Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Guest Blog: Wendy Webb

Photobucket Last week I read, reviewed and raved about The Tale of Halcyon Crane. Today, I'm thrilled to have the author, Wendy Webb, do a guest blog for us. Warning: There might be slight spoilers.

The Making of a Storyteller
It’s no surprise that I write stories for a living — I grew up in a family of storytellers. Some of my earliest memories involve sitting at our kitchen table listening to my parents and grandmother, cousins, aunts and uncles tell tales about the people who lived in the tiny town where they all grew up. Reaching back into their childhoods, they’d bring to life strange, quirky, hilarious and even terrifying characters, now long dead, their ghosts whispering in my imagination as I write tales of my own.

My dad tells about going to the movies as a little boy, pre-World War II, in an ornate single-screen theater that’s dark now, having long since been replaced by a soulless multi-plex in a strip mall outside of town. But back then, young and old alike would congregate in this beautiful theater each week to see what Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn or Roy Rogers had in store for them on the silver screen. One Saturday afternoon, my dad noticed a gaggle of old ladies, widows dressed in black, recent Italian immigrants like many of the people who lived in the town at that time. They were shaking their fists at the screen, talking back (loudly) to the actors and actresses, offering advice or admonishments based on what was happening in the movie. During one particularly dramatic scene, the heroine arrives just after her beloved has died. He tried to hang on, but she was too late. One of the ladies stood up, threw her hands in the air and shouted: “NOW you come!” This is been a joke in my family for as long as I can remember.

My mother and her cousins love to tell about a strangely menacing pair of twins who lived down the block from them — stark white hair, ghostly pale skin, eyes so light they almost weren’t a color at all. She and her cousins would hurry past their house on the way to school hoping the twins wouldn’t cast the evil eye in their direction. Anyone who has read my novel, THE TALE OF HALCYON CRANE, now knows where the idea for the triplets came from.

The town was filled with bootleggers during Prohibition — many families had stills chugging away in the second, hidden basements of their homes. Mobsters came from Chicago (Ralph Capone was a regular visitor, as was John Dillinger), and tales circulated of their ill-gotten gains hidden in various locations around town. Many of the shops on the main street still have secret tunnels in their basements that snake under the streets, leading to safe getaways.

But there were wonderful stories as well. My dad and his pals ran wild, living in a sort of Huck Finn world where they would laugh around a campfire at their secret swimming hole just outside of town. My mom’s grandparents, Finnish immigrants, had a farm nearby. One afternoon a fawn wandered into the yard and stayed, taking an instant liking to my mother, who was just a child. She kept it as a pet until it was a full grown deer, which would follow her around like a puppy. Readers of HALCYON will see the similarities to the story of Hallie’s grandfather Charles, who had an otherworldly way with animals.

As a child, I’d listen to all of these fantastic tales, but I wouldn’t add any of my own. I was quieter than my outgoing, boisterous family, and I turned to writing when I wanted to tell the stories that were swirling around in my head. My first work of fiction, written when I was in elementary school, was a story about riding bicycles with my dad on an autumn afternoon. We went through a tunnel, and all of a sudden we realized that we had traveled back in time, back to his boyhood home. With all of the strange and delightful stories I’d heard about that place and time, it’s no wonder I wanted to see it for myself.

I’ve been a writer ever since. But through the publication HALCYON, I’ve learned that I’m also something else. I’ve had the chance to do many readings in bookstores and elsewhere, speaking in front of people for the first time in my life. I wasn’t sure how I would do — I’m a writer, after all. But to my astonishment, as soon as I stood up in front of that first group of people, I found that I was a story teller, too. I was speaking in the voice of my parents, my grandmother, my brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles. Suddenly, I wasn’t the quiet little girl listening to her family’s tales of the past — I was doing, quite naturally, what generations of my family have done. Telling a tale.

Don't forget we have 3 copies of The Tale of Halcyon Crane to giveaway as well. Click me!



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