Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Vision of Julienne

So as I mentioned in my last post (or maybe hinted at), one of the main themes of "The Enemy Within" is Julienne's determination to restore her family's horse farm. The farm is called Brookfield, by the way. Most of it was built by Julienne's father, James Dalton, who meets a tragic end in the novel. Julienne had a strange relationship with her father. She spent most of her time with her twin brother, Jack, and the family's slaves. In southern tradition, Julienne and her brother were raised by their black nanny or "mammy." Their mother died of Typhoid fever when they were small, and their father was so in love with her, that he could not bear to be at Brookfield following her death. He eventually moves to Frankfort and serves in the House of Representatives.

He may have neglected his children's emotional needs, but he does not neglect their education. Being slightly eccentric and very forward thinking, James Dalton ensures that Julienne and Jack both receive a first rate education. Additionally, they both receive training on how to manage the family's horse farm. It is this experience and education that makes Julienne able to carry on the farm after her brother disappears and her father is murdered. Typical southern belle she is not!

A few weeks ago, I was inspired by one of favorite authors when she posted a cover art contest for her latest novel. While looking at artwork to submit, I came across a painting of a girl on a horse. I instantly thought of Julienne. And so...here she is:

Try to ignore the guy in the background. He is nothing like Julienne's romantic interest! The girl however...she just looks like she would be a firecracker. And Julienne is pretty clever. Heck, the girl masquerades as a male spy for the better part of a year. Now that takes moxie!

If I had one other inspiration for Julienne it would be a portrait that I once saw in a private home in Charleston, SC. It was a huge portrait of an extraordinarily beautiful woman in a riding habit, carrying a crop, with a horse in the background. I don't remember the details about the sitter...only that it was a portrait of real woman that had been painted sometime in the 1850s. It still resonates in my brain, and I think I remember it so well because several of the people with me mentioned that I looked a lot like the woman. Personally, I thought the woman was way too pretty to look like me. It was kind of creepy...and cool, all at the same time.

I would give anything to see that portrait again, but I suppose that won't happen now that my Charleston insider days are long over! Maybe the house will be on one of the home tours that frequently occur in Charleston, and I can fork out the cash to see the portrait again. If I do, I'll steal a photo and post here. It really was an amazing portrait!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

My brain is about to implode...

So I've been working on the elusive query letter the last two days. For those of you not familiar with the writing world, a query letter is like the cover letter to a resume--an introduction to your work to an author agent. As you might imagine, the query letter is crucially important. If an agent is not hooked by your letter, then you might as well get accustomed to the slush pile.

I've been struggling with infusing voice into my query letter. My first 100 or so versions were more geared towards a synopsis, which is a huge no-no. Finally after making friends with some fellow authors on a writers' forum, I have a better idea of what to shoot for.

Another one of my problems is that my story is very complex. Many events contribute to later events, and so to mention one and not the other in my query has severely short changed my novel.

But hopefully I will persevere. And I will post my query here when I am prepared to start sending it out.

In other news, after hashing out various plot points, I think that there some changes that I can make to my current manuscript to make it more compelling. I have, once again, to thank the few intrepid souls who posed a few good questions to me regarding my motives (and thus my characters' motives.) I have a feeling that the next few days will see me busily making changes.

Hopefully for the better.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

And so it begins...

As I enter the final mile of this marathon otherwise known as my journey to become a published author, I've decided that it is time for me to introduce myself and my work to the world at large.

By way of a introduction... I am Caroline Wilson--historic preservationist by day, author by night. I've been writing since I was a child. First in my head as a means to put myself to sleep at night; then by hand as a means to help me sleep at night because all the story lines were beginning to get crossed in my brain; and finally, as the computer age dawned, by word processor, desktop computer, and most recently, lap top computer.

I'm a lover of all things historical, which is evidenced by my occupation. I work in the State Historic Preservation Office in a vain attempt to save historic buildings. Ok, maybe not vain as we do manage to save the really important buildings from being completely screwed up by vinyl siding, windows, and other eggregiously awful materials.

I have two main novels in the hopper at this time. One is set in Charleston, SC during the Revolutionary War. I'm having a hard time with this one...I just can't connect with the main protagonist, and so the novel is now on hold.

The one that I am about to send out to the realm of author agents is called "The Enemy Within." This novel will be one of the main subjects of this blog. It's set in Kentucky during the Civil War, as well as England during Queen Victoria's reign (sans Prince Albert).

I've been working on it for ten years. And yes, that is a very long time. The idea came to me in the midst of a Socratic-style seminar during my senior year of high school. My english class had studied an excerpt from "Time and Again" by Jack Finney, and the teacher asked us who we thought (amongst our classmates) could survive in a past time. One of my classmates pointed at me and said, "Caroline could, definitely. She would be a Civil War bounty hunter or something cool like that."

And so Julienne, the protagonist of "The Enemy Within" was born.

Actually she did not make her way onto the page until the latter half of my freshman year in college. It had been a time of upheaval for me. I was away from home for the first time, struggling with depression (if truth be told), and so Julienne's story began to form in my mind.

She's a tragic figure who refuses to allow herself to be a victim after her twin brother goes missing during a battle, her father is shot by Union soldiers, and her ancestral home burned to the ground. Technically these events make her a victim three times over, so she decides that she would rather die than be on the receiving end of another tragedy.

How does she do this in a time when a woman's main purpose was to raise the children, keep the house, and be a credit to her husband?

She becomes a spy.

Being a good Southern girl, she joins a ring of Confederate informants, gladly risking her life to bring down the Union. But deep inside, she has a dream of restoring her family's horse farm to its former prominence.

There's lots more to the story, and I will review a little more with each post. I will also detail the research that I did (along with photos and websites, of course) and even throw in a post or two about my preparations to search for representation.

I hope you decide to follow my journey.