Saturday, November 24, 2012

Writing About Amelia Earhart - Part II

How do you write about someone like Amelia Earhart?  She led a life like few have before or since.  She was at once a very public and a very private person.  This has given us a somewhat uneven picture of her.  We have minute by minute accounts of Amelia's record flights, but have only a general idea of the details of her domestic existence.  I took my lead from a statement by her husband, George Putnam.  In his autobiography, Wide Margins, he wrote:   "There is, perhaps, another story to be written, if one could catch the spirit of the Amelia Earhart that was, and in a book that should be a novel tell a grand true tale of a modern American pioneer who was a woman."

Putnam's statement suggested to me that Earhart's story was really too big to be presented as straight biography.  A faithful biography would have given facts precedence over the spirit of adventure that enlivened Amelia.  It also hinted how she saw herself.  First, a pioneer of the air, but also a woman living in what was still a man's world.  And challenging that world.  Only the fictional method could catch the grand purpose driven life that set all those records, and upset all those men.

The first person journal seemed obvious to me.  Amelia Earhart's story was inconceivable unless she told it in a voice that was believable.  Finding that voice was the trick.  Luckily, I'd always felt drawn to Amelia, to her independent, self-sufficient, but playful approach to life.  And she left a clear record of that approach in her own published books, 20 hrs. 40 min.:  Our Flight In The Friendship, and The Fun Of It. Reading them, and some of her private letters, gave me a feeling for how she expressed herself.  When I sat down to write it seemed to flow, an indication to the writer that he's found the right voice. 

Of course, there are hazards in the first person voice.  Some may find the voice differs from what they expect.  Others, after a few thousand words, may begin to tire of it.  The only solution for these problems is a story that provides excitement on every page, with unexpected twists and turns.  If you don't like my Amelia I apologize and wish you better luck on your next read.  I won't apologize for the excitement or the twists and turns.  They're hers.      

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Writing About Amelia Earhart - Part I

I'm glad to announce the publication of my new novel,  The Truth Of It: Amelia Earhart's Private Journal (Quiver Books, $4.99, 2012). This novel is available as an ebook at most of the major retailers on the Internet.  The first twenty percent of it is free as a sample download.

My fascination with Amelia began as a young boy when I read library books detailing her short but eventful life.  It seemed her worldview was similar to mine.  She believed in exploring the limits of technology in search of new ways to better the human condition.  She thought all of us, male and female, should contribute in any field they chose, limited only be their capabilities, not others prejudices. 

She had a spirit of daring and willingness to risk all that I must confess I lack.  However, she took the time and effort to train and prepare herself to insure success was not simply a matter of luck, but a probability.  Her planning was immaculate.  That she seemed to be willing to rush into her final flight without the necessary crew and equipment mystified me-and led to a lifelong interest in new books about her.

It was in one of these, Mary Lovell's 1989 biography The Sound of Wings, I read a sentence that gave me the idea for my story.  Amelia's young photographer, Al Bresnik, was quoted as saying "I can't remember her exact words, but she told me she thought there was a possibility she was pregnant and that when she came back (from the final flight) she was going to be 'just a woman.'"

Could that be the reason for her changed behavior in the last few months of her life?  In 2012 flying around the world while three or four months pregnant wouldn't be a big deal.  In 1937 the idea would be shocking to a society that thought pregnancy required a withdrawal from active life.  She knew having a child would bring demands that she end her life of record setting flying; not just from the public, but from her family as well.  Did she want one last adventure, one final achievement for the history books?  If she did want that final aviation first, her story would be something like what I've written.

Of course, this novel is about the last ten years of her life, not just the tragedy that ended it.  But if you want to know more about Amelia's final chapter, download the first chapter of my book free at any of the big online book stores.  And check back here for more on her fascinating story in later blog posts.