Saturday 3 February 2024

The Story Behind the Story with Katherine Melanie of Atlantic Canada

 



A new Author coming to you this week. 

Katherine is excited about her novel and she is with us today to tell us all about it. 

Read on my friends.



Katherine Melanie is a teacher and a writer originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Inspired by her love of history, Katherine has written her first novel, Her. She is a proud Kelvinite who pursued her higher education at the University of Winnipeg and University of Manitoba, eventually receiving her master’s degree at the University of Newfoundland.

Katherine has lived in several provinces as well as spending two years in Japan. She takes to travelling whenever she finds the opportunity, or creating one if she has to wait too long. She has a passion for history and cultures that cannot be satiated. At this point in her life, she has visited much of the world and is planning to visit the rest.

She resides in the Canadian Maritimes with her family. They live alongside several chickens, three dogs, and a few wild turkeys when the urge hits them to visit. She received the Queen’s Jubilee medal for her outstanding contribution to education, community, and volunteer firefighting, as well as for her leadership and convening skills among the diverse peoples of her region.


 

Working Title:  Her

 


 

Synopsis:  In the haunting aftermath of the Second World War, a war correspondent embarks on a poignant quest to understand the woman he once loved and who spurned him. As he journeys through the war-torn streets of Europe, he unravels a tale that she never dared to share. Amidst the backdrop of their passionate love story, he uncovers a harrowing narrative, of brutality, sexual abuse, and the indomitable spirit to overcome such darkness. This tale delves deep into the heart of war's monsters and heroes, exploring the profound impact of their deeds on those in their wake.

This novel is a thoroughly researched and documented historical story written about many little-known moments of the war and its aftermath. This novel also includes with several original literary choices including removal of all names, and a deliberate lack of description of the elusive main love interest. Despite all characters being nameless many of the secondary characters are historical and often speak in their own words. Historical photographs and quotes at the beginning of each chapter anchor the story to real history. Readers with a passion for details can find the name of historical figures and sources at the back of the book. This book is well suited for book clubs with its purposefully open-ended characters, social commentary, and historical details.

 


 

The Story Behind the Story: I am passionate about reading, history, and social issues like feminism. More than 15 years ago, I started to write the perfect novel that I wanted to read. My narrator is British man which seems like an unusual choice for as a Canadian woman. But it is from his point of privilege that what happens to her during the war is interpreted.

I should preface talking about my book by explaining that there are no names in the book which is not hard to read but it is hard to talk about in a conversation like this one. I wanted to emphasize his voice by having all characters labelled by their relationship to the narrator. For example, there is his mother, sister, love but also the general (who is not a general), a lovely fairy flitting away in the morning light, and his butterfly.

I also wanted to write a story that subtly relied on the reader for details. The love interest in the story has not one single word that describes her appearance, her voice, or her nationality except to say that the narrator finds her beautiful. By removing the descriptors, the reader will make assumptions about beauty based on their own ideas.

I read book by Kate Quinn called the Alice Network that I really enjoyed. However, when I read the note at the end of the book and realized it was based on real diaries and letters, I appreciated the story even more knowing that some of the details were true. My head is full of historical facts and anecdotes that I find fascinating. I loved the experience of weaving them into a book. I used journals, interviews, radio recordings, my travel, museum exhibits, and photographs to inspire the settings and events of the story. For example, the three students who stopped the 20th convoy train with nothing but a lamp and a pistol, the mass killings of the Einsatzgruppen lead by a ‘compassionate’ leader, the farmer milking his cows on D-Day, the iceberg aircraft carrier, and the pigeons at the 1936 Olympics are all real-life extraordinary details that are more or less important in my story.

 

When I started writing 15 years ago, I wrote about a quarter of the book then I forgot about it as other parts of my life took over. In 2021, I felt like my life was in a rut and my son suggest I take up a hobby that would make me happy. Soon after, I found my unfinished novel and took it up again. In the following month I wrote 50,000 words and basically finished the story. Of course, I am no Beethoven creating a masterpiece in one go – it did take another year of editing, researching, feedback, and rewriting before I got it to its current form.

 

Website: Please go HERE.

 

 

A couple questions before you go, Katherine:

 



Scribbler: Can you tell us about the perfect setting you have, or desire, for your writing? Music or quiet? Coffee or tequila?  Neat or notes everywhere?


Katherine: I do not have a straightforward answer to this. Mostly, I write on my couch on the porch in the summer and curled up in the chair by the fire in winter on my laptop. Ideas often come to me as I sleep and as I drive so I will take notes on my phone (“Siri take a note”). Also my son, who is also a writer, helps me work through blocks in my story when we walk together in the woods. I do like it quiet to write, as it gives my brain room to follow a train of thought.

Oh, and tea – not coffee or tequila because both keep me from thinking clearly.

 

Scribbler: How do you decide on the title for your novel? Did you have one when you started or later?


Katherine: The title for this novel came to me pretty early on. Though ‘her’ is such a simple word the lack of detail reflects the essential mystery of her past that drives the story. The narrator is completely in love with a woman that he is with for a time but actually knows nothing about. The isolated word ‘her’ all by itself also echoes the single-minded obsession with which he pursues information about her.

Giving a title is a challenging task because you need to embody a whole story in few words. But in general, I would say that I come up with the title once the story has a shape that I can name.

 

 "Eve" by Anna Lea Merrit

 

An Excerpt:

My heart had often lurched in my chest over the last three years as I mistakenly glimpsed a desired silhouette, but this time it was not allowed to resume its steady rhythm. She was actually there in the opera box above me. The cacophony of the orchestra tuning its instruments, and the titillating gossip of the crowd faded to a dry hum. I was only vaguely aware of those around me preening at their very best to see and be seen on opening night. All of it became a monochrome backdrop to the vision of her. My damp palms gripped the wooden arm rest and the faux velvet cushion shifted beneath me. My date was thrilled to be front row centre on such a night and chirped cordially with my mother who eagerly awaited the debut of her prodigy as the Spanish seductress.

Once the lights went down and the brilliant spectacle on stage unfolded, I only looked sideways toward the opera box. For a time, she was obscured by a railing, but as the music rose, she leaned forward into it, bringing her half smile into the warm light radiating from the stage. I could not make out her mouth, but I knew she would be singing under her breath as she knew all the words, having sung them while my sister played the music on the piano years ago. I wished I could make out her eyes which I knew would be sparkling. The orchestra spoke to me of the emotions unfit for words in its notes of anguish, love, and passion.

I soaked in every shaded detail of the way the silk of her azure dress clung to her skin in places and in others floated around barely grazing her shoulders. I was jealous of the fabric that tickled her skin and longed to feel the warmth of her. My gaze remained feverishly riveted to her despite her obliviousness to me. I unsuccessfully willed her to look down at me. Instead, the stocky middle-aged louse next to her sensed my gaze and laid an arm around her shoulders as he scanned the darkened crowd below him. Her date was rewarded for his possessiveness with a smile. He basked in her affection and grasped at her even more tightly.

I had thought that the deep wound in my soul had healed but it split open revealing feelings that were just as raw as they had been when she left me three years ago. The longing was still an unsatiable hunger. My feelings echoed the opera unfolding on stage. I too had willingly given everything to be with the woman of my fantasy. Like the shattered hero, I also watched helplessly as she moved in the arms of another man. Unlike him, I could never harm her, but I could relate to the pain that drove him to kill her. Rejection of such a perfect love is akin to madness. The auditorium felt too hot with a cloying mixture of perfumes.

Finally, the soprano perished in her former lover’s arms and the chorus belted out, ‘Toreador’ once more. I did not even wait for the lights to come on as I bolted from my seat, rudely pushing my way out into the aisle leaving my date gaping like a drowning fish. From the mezzanine, I scanned the lobby below as the audience flowed out the doors. There she was, on his arm, working their way through a throng of opportunists trying to lobby for his attention. The man kept an arm around her, and she was willingly ushered through, flashing a timid smile to those who greeted them.

I worked my way through their entourage dodging and weaving like one of those dancers on stage. Hesitating as I drew near, I realized that there were no words to greet her; yet this could be the only opportunity to ever see her again. I moved closer and tapped her shoulder by reaching around some purple-haired elderly woman. For a brief sparkle in time, her eyes locked with mine. In that moment, the woman I once knew surfaced on her features with a sexy flush and a spontaneous smile. The submissive consort she was now playing was temporarily vanquished by the vivacious woman beneath the illusion. Her shoulders and her chin lifted confidently. However, a breath later she caught herself and rearranged a more timid version of her smile and turned to lavish it on the man at her hip. He blossomed. Those near him tried to hide their awkwardness at his obvious display of affection by looking away. Without a word, I had been dismissed.

Her tense averted posture implied that I would not be allowed any closer, so I retreated to the mezzanine and contented myself with taking pictures of them. My editor would never publish any of the pictures anyway for fear of arousing the man’s wife. Nonetheless, I swallowed my empty jealousy and snapped pictures for my own fix. I considered the new smell of her perfume.

Through the window, I watched him usher her into his car and the chauffeur eased them into the traffic. I feverishly considered, then rejected, the possibility of following them despite her cold dismissal.

Restless and unable to consider either going home or going out, I pointed my own car downtown toward the office without finding my date to even try to offer an excuse. I used my key to get in the backdoor and went straight to the dark room. Closeted with the photography chemicals, I kept vigil around dishes, waiting for her image to appear. Looking at her photograph would be a small dose to feed my snapping hunger. The images on the drying line slowly revealed her as they shimmered into existence. They revealed her hair, her nose, and the eyes that hinted at a depth that cannot be reached. I revisited the details of her not visible in the photographs; she also has a scar that runs the base of her hair line, a burn from some long-extinguished fire. Only one who had run their fingers through her hair would know it was there.

The next day, in the newsroom, her picture triggered little concrete information from my fellow snoops. She was certainly the Lord’s new consort. No one knew where she came from or even her last name. The society columnist thought that maybe they had met on vacation in Rome somewhere. Predictably, the editor was annoyed with my wasting film on a couple whose elicit, though public, image could never be put on record. He considered our newspaper to be above trashy tabloids.

She is pretty but it is not her flesh that rivets people to her presence. Eye colour and lips have little to do with the way people feel her energy in a room. It is something more real than an ephemeral shell of a body. Those who have seen her seek a moment with that spirit. We are moths to a flame. And even though we cannot touch it or contain it, we feel thankful for the full force of the moment that she brings us into.

The first time we made eye contact, I was mesmerized by both her vitality and vulnerability. And yet from that first time we looked at each other until today I have not been allowed to know the parts that she keeps hidden. Her power is the paradoxical joy and pain of being able to mingle breath with that beautiful soul and without the ability to truly hold on to her. She is a star that illuminates the dark.

I gave up my job, my home, and my heart to search for nuggets of her story. It was a journey with little hope of a happy ending but the fantasy of her gave me intention anyway. After that night at the opera, I lost her again. When I finally saw her once more, even though I knew more of her secrets, I was still unprepared for her.

 



Thank you for being our guest this week, Katherine. We wish you continued success with your writing.



 And a ENORMOUS thank you to all our readers and visitors.


                          Please Leave A Comment.

**All wording on the blog, including bio, title, synopsis, the SBTS and the answers to the questions has been supplied by the author. Only the intro, the thank you at the end and the questions is from the Scribbler.

11 comments:

  1. In the author's bio. she mentions she is a "proud Kelvinite" who also attended the "University of Newfoundland". I couldn't find information on either "Kelvinite" or that particular university. Could she elaborate or clarify?

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    1. Katherine Melanie3 February 2024 at 13:52

      Kelvin is a high school in Winnipeg and the university for my Masters is Memorial. You have a very astute eye for details!

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    2. Good questions. Thanks for visiting the Scribbler.

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  2. Interesting interview, thanks for that.
    I'm more than half way threw this little gem and I'm loving it. I'm very busy, and have a house full at the moment so it's hard to find quiet time to sneak away..🙂
    Highly recommended book..❤️

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    Replies
    1. Katherine Melanie4 February 2024 at 22:19

      So glad that you are enjoying it! Can’t wait to hear what you think when you are done

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    2. Thank you for visiting and your nice comment.

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  3. We seldom give thought to the women who fell victims of wars This book awoke in me their plights. Thanks for the eye opener.

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    1. It is certainly not in the main stream enoufh

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    2. Thanks for visiting and for leaving a comment.

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  4. It is a tragic and under told part of the war story

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