For months, I did research for my latest novella, Masked Identities. The storyline includes a period story sandwiched within a contemporary story. In other words, I was writing two stories that would ultimately become one.
The interior story of Ambrose and Sebastian takes place in 1890 Victorian London. Mind you, I have never been off the shores of North America and I definitely had not lived in the 19th Century (at least not during this lifetime). To properly tell this story required months of research into Victorian London history. I recreated a large 19th Century map of London which was taped to the wall in front of me along with reproduced photos of clothing styles, buildings, actual newspaper articles, court and police records, birth records (to select from popular names given to infants during the period), along with tons and tons of notes. During my research I discovered actual events, places and even people that made the story seem like it was becoming more than just a work of fiction. Not having written a “period” piece before, I encountered a challenge with phrases and words that sounded too contemporary or too “American”. Luckily, I had come across two comprehensive directories of “1890 Victorian Slang Terms” which was quite beneficial as well as educational. I began incorporating the results of my research into my story. There was a nagging voice constantly chattering in my head: “The story has to be authentic and historically accurate.”
Once the interior story was completed, I finished the contemporary (exterior) story of a troubled relationship between Megan and her boyfriend, Chandler. But, I had two different endings and was undecided of which to use. I flipped a coin and that decided the ending.
The completed story was sent out to Beta Readers for review. The extensive comments were mixed and quite varying. The Beta’s were evenly tied in their comments of how the story should end, although they had no idea I had a second ending which I had not included in the manuscript. During the revision I decided to include both ending, so the story had an alternate ending. I would leave the selection of the ending to the reader.
Then what to do about about Cover Art? I had six mock-ups and was just as undecided on which I liked best, so I put the mock-ups to a vote of my peers on Facebook.
The story was completed and ready for publication. So, exactly how many writing rules had I broken?
(1) The story has both a Contemporary story and a Period story – OK, that’s a genre specific issue.
(2) The interior story is gay themed and the interior story is hetero themed – another problem.
(3) An alternative ending rather than just one ending – can I break any more writing rules?
To publish the story, I had to consider exactly which genre did this story belong? The publishing industry has specific established genres and my story severely crossed over genre lines. Pondering my dilemma, I questioned why in the heck had I written this story in the first place.
I was reminded of an author friend who recently told me that there are two kinds of writers:
(1) The writer who follows all the rules of grammar, punctuation and writes the edit-perfect book.
(2) Then, there is the “story teller” who creates wonderful tales, but does not follow the writing rules, either due to a lack of formal training or just because they are a rebel.
The author friend had classified my writing style in the second category, as a “story teller”. Yes, I can tell you a tale, but don’t ask me to diagram a sentence, or ask me to identify an adverb or a noun, and I’ll put a period or comma wherever I feel like it. And what the **** is a gerund?
I was reminded of Cyril Connolly, who said, “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”
Masked Identities was released in digital format on December 4, 2011 and the paperback edition will follow. Maybe no one will read my story, and those that do may not like it. Whatever the case, I will always consider Masked Identities as my alternative fiction that lacked a genre.
Synopsis of Masked Identities
Megan thought she had read every book in her grandfather’s extensive collection of fiction, until stumbling upon an unfamiliar title. Curious, she delves into the book, realizing that her own relationship with her boyfriend of four years parallels the story she is reading of Ambrose and Sebastian. Can a story of love between two men provide the answers to salvage her floundering relationship?
This unusual tale is actually a period story wrapped inside of a contemporary storyline. The interior story includes actual places and events of 1890 Victorian London. One story follows the relationship of two men in Britain, the other story follows Megan and Chandler in upstate New York, USA. Not specifically defined as a romance novella, since this manuscript crosses genre specific lines: gay / hetero, period / contemporary, and even includes an alternate ending. Definitely not the traditional run-of-the-mill read, but a journey into alternative fiction.