Tuesday of this week someone actually asked me what my next book was about. I was proud of myself because I was actually able to spit out the main plot of the book and have it make sense to them. It intrigued them. That hasn’t always been an easy feat. For me, it shows the book has reached a certain level of maturity, enough to where not only can I talk about it, but I can finally write about it too (as I’m writing the book itself) and feel confidant that it is a story I’m finally going to finish. Hopefuly, I didn’t just jinx myself.
I’m talking about my Civil War, piano maker story. In searching my blog for other posts about it, the earliest post was written in March 2008. In that post, I mention that the project had already been in the works for two years, so it would appear that I started writing this book in 2006. I didn’t mention it again until August 2011 when I posted about having an epiphany concerning the lead character. I changed him to a female. And that really has been the catalyst that has me finally working on this project again with full intention of finishing it this year.
This is also the first time I’ve probably had the entire novel from start to finish laid out in my head. I take occasional notes and do research, but I don’t outline although I probably should. I really like to just sit down and start writing from start to finish and see what happens. That’s worked for me twice now with both of my previous novels. With my first novel, I skipped around a lot and wrote different chapters completely out of order.
The bare bones of this work are still intact. I fell in love with the story of the SS Sultana the first time I read about it, and it angered me that my history teachers had never mentioned it. It’s the reason my piano playing soldier ends up stranded in Memphis, where he meets and falls in love with his nurse maid, the daughter of a piano maker who leaves the business to the couple after they wed. I haven’t gotten to the rewrite of these characters and their storylines yet, but I do know I’m going to change their names when I do get there.
My present day piano playing prodigy is no longer a wealthy elite socialite as originally intended. Instead, she is now Ruth Ann Delaney. An outcast or hermit of sorts who is trying to live out her retirement in peace, but who once was a somewhat famous local piano player made wealthy by her talent. But now she has an assistant, a new character who I gave most of the snobby characteristics too, but I made him a little person – only 4 feet tall – my homage to Carson McCuller’s Cousin Lyman in The Ballad of the Sad Cafe. His name is Beagan Torelle. Beagan was Ruth Ann’s page turner until she stopped playing. But Ruth Ann has now given him a new purpose.
He is to seek out and find the 50 players pianos which our Civil War soldier turned piano player made in celebration of his marriage – 1 piano for each year they were married. And you can probably guess by now that he named his special piano The Sultana. We’ll also discover some of Beagan’s past and learn why he never became a piano player himself. Must of these details I had originally written to be the childhood of our piano playing prodigy character, but when I changed him to a female (Ruth Ann) all of those chapters wouldn’t work. There’s a lot of good writing in there which I wanted to use somehow, and like everything else, it came to me while I was driving one day and I decided to change those chapters to be about Beagan instead. It worked quite beautifully and better than I could have ever imagined.
There is one element to the story that I do not want to reveal much of. You see, several of the pianos are in disrepair as Beagan finds them. He buys them anyway and ships them to Ruth Ann’s home at her request. And later, after she’s acquired all 50 of the pianos, she employs Beagan to help find a repairman who she can trust. It is this repairman that appears at Ruth Ann’s house one day who drives the majority of the story. And he and Ruth Ann’s relationship will round out the book and culminate it’s haunting ended. And for that, you’ll just have to wait to see how it all plays out.
But even in this post, I’m pretty excited about how solid this story has finally become. It’s been five years in the making, and will be a great accomplishment when (if) I finish it!