Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Behind the Story with Roger Bruner

Hi, everyone! I'm delighted to bring you another "Story Behind the Story" blog post. I love these behind-the-scenes peeks into the making of a novel. They inspire me every time I read one.

Today's post is from author Roger Bruner.  The floor is yours, Roger!

Roger Bruner, Author
When Peg invited me to be a guest on her blog, she expressed curiosity about the title of my newest novel, ROSA NO-NAME. I assured her I’d be thrilled to share the “story behind the story.”
Be forewarned that my explanations are apt to run in several different directions before I make my point, however. Seldom can I answer a simple yes-or-no question in fewer than a a hundred words. And that’s the minimum. Be thankful you’re not married to me. At seventy, I’m getting worse…

One of the so-called rules every novelist learns and occasionally obeys is not to put a novel’s back story—everything that takes place before the story itself—too early in the book. Some “authorities” say not to include it anywhere in the first fifty pages.

Ugh! That’s a challenge when we know our readers are dying to understand some of the things they run into in the first fifty pages. Maybe even on the first page. Accepting the fact we aren’t obligated to explain everything as it happens is tough; we like being kind to our readers. We don’t enjoy frustrating them.

Novelists also aren’t supposed to insert a back story dump when they finally do bring out something from the past. We’re supposed to tell readers just enough…and at just the right time. But never everything at once.

“Okay,” you say. “We’ve been patient long enough. We get it. Go in another direction. Like the right one, please. Why is your novel called ROSA NO-NAME?

I have to smile—graciously, of course. If you’re one of the 5,000 people who bought or at least read a copy of FOUND IN TRANSLATION, my first published novel, you’ve already met Rosa. You didn’t know her as “Rosa No-Name,” though. You knew her only as “Rosa.”

You knew her as the mother of Anjelita, the eight-year-old girl who was born with half of one arm missing. And as the woman Kim Hartlinger came to think of as a sister in spite of their never-broken language barrier. And as the villager Kim was most concerned about reaching with the Gospel and gave her Santa Biblia to just before leaving.

FOUND IN TRANSLATION left a number of questions unanswered, however. Concerning things that weren’t relevant to the story itself but still made readers curious. Who was Rosa’s husband and what became of him? Was Anjelita’s half-arm a birth defect or the result of an accident? Why were the villagers of Santa María so superstitious about the so-called Passover Church building? Why did the other children think Anjelita was maldita (cursed)? What did the villagers do for a living before the tornado wiped out the village?

Wonderful, tantalizing questions, I thought. So I wrote ROSA NO-NAME soon after completing an early version of FOUND IN TRANSLATION—that was about ten years ago—intending it as the prequel to FOUND—a prequel that would answer those questions and more.

My publisher never did say what she thought of ROSA NO-NAME. She just never expressed an interest in publishing it. The same thing happened with other publishers I submitted the manuscript to. So I finally stuck it away in a virtual drawer and forgot about it for a number of years.
My wife and my adult daughter, however, have always loved ROSA. More than any of my other novels and unpublished manuscripts. Six or eight months ago I dug it out and reread it. And fell in love with it all over again myself.

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Although I can’t claim God spoke to me audibly and said, “Publish it yourself,” I felt a very strong compulsion to do just that. I’d used Amazon’s CreateSpace and KDP facilities to self-publish a couple of small books of some of my shorter writing, so I had at least some of the knowledge and confidence to proceed with this much larger project.

Calling the book ROSA would’ve made sense—after all, Rosa is the protagonist and she’s also the narrator of the story—but why ROSA NO-NAME?

When you read the book, you’ll learn that Rosa grew up an illiterate, unwanted orphan in the tiny Mexican village of Santa María. The villagers barely provided adequately for her most basic needs. No one loved her and no one would tell her who her parents were. That’s why they called her Rosa No-Name. So Rosa No-Name—as ignorant of her family background as she was of the facts of life—leaves the village a pregnant sixteen-year-old who’s still dying to learn her parentage.

Only when you come to appreciate how important Rosa’s need to learn her true identity was can you fully appreciate the final chapter—a single short paragraph—and weep along with me at seeing how far Rosa has come.
I can’t keep from quoting one of Rosa’s endorsers, “You’ll thank yourself for reading ROSA NO-NAME!”

About the Author

Roger Bruner spent his whole work life trying to figure out what he wanted to do when he grew up. Along the way he taught school, interviewed job seekers, and programmed computers. He retired from a temporary stint at Target to write full-time and wishes he could have done that years earlier.

Samples of his poems, plays, short stories, songs, and novels are available at RogerBruner.com.

A guitarist and songwriter, he’s in the church choir and plays bass in the praise team and guitar at a nursing home ministry. Long interested in missions, he’s gone to Romania, England, Wales, Australia, and Nicaragua on short-term mission trips.

Roger likes spending time with his wife, Kathleen. He has a daughter, who lives with her husband and son in Orlando, and stepdaughters in New York City and Las Vegas.

He enjoys reading, photography, web design, and playing Words with Friends

So where does Roger hang out?


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