Fast forward to May 8, 2012. My manuscript and I came to an agreement that we had spent enough time together during the past six-plus weeks. I was starting to fuss over minor word choices, which will be tackled during the next stage of revisions anyway. My major changes to characters, plot, and setting were done, and it was time to see what Maggie thought of the revisions. I sent her the book that afternoon.
I don't know yet what she thinks, but I can say I survived the editorial letter stage! It certainly wasn't the first major edit for this book, but it was the first time I revised the manuscript knowing the novel will actually be heading into the world for others to experience and judge. I honestly had a blast digging further into my characters' lives and expanding my fictional world, and I can't wait to share the book.
Here are some of the ways I immersed myself in my 1918 setting while I worked:
Just ask my husband, the nighttime TV viewing in my household turned a little WWI-centric during the past weeks. We started watching Season One of the 1920s-set HBO series Boardwalk Empire on DVD, and I was thrilled to discover that WWI veterans play key roles in the plot. Young gangster Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) turns to the dark side after fighting in the trenches of France, and lost soul Richard Harrow (John Huston) suffers severe facial injuries that cause him to come home from war wearing a chilling mask. I loved the plot points involving these two damaged anti-heroes.
Also on TV during my revisions: the BBC adaptation of Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong. More life in the trenches for my husband and me.
2. I Read Katherine Anne Porter's "Pale Horse, Pale Rider."
Pale Horse, Pale Rider" from my local library. During my research of the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, Porter's name always came up as a famous sufferer of the deadly, life-altering illness that gripped the world in the fall of that year. "Pale Horse, Pale Rider" is an emotional, fictionalized account of Porter's experiences during the flu and the war, and I'm so glad I finally read her haunting passages.
3. I Repeatedly Listened to a 1960s Folk Song.
What? 1960s? Yes, I fast-forwarded several decades past my characters' time period for musical inspiration. In January of this year, I shared my In the Shadow of Blackbirds playlist over at The Lucky 13s, and one of the songs I discussed was Donovan's "Catch the Wind" from 1965. The lyrics perfectly epitomize my two main characters' struggle to be together while enduring the darkness of a troubled world. Each day after I'd drop off my kids at school before diving back into revisions, I'd play "Catch the Wind" in my car to get into the right mindset for deepening my characters' emotional connection.
Here's a taste of the song:
I also researched additional images from 1918 that I hadn't yet explored, but I'm not going to share any of those. Yet. In the Shadow of Blackbirds is slated to include early-twentieth-century photographs and artwork, so you'll just have to wait until the book debuts before seeing my pictorial inspiration.
On May 30 I'll offer tips for revising a novel over at The Lucky 13s.