number of books of poems. I was long ago hired at Mount St. Joseph University to teach poetry, fiction, and literature. So, I’ve worn a variety of literary hats. In writing Shine, I wanted to flex my burning desire to write novels – to expand my fiction – while I continue to write poems.
I also challenged myself to craft a Young Adult novel that would appeal to adults, as rich YA fiction should do. I come from a very unique small town – a suburb of Cincinnati – that, in 1968, was a central force in this region in industry and progress – a thriving cultural, industrial, and educational community. It forms the fictional frame for the atmosphere, events, and characters at the story’s core.
I was inspired to create a playful yet sometimes provocative set of intersecting moments in 1968 to capture a slice of that era. But, more importantly, I wanted to make it relevant to readers in 2017. It so happened that several colorful sub-plots ducked their heads into the ultimate storyline of the mysterious fire. Lastly, as an indie author – a writer who is taking on the full-range of writing, editing, publishing, and promoting – I’m inspired by the challenge of reaching as many readers as possible with the story. At least that’s my plan.
Can you preview the mystery that readers will encounter in the book?
The mystery involves a fire that burned down a small warehouse in the residentially-divided small city of Bedlam. The fire occurred in the predominantly black neighborhood. Suspicion arises. Random fires are occurring across the country in 1968. My protagonist, Shine Ross, who’s white and lives in the largely white neighborhood of north Bedlam, and his best friend, Moondog Weasel, who is black and from west Bedlam, grow exceedingly curious and believe they are coming to terms over who might have set the fire.
In fact, along the way, among their summer jaunts, the two boys encounter a man on a train who shares some strange information, and who might or might not be a prophet. A few other minor mysteries punctuate the novel, too. They deal with relationships, an escaped parrot, and the forthcoming arrival of a controversial, well-known political figure. Inside of these strands and a few more, the emotional landscape swirls, and I hope readers come to enjoy the plunge.
Was there a lot of historical research before starting the writing process?
I researched a good deal of recent history, particularly as 1968 claimed such a huge stake in our country’s culture, politics, and individual freedoms. A part of Shine out of Bedlam deals with the blossoming presence in 1968 of The Black Panther Party. The Party was extremely active in the Midwest in 1968, and there’s an experience in my novel that stems from a real moment in time and activity.
Will this book be part of a series?
Yes, Shine out of Bedlam is book #1 in the “Shine in Bedlam” series. Six novels are planned. Starting with the next novel in the series, they will be short novels. As the series goes, it will move into 1969 and possibly 1970. What amazes me is how timely the series is, in this hotbed of current national politics, in the sense that culture, race, war, and politics played a large role in the late 60s. I plan to publish this next novel in late spring. This is to also say that I am very proud of my cover designer, Jennifer Vogel, who has also drafted a striking cover for the next novel, while envisioning a consistently attractive look for future Shine novels.
How can readers find out more information and get a copy about Shine out of Bedlam?
Through Amazon. It’s an ebook (Kindle) or paperback. There is a book description on the Shine out of Bedlam book page, as well as my amazon author’s page. At my website, you can sign up for updates on the Shine series, and you can get a free book on creative writing. Also at the site, starting February 9, one can read a Thursday Serialization of another YA novel I’m writing titled Rattlebone. Each Thursday, I’ll post a new excerpt, and readers can watch that story develop weekly. As with the Shine series, I hope adults will enjoy the journey of a young girl named Rattlebone.