Is It The Great American Novel?

The Ultimate Writer -William Shakespeare

Writers continually joke about writing the “Great American Novel.” Did Hemingway do it, Fitzgerald, Faulkner or Steinbeck? What about more contemporary writers like Philip Roth, John Irving or T.C. Boyle? Do the authors have to be American males? Does the subject matter have to be American? I suppose history will judge. In the meantime, I enjoy reading all sorts of books.

I didn’t worry about writing that “Great American Novel,” when I started creating my book. Once inspired by the story of Sir Francis Drake of England, I decided I needed a novel to accompany my screenplay; if one didn’t sell, the other would. I’ve always enjoyed history and was intrigued by the possibilities of historical fiction, which is based on actual history with the addition of fictional characters.

My fictional characters: the young 16th century maiden, Melaynie, and her father and brothers seemed to spring out of nowhere. My active imagination must have been storing up ideas for years. I had been a fan of the annual Renaissance Faire, Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth I, etc. And being an independent-minded female, it was natural to concoct someone with my tendencies. I haven’t disguised myself as a male and sauntered off on a distant voyage, but I’ve enjoyed imagining it. Being an Army brat often endows one with extra “moxie” and a lack of fear about traveling alone.

Writing a book is a fascinating process, a great deal of it unconscious. While I was in the act of creation, I was thinking about the story, planning how I was going to set it up, making notes about the various scenes.  I needed to do lots of research into the 16th century, which I loved. The Internet wasn’t the effective tool it is today and I used libraries for most of my research.

When I needed to describe a 16th century ship or the variety of clothing worn then, I headed for the children’s section of bookstores or libraries. Picture books were just the thing. I had to know how my heroine was going to accomplish her daring feat, how she would look, and what her family home would look like. The various Time-Life historical series were also a great help; they always had lots of graphics.

Queen Elizabeth I

It doesn’t take long before the story and its characters take control. I was living with them in my head, so no wonder. Many authors verify that oddity. Behind-the-scenes, my subconscious and my own past mingled together in the ethers, at least that’s how I explain it. I did a lot of creating while I was swimming in a pool. Water was the best element to get my “flow” going, especially since I was devising a sea adventure.

I finished the book, after five years of creating, letting it lie dormant and then recreating. During one of my last readings/proofing of the book, I began to realize why many of my feelings had come forward, unconsciously, in the book. I had given my heroine a kindly, generous father and three brothers who spoiled her. My stepfather, the US Army officer who raised me, was a very thrifty taskmaster. He saved his charm for others, his strong sense of discipline for the family. How clever and comforting for me to create an imaginary father I would have completely enjoyed!  What fun to be the heroine who succeeds in her adventure! Plus, interestingly enough, actual history made it easy to manipulate and blend real facts with my imagination.

Since I believe in reincarnation, perhaps I actually was a sailor in the 16th century. In the 20th century, I also had sailing experience as an Army dependent passenger on several ships.

I’ve always been an adventurer, but certainly not as daring as my heroine, Melaynie. Of course, she has many of my traits—how could she not! Her feminist ideas were mostly mine, but I wasn’t consciously creating them. All these factors snuck up on me! Or did they?

For those interested in reading my novel, Melaynie’s Masquerade, it may be purchased on Amazon and there is a link       on my web site to buy it. My web site is also linked to my blog.


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