Update on STARFISH - 2/22/20
A memory popped up on a social media page that reminded me it’s been 5 years since MAXIMUS was published. Has it been that long? I asked. And I realized I’ve let my website sit with no updates. I can make the excuse that I have a real job and being an author is a hobby; and that’s true. I did change jobs about four years ago. It’s a great job and allows me to travel extensively. But it is demanding and with it comes a lot of responsibility. It’s that change and uptick in responsibility that has kept the pen out of hand (or the fingers off the creative keyboard) and more focused on emails and reports, and that’s no fun! I’ll also admit to a bit of procrastination and the proverbial writers block as well.
First of all I want to thank all of you that have reached out through this website and shared so many kind remarks about your experience reading MAXIMUS - it has been truly appreciated. I also want to thank those of you that have shared reviews on third party websites, both good and bad. All of them have been helpful; the positive ones have been good for my soul, the critical ones have been good for my craft. Thank you all.
I have taken seriously the many requests for a sequel to MAXIMUS and have not ruled that out sometime in the future. There is a rich story Maximus could tell as he returns to Rome and faces the critics of Christianity and starts his new life there with Liora; the story lines are endless. He has a rough road ahead of him. Trust me, I’ve jotted down many notes and thoughts, and frankly, I miss talking things out with Jacob and Levi, and particularly Ezra.
However, my heart and the movie playing in my head has taken me in a much different direction. I’m happy to announce that the main character in my current work in progress, Cecilia Jensen, a.k.a. Starfish, my Danish heroine, has grabbed me by the ears and began talking to me loud and clear and telling me her story. It has been fun listening to her. In writing a few more pages recently I realized she has changed, and I wondered what happened. Did she really change or did I just write the change in? What happened is that she has seen a few things, experienced a few things, braved a few things and before my eyes has matured and grown up. She’s gained a perspective, traction and purpose in life along her journey. She's also become very driven and outspoken.
Cecilia Jensen has bounced off a cast of characters that have shaped her and her actions. One of the main supporting characters is the time in history. Germany has occupied Denmark at the onset of World War II and not only affected her life but the lives of her family and friends. Because of the war Cecilia has had to endure the death of people close to her. She has seen the panic and exodus of Jewish friends. She has inherited a son and has escaped to London. The German bombing of London has driven her on to the United States, to San Francisco. There she meets a Marine Aviator - a fighter pilot. After all she has been through, he is the last person she desires to begin a relationship with. And her story is just beginning.
I hope you will have patience with Cecilia and I as I try and coax the story out of her. Sometimes she is quiet. Sometimes she is animated beyond her ability to get the words out fast enough.
I am extremely fortunate that my travels have taken me to Denmark and London – two locations in my book. I have attached a couple of pictures from Skagen, Denmark, Cecilia’s hometown. The German bunkers on the coast sitting as a harsh reminder of that difficult time in Danish history and the Skagen Train Station. The background picture on this page is the coastline in Skagen. It is so much easier writing about a place you have experienced through sight, sound and scent and had its wind blow through your hair. When my wife Marian and I arrived in Skagen I knew immediately I had chosen the right home for Cecilia.
Writing historical fiction is fun but it is challenging. There’s a good chance someone smarter than you may read your story so you have to get the details right. If you don’t, they’ll snap your book shut faster than a Venus flytrap and call you on it. You’ll lose a reader and you’ll lose credibility. So you have to do your research and enjoy the process. One thing I have learned though, and I will share a secret with you - don’t let the research bog you down. Write the story, don’t stop and check the facts while you're writing – just write. When the character is talking to you and the story is flowing just keep punching the words out. Go verify the facts later. That’s what works for me.
My goal is to finish STARFISH in 2020; a paragraph a day, a page a day, whatever it takes. For you writers out there, keep writing and keep dreaming. If you get stuck, my advice, however counter-intuitive this will sound is: Don't force words in your character's mouth, let them speak to you. That requires a quiet place, an open mind and open ears and patience. They have a story to tell you, let them tell it, you are just holding the pen for them.
Good luck and happy writing. - Richard L. Black