My post is a little early this week. But I wanted to share it.
I had an eye-opening discussion with my daughter-in-law over the weekend, as I attempted to assist her with an upcoming interview. When I asked if there was a time she sacrificed quality on a project, she said something interesting, that yes, there were times when absolute perfection might not be the ultimate goal, if it involves missing a deadline or going over budget. And as my husband says, “Perfection is the enemy of just good enough.”
It occurred to me, that’s what is happening to me, even though I don’t want my book to be “just good enough”, the comparison is clear. I have edited, and proof-read, Second Stories so many times that I think I might know it by heart. And every time I say, I’ll just look at the things I changed, make sure that’s right, and then I end up reading the whole thing through again. Frankly, I’m sick of it. And now I’ve found one thing, yet again, that I don’t like. I’ve fixed that, and a couple of other things that nagged at me and now I am ready to pull that trigger. Get it out there. Has anyone else gone through this?
Second Stories is actually my first book. I put it on the shelf for a while, and wrote Whatever Happened to Lily?, and afterwards went back to it. It needed to be tweaked, of course, and many parts were completely rewritten but the basic story is the same. It’s the story of four men, and a lasting friendship among them, since their first day of work at Bethlehem Steel. The office politics, the union problems, the angst when the place shut down, all of that is in the book. Of the four, three of them have relationship issues, to varying degrees. Especially one of them, a guy who always tried to do the right thing, and discovered he’d done everything wrong.
They say the first book is autobiographical, and that’s probably true. You write what you know. There’s Lydia, who is agoraphobic, and has low self-esteem, and renovates her house, and all she wants is to have her beautiful home and the love of her family. Of course, she can’t have that, because she’s married to the guy who did everything wrong. Then there’s Bonnie, who went back to school later in life, and Angie who became a macramé addict and a feminist and a computer programmer in the eighties, and Patti, who loved soap operas and romance novels. They are all me, to varying degrees. I took something of myself, and exaggerated it and formed four separate characters. Although, in defense of my soap-watching days, I did that while steaming wallpaper off the walls. Well, mostly, I did.
I wanted the book to be about experiences in the sixties, seventies, eighties, up to the present. The first chapter is a bit of a prologue, it takes place in May, 2008. Then there is a history of each of the four couples, up until the time the men start work in August of 1968. Then the Steel years, the changes that take place in the relationships of the couples, and finally, back to 2008 and the last half takes place from May through New Year’s, when the excrement hits the fan, with Lydia and her wrong-doing husband, and other changes take place, with the other couples. There’s a little politics in the book, as the guys sit around in a delightfully dumpy bar, named Wally’s, and discuss the events of the day, and the upcoming election. The model for Wally’s is a bar called Obie’s in Toledo, Ohio. Mr. Obie (aka O’Brien) used to lean on the counter and pass out beers and talk to the regulars, while Mrs. Obie just smiled at everyone and flipped burgers.
Back in the sixties, it was a lot easier for misunderstandings to happen. That’s why I like writing about it. Today, with voicemail and email and texting and IMing and Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn to name a few, combined with the way people are today, free, unencumbered by hang-ups like we were, or maybe not to the extent we were, it seems harder to me, to have the kinds of gut-wrenching problems that could have happened back then. Back when there weren’t even answering machines, and the phone just rang and rang and rang when nobody was home.
Remember when Jay tried to call Lily after she stopped writing to him? He called and no one answered. That’s because Lily couldn’t talk to him, she was there but didn’t pick up. She didn’t have the guts to tell him what had happened. If she’d had an answering machine, he’d have left a message. If she didn’t return his call, he would have got it, that she didn’t want to be with him any longer. End of relationship, end of story. But he really didn’t know what happened to her. Ah, conflict. Conflict = Good.
Do you recall the story of the Duke University student who rated her lovers, last year? I thought, wow. That’s sure a lot different than it was back when I was a college student. Back then, we still were a lot more romantic about sex. I think I liked that better. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of young women out there who will find the kinds of issues that happen to the Second Stories characters, a bit, uh, dated. Or silly, or just plain stupid. But then, as I said in an earlier post, this may not be their genre. And it’s history. It wouldn’t happen today, but it could have happened back then.
Who agrees? Love to hear from you…