by Alice Archer
Cover design: Bree Archer
Novel Length: 90,116 words
Headstrong Ruben Harper has yet to meet an obstacle he can’t convert to a speed bump. He’s used to getting what he wants from girls, but when he develops a fascination for a man, his wooing skills require an upgrade. After months of persuasion, he scores a dinner date with Henry Normand that morphs into an intense weekend. The unexpected depth of their connection scares Ruben into fleeing.
Shy, cautious Henry, Ruben’s former high school history teacher, suspects he needs a wake-up call, and Ruben appears to be his siren. But when Ruben bolts, Henry is left struggling to find closure. Inspired by his conversations with Ruben, Henry begins to write articles about the memories stored in everyday objects. The articles seduce Ruben with details from their weekend together and trigger feelings too strong to avoid. As Henry’s snowballing fame takes him out of town and further out of touch, Ruben stretches to close the gaps that separate them.
Writing a Technophobic Character
By Alice Archer
When I started writing Everyday History I had never owned a mobile phone, or even used one more than a couple of times, and my own technology aversions kept getting in the way of the tale I was trying to tell. I realized early on that unless the setting was the 1970s (back when making a phone call meant being at home or standing at a payphone and, if no one answered, you hung up and tried again later), Henry needed to be technophobic. Otherwise, the main characters being separated for so long wasn’t going to be at all believable and the story would fall apart.
My strategy was overkill. I revised the story countless times to strengthen Henry’s technophobia, introducing it early and referring to it often. I gave Henry elderly foster parents; made his brain understand mechanical things, but not digital things; made him an introvert who craved peace and privacy; gave him an affinity for old ways that began in his childhood and that guided his decisions.
And then Erik the agent showed up. He and his personality were originally created to heighten the seclusion Henry experiences as he becomes famous – one more layer to help make Henry and Ruben’s separation more believable. As the story continued to take shape, however, Erik took on a stronger role and became Ruben’s nemesis.
By the time the story was finished, Henry’s technophobia was in the driver’s seat. Without it, there would be no separation of the main characters, no Erik for Ruben to push against, and no need for Ruben’s grand gesture. What began as a major problem I struggled to solve turned out to be the foundation of the story.
In the excerpt below, a radio interviewer asks Henry about his technophobia. Ruben listens to the broadcast.
Everyday History Excerpt
INTERVIEWER: Explain. Why this nonrelationship with modern digital technology?
HENRY NORMAND: I became a historian in the first place because I feel an affinity for simpler times. And I seem to have a cellular-level mistrust of modern technology. I’m aces with mechanical things, but the digital world remains beyond me. It exhausts me and, if I’m honest, it creeps me out. If I can use a screwdriver to open a gadget and watch the gears turn, I’m all over it. I get how it works. I can understand what’s wrong. I can even repair it. We’re friendly with each other, me and that mechanical gadget. But if I were to pry the cover off of, say, a cell phone, I’d find… what? An enslaved elf or some other magical creature giving me a raspberry, probably. I can’t work with that. It’s too… foreign, too futuristic, too alien to the long-gone eras with which I feel a connection. My agent despairs of me. Having a Luddite for a client makes his job challenging, but he does his best. Bless his digitized New-York-City heart.
INTERVIEWER: But how are you able to do what you do—be on the road for an extended time, shoot local TV show episodes in different places, keep up with an ever-shifting schedule of interviews, all of that—without a cell phone? Is that even legal these days?
HENRY NORMAND: Sure. I have an address book—a lovely leather one I got in Rome. And I have a schedule book. I find a hotel with a business center or a gas station with a nice view and I use a phone card or quarters at a payphone, and if I need to update my schedule or make a note, I hold the phone in the crook of my neck and I use what they call a pen and write on paper. Crazy, isn’t it? People close to me try to convince me that using a cell phone would make my life easier, but I can’t seem to get my backward-viewing mind around the idea enough to persuade my body to use one. I get modern technology intellectually but not personally. Left to my own devices—pun intended—I’d walk handwritten copies of my articles to my nearest neighbor with a basket of chocolate chip cookies and sit and wait for them to read what I wrote so we could chat about it.
Alice Archer has messed about with words professionally for many years as an editor and writing coach. After living in more than eighty places and cobbling together a portable lifestyle, she has lots of story material to sort through. It has reassured her to discover that even though culture and beliefs can get people into a peck of trouble when they’re falling in love, the human heart beats the same in any language. She currently lives near Nashville. Maybe this move will stick.
Check out the other blogs on the Everyday History Blog Tour:
Jun 22 – MM Good Book Reviews
Jun 27 – Open Skye Book Reviews
Jun 30 – Dreamspinner Press Blog
Jul 1 – My Fiction Nook
Jul 2 – Love Bytes
Jul 5 – Two Chicks Obsessed
Aug 2 – Joyfully Jay