Wednesday, July 2, 2008

R.M.S. First Novel

It could be that all historical photographs catch my eye because I'm so deeply entrenched in my novel's villain at this point, a man obsessed with being the first to capture the precise moment of death, but this time the pull is stronger.

Some of you know my history with all things Titanic. If you do, humor me. Aside from this little jaunt into wouldn't-it-be-cool-to-be-an-angsty-novelist, it was the topic that first peaked my interest enough to engage me into a full-length young adult novel eleven years ago. The fifth graders I was teaching at the time couldn't get enough facts, personal accounts and photographs. It became a safe way for their young minds to try on human tragedy, think beyond themselves and role play, and I became just as obsessed about feeding their curious appetites. Biographies, documentaries, navigation maps, I soon found them all and amassed a body of knowledge about the event, enough to think I could write a fictional account that would speak to young readers beyond the group assembled before me.

So it was through the story of a privileged girl and a steerage boy I tried on my novelist's boots. I own it enough now to admit it was ten chapters filled with the worst literary fouls ever committed to paper. But in the scope of the event, about which much is widely known, there is little room for a story to play out in any other way. Unlike period pieces or wartime dramas, the Titanic tragedy is a blip on history's radar, a few days confined to the parameters of a ship. Essentially, I'd written James Cameron's storyline before I even knew he'd spent a Hollywood fortune to dive down to the wreckage. I finished the novel the month before his movie was released and came out of the theater feeling like my dream had sunk right along with Jack. I knew the blockbuster would forever define the event, right or wrong, and my manuscript would always be the one that came after. The perfect, oh-so imperfect copycat.

This sepia photograph was taken on April 20th, 1912, six days after Titanic's tragedy, by a Czech sailor named Stephan Rehorek. En route from Bremerhaven to New York, the German ship Bremen diverted its course to assist with recovery. When the U.S. registered vessel Mackay-Bennett, chartered for the same purpose, arrived, Bremen continued its journey. Rehorek returned to New York and developed the photograph. He made two copies and mailed one to his parents and one to his brother in the form of a postcard with the following inscriptions on the back : Dear Mother and Father. This card is a view of the iceberg that collided with and sank the Titanic liner and Dear Josef. I am sending you, too, a postcard of the ship that sank. We were following about a thousand miles behind it. Next time you come home our parents will show you pictures of the icebergs which were photographed from our ship.

Friday, look for my interview with V.C. King, author of Titanic: Relative Fate, a fast-paced, suspenseful, contemporary tale with haunting echoes to the past. The premise is fantastic, the research exhaustive and accurate. The blurb:

Titan's Sister is about to set sail on her maiden voyage from a harbor in northern Florida. But just as the ship's brash young owner begins the sequence to launch, a sudden, unexplainable accident takes the life of one of the crew. Not long afterward, shipbuilder Abram Harwood watches in horror as the dock, on which the massive hull rests, catches fire, soon turning the area into a raging inferno. Against his own reasoning, Harwood slowly comes to the realization that a chain of unusual and dangerous events has begun that could launch his beautiful new ship straight into harm's way.

In Titanic: Relative Fate we meet Titan's Sister, the sister of the doomed Titanic. Built as a modernized replica of the legendary vessel, Titan's Sister is a wonder to behold. Yet Harwood begins to question whether there is more than just a physical resemblance between the two ships. Intrepid detective Melika Jones joins the ship's virgin voyage to investigate the strange accidents surrounding Titan's Sister.

Yet, instead of solving the mystery, Jones and Harwood are faced with a new nightmare once Titan's Sister is finally at sea, and they begin to wonder if she awaits the same fate as the Titanic.

Lastly, if you're interested in taking in the traveling, international museum exhibit, Titanic:The Artifact Exhibit, I have it on excellent authority that it's an incredibly moving, interactive experience you won't soon forget. I'm still plotting for a way to get to one. Anyone up for a road trip?


Pam said...

Oh wow, this is a little freaky--last week I pestered my hubby to get me a copy of Titanic (to watch after my dental surgery) because I had just been wanting to see it so badly!

I still get chills from it (blow the whistle, Rose!), enough to the point I couldn't see the traveling exhibit while it was here--too haunting for me. V.C. King's book sounds very intriguing, though--I'll have to come back for the interview!

Sandra Ferguson said...

Can't wait for the interview. I love this time period, but the movie simply didn't do it for me.

The interview sounds most intriguing.

Jen FitzGerald said...

Well, L.A., in the spirit of my recent road trips, I'd love to go.

The only dates I'm unavailable are July 19th & 20th - I'm celebrating my 15th wedding anniversary with a reservations needed dinner and night at the Renaissance Worthington.

If you want to try to go, let me know.


L.A. Mitchell said...

Pam-thanks so much for stopping by. Someday I'll wrestle out of Sandra why she dislikes the movie so much. I adored it. I hope you're on your feet and smiling again soon :)

Sandra-are you marble, girl? Now I have to know why the movie didn't do it for you.

Jen-Happy anniversary! Think my family would let me escape for the weekend? Hold on, let me ask...

Marilyn Brant said...

My husband went to see the Titanic exhibit when it was in Memphis (more than a decade ago, so I'm not sure if it's the same exhibit now) and really found it fascinating. I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

I avoided going to the Cameron movie for months after it first came out (the ship sank--how could this end well?), but I finally saw it and loved it. I was teaching third graders that year and the Titanic was one of our units--so we ended up making a wall-sized mural of the ship--a cutaway view that showed all the different levels, ballrooms, compartments, etc.--and it really gave me an appreciation for its incredible design. It was a beautiful ship.

Sherry Davis said...

Sounds fascinating. I, too, am completely drawn in by all things Titanic.
I'm sure she had an internal editor sitting on her shoulder the entire time with snarky comments about "another" Titanic story? Why?"
I applaud her for writing the book of her heart. It sounds like a great read.