The Divining Wand

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Archive for August, 2008

Amy MacKinnon and Tethered

August 04, 2008 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Tethered
Although there have been many fiction and non-fiction works presented on this blog (then Seize a Daisy) over the past twenty-two months, Amy MacKinnon and her debut novel, Tethered, hold a unique and fascinating distinction. For unlike all the other authors — who had already completed/sold and were anxiously awaiting their book’s publication date –, Amy shared her real-time journey through these stages in her weekly Tuesday posts at The Writers’ Group. And those of us who have followed her feel an extra sense of pride and excitement about next Tuesday, August 12th, when Tethered is released and Amy MacKinnon officially becomes a novelist.

My first formal introduction to Amy and her writer’s life came on March 6, 2007 in Sun Salutations which focused on stretching oneself to write a flawless piece. And in the post, Amy conceded that:

“There are still people in my life who don’t believe in me, who perhaps think I’m too much like them to be a writer, not quite the type who could get a novel published. But what’s relevant is I don’t feel that way. I’m pushing myself up against everyone’s expectations, stretching, reaching for goals beyond my skills of today to be a better writer tomorrow.”

Without question, here was someone seizing a daisy (actually a bunch) and I commented:

“Larramie said…
A wonderful post, Amy. And my fingers are also crossed because I’d love to read an honest, “‘almost'” perfect essay.”

“Amy said:
Larramie, thanks so much. It’s such a pleasure seeing your post here; daisies figure prominently in my novel.”

OH?! But even small hints of this “daisy-related” book were few or non-existent for quite a while as Amy and The Writers’ Group kept mum.

Or so it seemed. Because, to be fair, Amy had written about her backstory/sign five months prior in the post, The World Beyond, which is the same experience you can read in: About Amy on her website.

Uh-huh…hold on, this gets even better as Amy explains how the characters came to her in the Tuesday, February 6, 2007 post, The Crux of the Matter. Yes, this had been missed too, written exactly a month before my first visit. However, now knowing this background, wouldn’t you think — as I did — that this was Amy’s story to write?

The author, though, wasn’t convinced, admitting in Believing is a Powerful Gift posted on December 19, 2006 that:

“I had no intention of turning that first chapter into a book; I didn’t believe in it enough. It was dark; the characters ached with melancholy and the setting was too morose to sustain a reader’s interest. My protagonist, Clara, had been through enough in life, she didn’t need to have her character dissected as well.

“However The Writers’ Group — Lisa, Hannah and Lynne — wanted to know more.

“But that first time I shared Clara with them, they empathized with her. They felt her pain and also wanted to know more about another character, a little girl who played in the funeral home. They were intrigued and I, a writer in search of approval, was hooked by their interest.

“Now that I’ve completed my book, I often wonder if I would have continued on without the support given me by my writers’ group. They believed in me and my writing, and that’s a mighty powerful gift.

“This much I know is true: Had they not been there every step of the way, it would not have become a manuscript I believe in too.”

How did it all come together? On Amy’s Book website page, you”ll find this synopsis:

“Clara Marsh is an undertaker who doesn’t believe in God. She spends her solitary life among the dead, preparing their last baths and bidding them farewell with a bouquet from her own garden. Her carefully structured life shifts when she discovers a neglected little girl, Trecie, playing in the funeral parlor, desperate for a friend.

“It changes even more when Detective Mike Sullivan starts questioning her again about a body she prepared three years ago, an unidentified girl found murdered in a nearby strip of woods. Unclaimed by family, the community christened her Precious Doe. When Clara and Mike learn Trecie may be involved with the same people who killed Precious Doe, Clara must choose between the stead-fast existence of loneliness and the perils of binding one’s life to another.”

Now here’s an opportunity to read a pdf excerpt from Tethered.

And, yes, that little girl who plays in the funeral home was based upon a news story about “forgotten children” that Amy could not forget as she acknowledged in The Dedication on Tuesday, June 17, 2008. If you continue down and also read the Comments you’ll find:

“Larramie said…

The excerpt of TETHERED, told by a gentle voice, assured me that Amy’s story wouldn’t be horrifying. I admit to steering clear of this subject matter, yet knew I would read this novel for two reasons — curiosity and Amy’s writing/storytelling.

Being honored to receive an ARC, I read each page with an ever-growing lump in my throat…but not for the child. TETHERED is a brutally gorgeous novel that cuts deeply, while making you stronger for caring about unforgettable characters.”

Amy MacKinnon accepts the fact that Tethered, with its subject matter, may not be for every reader and yet — even back in her January 23, 2007 post, Conflicted — she took a stance:

“My theme is, and always will be, faith.

”My faith is a tenuous thing. I had it once, and have longed for it ever since. It’s difficult to navigate the dark passages of life without believing there is some higher power at work, that there exists order where we see only randomness and chaos. My novel began with a question: How could an undertaker perform her work if she didn’t believe in God? I layered into that premise another question I struggle with daily: Why do children need to suffer, to die?”

Within the post, Amy questions parts of the novel only to decide in the final paragraph that:

“So, in spite of the thoughtful suggestion to make that revision, I expect to stay with what I have. I feel strongly that it works better for the story and is more satisfying for the reader. Mostly I need to create a sense of faith within myself where, for now, none exists.”

Since then Amy found an agent, Tethered sold here and to nine Foreign Editions so far — including China, Brazil and Poland. It’s also the Fall 2008 lead book in the Crown Catalog and has been chosen as an August pick for Borders’ Original Voices Program which is fully described on Amy’s website’s Home page.

After five and a half years on this journey, Amy tends to hedge on the future with the expression, “We shall see.” And that is hoped what you will do by Pre-ordering Tethered online now or purchasing it next week at your local bookstore. The writing is brutally/achingly gorgeous, the experience of living the story is vividly intense, and the amazing bond you’ll feel for the characters well past The End is extraordinarily fulfilling. In other words, Tethered is for everyone who seeks a remarkable novel…you shall see!