08-23-2010 10:48 AM
First, I’d like each of you to know how humbled and delighted I am to be sharing this experience with you. Because writers most often meet their readers only in passing, and because those encounters rarely offer the chance for prolonged conversations about the stories at hand, this feels to me like an uncommon—and uncommonly wonderful—opportunity. I thank you for that. I thank you deeply.
To tell you the whole story behind the writing of this novel would be to tell you the story of eight years of my life. Much of that story would be horrendously boring, and I would never inflict it upon you. But it would also depict my son’s birth, a difficult divorce, a move from New England back to my home state of Texas. It would dramatize a frantic search for employment, a tale of a sometimes-floundering father and his young son, and a flourishing love story. Along the way, while I was living the kind of real-life story that each one of us lives, the novel endured many stops and starts, many setbacks. I can remember (though I’d like to forget) one unsettling afternoon when I highlighted nearly sixty pages of polished prose on my computer screen and then took a deep breath before pressing the delete key. And so, while it is true that I wrote the first words of The Wake of Forgiveness eight years ago, I can’t honestly say that it took eight years to write the book. Instead, what I believe to be more accurate is that it took me eight years to learn how to write the book.
As so often happens in my writing life, the work on this novel became a kind of divining rod, one that bent toward my own capacity for empathy. I grew up in the city, the second son of blue-collar parents. My father was raised on a cash-crop farm in south Texas, not far from the landscape of the novel. Many years ago, he told me the story of a man who farmed a parcel of land not far from the one my grandfather had worked—a man who, out of meanness or desperation or both, harnessed his own sons to his plow instead of using a mule or a horse. As a result, the boys were permanently disfigured, their necks kinked in one direction or the other because of all the time spent straining against the shoulder harnesses as the plowshare cut through the hard, sun-baked earth. Years after hearing this tale, I wondered if I could make such an outrageous truth both believable and compelling in fiction, if I could make it as indelible for the reader, for you, as it was in my father’s memory, and that was the driving question behind which The Wake of Forgiveness widened.
This past winter, after I had finished the novel, I asked my father about those boys with their bent necks. At the time, he didn’t know that I’d written them into my book, and he gave me a curious look, one which suggested that he’d forgotten he’d ever shared this story with me. “That was Benny,” he said. “Your Aunt Dorothy’s first husband. Him and his brothers.” I hadn’t known that part of the story, and I was surprised, but in hindsight it seems a perfect distillation of what writing means to me: It’s a way of arriving at the truth of something even if I don’t recognize that truth as such immediately when I get there. It’s a way of satisfying a longing for something that I hadn’t even realized I desired.
And so now it comes down to this: I give the book to you, hoping, as I do, that it satisfies some similar, if unforeseen, need in you. In the meantime, I thank you all again for such a rare and wonderful opportunity. I wish you happy reading, and I look forward to our discussion over the coming weeks.
08-23-2010 10:58 AM
Bruce, I am very excited to be reading your book. The wording of your post tells me immediately that you have a warm heart, and a wonderful way with words. You said "It’s a way of satisfying a longing for something that I hadn’t even realized I desired." And I agree wholeheartedly. Every book I read is just that - a discovery of something I did not realize that I wanted to know or to feel or to experience. Thanks for sharing this post and I look forward very much to the book.
08-23-2010 11:04 AM
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Bruce. Upon reading your book (which I haven't had a chance to start yet), I would have thought that the tale of the brothers harnessed to the plow was pure literary fiction or symbolism - how amazing that its genesis is true!
08-23-2010 11:26 AM
First, Welcome to First Look, Bruce! We are always so honored to have an author not only share their work with us, but to also join us in discussion. It takes courage. Thank you for the opportunity to read and discuss your book. This book wanted to be "born," and I am so happy that you persevered! One note: We are a friendly group, and while we love to deeply discuss books, we are also a kind group.
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
My blog: http://bookworm56.blogspot.com
08-23-2010 11:32 AM
Hi Bruce and welcome to First Look! Thank you for sharing your story with us, now I can't wait to start the book and discuss. It's great to have you with us and it sounds like a really interesting book.
08-23-2010 12:27 PM
Thank you for sharing some of your life story and inspirations. What a treat to discuss a literary work with the author before its general release and we all appreciate your time and dedication.
To have experienced life with its joys, pains and longings, and to have lived in different environments provide the main substance for great writing.
I am looking forward to participating in the discussion and please forgive any grammar mistakes I make (thanks for spell check), since English is not my first language (I'm uneasy writing to a writer).
08-23-2010 12:45 PM
Thanks for the great introduction. I loved to hear the stories my dad told. When I tell the my dad's stories to my kids, they think the stories are unbelievable. But cruel things did happen then and it was real. I will be looking for your Dad's story in the book. Thank you for sharing his story with all of us in your book.
08-23-2010 12:50 PM
I just wanted to thank you for letting us in the FL book club to read your book. Bruce I have to be honest with you I have started your book, and I had stop at chapter 4. Because we haven't started our general discussion yet. What I can tell you from what I have read so far is this was a labor of love for you. Can't wait for the discussion to get underway.
08-23-2010 01:18 PM
Great introduction. Welcome to our group. I started reading your book standing on my front porch, curiosity got to me, and haven't stopped except that I went inside. Am enjoying the book and am looking forward to the start of the discussion. We are a friendly and an exceptional group of readers who enjoy a good discussion. Who knows, we may be the subject of one of your next books.
Sheila aka Literature
08-23-2010 01:33 PM
Thank you for participating in the FL book club, I am always very excited to be a part of this
experience. Reading your introduction post has only increased my interest, can't wait for the discussions to start.
08-23-2010 01:45 PM
Welcome to First Look. I am a newcomer to this group myself and I am very excited that The Wake of Forgiveness is my first book/discussion experience. It just arrived on my doorstep Saturday all the way in Honolulu. Thank you for your openness and willingness to share with us. I was reflecting on your post this morning and it truly is a blessing to be able to connect authors and fellow readers in this format. Not so long ago, pre-Internet, we did not have opportunities like these and as you mentioned, interactions with other readers, are often limited to a few moments in a library or bookstore or during public transit when you glance over and see someone with an interesting book in hand.
It is a a privilege to have you with us on this journey and I hope you will find First Look's members as warm and welcoming as I have. Looking forward to the days (and reading) ahead.
08-23-2010 02:58 PM
After reading your introduction and a couple of the chapters of your book , I know that this will be an exceptional book to read. I loved hearing your background. Thanks for sharing.
08-23-2010 03:03 PM
Thank you Bruce for "giving us your book", like putting us in charge of your young son. It takes a lot of courage to let go. So I hope we fulfill your expectations.
I look forward to reading the novel, and now you've really got my imagination going about the bent neck brothers.
We'll be gentle ;-)
08-23-2010 04:36 PM
Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful opportunity to meet and talk with you. It is such an honor to merely have the chance to read your book ahead of time, but to also have the forum to talk with you directly is such an honor.
I have started your book and already cannot put it down. Just today, I have been counting the hours for the work day to end with my evening plans to read your book!
Looking forward to more chances to talk with you and learn more about you, your book, and its inspiration here on FL!
08-23-2010 05:27 PM
What a lovely introduction to your novel and the history behind its' writing.
I have begun the book and find myself transported while reading.
I see your promotion will bring you to Minneapolis.....there are many Minnesotans in this club ..and I hope to attend one of your appearances when you are here!
Will be chatting soon,
No expectations..No disappointments
08-23-2010 07:39 PM
I loved reading your post. Thank you for sharing your book with us. I can't wait to begin reading and discussing it.
08-23-2010 08:10 PM
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for sharing your novel with us here at First Look and I trust that you will be well received as well as entertained along the way.
You have a compelling story you have briefly described to us, and I can't wait to start reading "The Wake of Forgivenss."
Just to let you know, we are a friendly group which I'm sure you will find. We love to read and discuss the book that Barnes & Nobles (First Look) offers. Thank you again for exposing your novel to us. I'm sure you won't be disappointed. By the way, I loved the trailer and after receiving the book, I must say I love the cover as well.
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." Dr. Seuss
08-23-2010 10:47 PM
I thank you for sharing the background behind the story. It is always intriguing to me how the author derive his or her idea for a book. I am looking forward to getting an indepth view of the story as I begin to read more.
08-23-2010 10:53 PM
I enjoy your statement about 8 years in the making being "learning to write" your story. I find it very telling of who you are. I have yet to start your book. I am restraining (although I look at it daily, with longing) until the start of our book club. I look forward to reading it and discussing with you and the other participants. "Talk" to you soon!
"My life is my own, and the opinions of others don't interest me..." — Carroll John Daly**
**This is not necessarily true, I just love the quote!**
08-24-2010 12:14 AM
Hello Bruce, and welcome!
All of us in FL love 'meeting' the author and hearing firsthand the insights you can give us about how the book developed and what it means to you. We tend to speculate about all sorts of things we come across as we read, and it's such a delight when an author can say, "no, I didn't mean to imply that," or "Yes, as a matter of fact, that part came directly from an experience I had myself." So thank you very, very much for agreeing to be part of that process with us.
I've been away from home since late last week, so I haven't had a chance to get my hands on the book yet. A bit frustrating! I tend to be one of those who plunges right in and reads straight through as the story pulls me along. I hate to stop the flow after just a few chapters to keep to the discussion schedule - but I do promise to avoid spoilers and allow everyone to enjoy the reading equally.
I admit to feeling a little queasy about the sound of that father. Cruel parents in books rather turn my stomach since there's nothing you can do to stop them. You just have suffer along with the child. I always hope the abused get strong enough to get away without serious damage, and that someone else comes into their lives to bring some affection; someone worth admiring. I'll be hoping for that sort of character and resolution as I read. And if the dad gets his comeuppance I'll be perfectly content; it'll be interesting to see who is forgiving whom for what, because sometimes none is deserved.
I'm really looking forward to the book and the discussion, and I thank you again, most sincerely, for giving your time to join us here.