“We’re all strangers connected by what we reveal, what we share, what we take away–our stories. I guess that’s what I love about books–they are thin strands of humanity that tether us to one another for a small bit of time, that make us feel less alone or even more comfortable with our aloneness, if need be.”
Sharing our Common Humanity
By Marjorie Deluca
I spent thirty years as a high school English teacher before I left the confines of the classroom and became a full-time writer. I still chuckle, however, when I think of the questions commonly listed in well-intentioned curriculum guides, that ultimately led to tortured and puzzled expressions on the faces of the seventeen year olds sitting in my classroom.
One of the most popular questions was, “What is the theme of this novel?”
Here’s how the discussion usually went:
STUDENT: What’s a theme, Mrs. DeLuca?
MRS.D: A theme is a thought or idea the author presents to the reader that may be deep, difficult to understand, or even moralistic (standard definition from most literary guides). It can be extracted while reading the work.
MRS. D: (throwing the literary guide aside)Well, it’s a message about life that the author wants to communicate to you, the reader.
MRS. D: Because it’s important to that writer. Important enough to want many people to know about it.
STUDENT: And how do you know that?
MRS D: Because I’m a writer and that’s what drives me to sit alone for hours on end in my office, in the hope that one day someone – maybe you – will find a connection with my theme, my message, my idea, my story. That you will share a place, a character, an image, an idea that was meaningful to me – that resonates with you and has an emotional impact on you. That links you in some way with me, the writer.
Each story we write is driven by a desire to share something unique with the reader. In my first novel, The Pitman’s Daughter, I wanted to transport the reader to an impoverished mining village in North-Eastern England during the 40’s and 50’s, where people fought to survive and ultimately escape to a better life. In my YA novel, The Forever Ones, I wanted to pose the chilling question, If we could genetically modify people to stay nineteen forever, who would control the technology? Big Corporation or Big Crime? In my novel, Unnatural, I wanted to explore the terrible injustices Victorian women suffered when eminent “mind doctors” claimed an indisputable link between reproductive problems and insanity.
In all cases I hoped the reader would uncover the important idea that inspired me to write the novel. That even though they didn’t live in that time or place, they could find something in the story that was relevant to their own life experience. In other words, a connection.
My experience with all those high school students showed me, however, that books resonate in different ways with different people. That’s the beauty of reading – of sharing the human experience. The writing process becomes even more rewarding when the conversation goes both ways. When the writer reads reviews or joins the book club discussion of his/her book, the connection becomes even stronger as both reader and writer share common perspectives, experiences and emotions, those “thin strands of humanity” that link us all.
Oh – and by the way – those tortured students really came to understand this idea when they wrote their own stories. They really had to think about what they were trying to communicate to their readers. It was the most scary but thrilling experience for them to share their stories with trusted peers in a secure workshop setting. That’s when they learned the most about each other and about what unites us as human beings. A lesson I hope they’ll never forget.
Marjorie DeLuca spent her childhood in the ancient cathedral city of Durham in North-Eastern England. She attended the University of London, became a teacher, and then immigrated to Canada where she lives with her husband and two children. There she also studied writing under her mentor, Pulitzer Prize winning author, Carol Shields. She’s written two historical novels: The Pitman’s Daughter (available on Amazon) and Unnatural (out for submission to publishers). She also loves writing for teens and her YA Dystopian novel, The Forever Ones, is available on Amazon, as well as her YA contemporary suspense novel, Busted Out.
About the Books
The Pitman’s Daughter
Rita Hawkins fought all her life to escape from Crag Street, the grimy street of colliery houses where gossip reigned, tuberculosis killed, and mining families slaved to make ends meet. There she met George, the last surviving son of a poor mining family forced against his wishes to start work as a miner. Her life becomes inextricably tied up with his but love eludes them, though events in their lives constantly throw them together. George the high-minded idealist gets caught up with the miner’s union, while cold, hard cash drives Rita, the pragmatist, towards independence and success in business. Their relationship is complicated by the tragic Maggie, abused mother of seven children and Ella, the childless street gossip with her nose in everyone’s business.
Years later, when Crag Street is torn down and rebuilt in a museum, Rita receives an invitation from George to attend the Grand Opening. The visit forces her to face painful memories about George, Maggie and Ella and to revisit the tragic incidents of the last days she spent on Crag Street.
A vivid tale of love and loss, joy and tragedy, The Pitman’s Daughter spans five decades and portrays the colorful tapestry of life in a Durham colliery village. Filled with unforgettable characters it is also a story of ambition and identity that shows no matter how hard we try, we can’t escape our past since it shapes us into the person we become.
The Forever Ones
Paige is nineteen and genetically altered to stay that age forever. She lives with other “Forevers” like her in the secret IdunaCo. compound, a place where age reversal and immortality has been perfected and the only rules are to live in the moment. Enjoy every minute to its fullest. Be what you want to be for a while and when you get sick of it – be something else.
It all seems perfect until Paige realizes her friends are disappearing. The official word is they’ve been kidnapped by criminals on the outside who want to use them as feeders. Feeders have a short and brutal life – kept in captivity and sucked dry of all their youth cells so the Crime Lords can stay young forever.
When Paige has a breakdown she’s rescued from the Psych Centre by her mysterious but attractive friend Junius who involves her in a daring escape from the compound. Their purpose is to infiltrate the IdunaCo organization and find out what’s really happening to the missing “Forevers”. Paige’s journey is complicated by charismatic musician, Chale, a Keener whose attraction to Paige is flattering but causes tension between her and Junius.
When Chale is slated to disappear Paige and Junius save him in the midst of their escape.
Once outside they learn more about their own special powers, reveal clues to their real identity but also realize the extent to which humans will go to achieve immortality. The mission becomes so dangerous Paige is forced to the limits of her endurance and has to make tough decisions about who she can trust – Junius or Chale.
On her morning run, seventeen year old Katie discovers a frozen body lying on the snowy forest trail. The story goes back three months to trace the events leading up to the tragedy. Who is the victim?
Is it Mike, the import car fanatic who worships his older brother, Frankie, a hotshot graduate who’s gone East and developed big spending habits fuelled by poker winnings?
Is it Jay – the budding musician whose father wants him to be an NHL player even though he hates hockey?
Is it Kim, the math whiz and talented artist whose mother recently died and left her alone with a cold and abusive father?
Is it Nick? Forced to be a parent to his two young sisters while his single mom goes off for days at a time and drowns herself in booze .
Gambling changes their lives until events spiral out of control and in the final showdown one of them will find love, one will be a hero, one will be the victim of a near-fatal accident and somebody will die on the snowy forest track.
Set in a Canadian prairie city, this story explores the complexity of family conflict and its impact on teens who are searching for love, acceptance and identity.
A special thank you to Marjorie DeLuca for sharing her experience as a eriter and teacher and sharing what she has learned about what brings us together readers and writers.
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