Today we say hello and welcome to author Alice Archer joining us here at Love Bytes for her new release “Everyday History”.
Welcome Alice 🙂
By Alice Archer
Everyday History took its first conceptual baby steps as a het story I sketched out about a shy woman librarian in a small community and a brash man who hadn’t told anyone that he couldn’t read. When I saw The History Boys, a film (and before that, a Tony Award-winning play, by Alan Bennett) about (among other things) a history teacher who becomes the object of a brash student’s attention, I kept imagining variations on the way their story could unfold to result in a happy ending.
As I imagined further, the characters in my mind disconnected from the characters in the film and took on their own lives, not in Britain, but in Boston, and with specific issues at their cores that I could detail and control as I wrote them forward. I dug out that partially written het story, because it was about such similar themes, and gave it a nudge in a new direction by turning the librarian into a man (Zap! You’re a man!) and setting out to explore what might happen as the characters – by then named Henry and Ruben – tried to get what they wanted.
At that point, a lot of the inspiration for moving the story forward came from the characters’ trajectories, from what needed to happen to Henry and Ruben so that they would be willing to change, and so that they could be whole and healthy as individuals and, therefore, true to themselves when together.
I write stories in large part to explore the issues that I need to resolve for myself, to tease out and untangle things I’m struggling with in my own life. As my marriage finally fell apart in Germany while I was writing Everyday History, the issue of holding fast to my own truth was right in my face every day. Henry and Ruben each represent a different stance on that topic. Henry stayed in his truth by going within, by rejecting technology and preserving uninterrupted space and time for self-examination – but that kept him too isolated. The isolation hadn’t seemed like a problem until Ruben arrived to make Henry see what he was missing. Henry before Ruben looked like me and my ways of coping – ways I was realizing weren’t serving me well.
Ruben, on the other hand, represented a stance of keeping all options open, which took the form of not being willing to commit to a deeper love relationship. In my life, that stance looked like not being willing to commit to a deeper, more compassionate relationship with myself. Writing about Ruben’s brashness – and then his single-minded determination – inspired and informed my own actions to move away from a marriage that hadn’t been working, and toward a much more empowered relationship with myself, one that focused more single-mindedly on my own well-being as a way to start building a better life.
When I wrote this novel, I hadn’t lived in the U.S. for more than a decade, and things I missed about America also became seeds for the story – like books and writing (I really missed English-language bookstores), road trips and RVs, and odd bits of American history. Apples and apple pie, which I associate with America (even though apples were imported from Europe), also became a recurring theme.
Over the months I wrote Everyday History, my life changed drastically and for the better. That’s in part because, like Henry did by following the lead of his internal seed, and like Ruben did with his efforts to mature, I grew up to be someone more like myself.
In the following excerpt, which takes place near the beginning of the story, Ruben brings Henry a gift, and apples enter into the story again.
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.
At the belated “Come in!” he hears faintly through the door, Ruben tries the handle and walks through a small foyer and into a room wider than it is deep, with a high ceiling and tall windows all along the wall straight ahead. At this level, three floors up, the windows reveal only trees, whipping hard in the strong wind.
Mr. Normand—Henry, damn it—stands in the open kitchen to the left. He smiles, says, “Hi. Sorry. Crucial moment,” and keeps stirring something in a pan on the stove. It’s all a bit poorly scripted and overly homey, considering the momentousness of the event, their first meeting since Ruben’s graduation from student to former student.
Ruben nods, playing it cool, pretending he’s more confident than he is. In truth he’s dying to sprint around the room to burn off the nervous energy that roared back to life with Henry’s smile. Ruben holds up the heavy bag and says, “Apples from my grandmother’s farm,” and sets it on the kitchen counter.
“Thank you. That’s… that’s really thoughtful.” After another quick smile, Henry looks down at his cooking again.
Ruben stares at Henry’s bowed head for too long, still surprised he has a crush on someone who’s not only a man, but bald. Henry looks healthier and more rested than when they last saw each other. His pale skin is clearer and rosier, his lean body more muscled.
Before Henry catches him looking, Ruben closes his mouth and turns to check out the big room.
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.
Alice on Facebook: www.facebook.com/alice.archer.author
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