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City in which you reside: Harpers Ferry, W.Va.
Day job: Retired advertising agency president
Book title: “The Stonehenge Scrolls”
Genre: Historical fiction
Synopsis of book: Ancient scrolls reveal the secrets of Stonehenge, and an archaeologist blogs about the scrolls’ meaning.
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing
Tell me about Neolithic stone tombs or monument circles and how they inspired you to write “The Stonehenge Scrolls.”
The first time I visited Stonehenge, I was awestruck. The stones are so huge and arranged in such a beautiful design, that I asked myself what everyone else who sees Stonehenge wonders: Who built it? How did they do it? And most importantly, why? What does it all mean?
The main idea for the plot of the novel came to me during that initial visit.
What do people need to know about stone circles in order to follow the action in your book?
Not a thing. The 11 scrolls in the novel tell you what you need to know, and between each scroll, a fictional modern-day archaeologist provides additional commentary and explanation.
Your book mentions two sites with stone monoliths — Newgrange and Stonehenge. What is the difference between them?
Both are World Heritage sites of ancient monuments from the Neolithic era (about 10,000 B.C. to 2000 B.C.). Newgrange, in Ireland, is the older site. Stonehenge, in England, is probably better known. In “The Stonehenge Scrolls,” the Monument Builders train at Newgrange before being sent to work at other locations like Stonehenge.
What was your process of writing like? How long did it take you to write?
On and off, it took me nine years to finish the manuscript. I threw away half of the first draft. I’d get discouraged and put it away for months while I honed my skills by writing short stories. But Stonehenge always called me back.
Once I finished the manuscript, it took about a year and a half to land an agent, almost another year for the agent to secure a publisher, and then another eight months to get the book edited, formatted and published.
It’s a pretty scholarly book, though it’s written as fiction. Where did you go to research the details?
The book is fiction, but I wanted it to be based on the known archaeology. So you won’t find any ancient astronauts or outer space aliens in my novel.
I did my homework. I read Archaeology magazine and books by experts like Aubrey Burl and Michael O’Kelly and attended lectures at the Smithsonian Institution and the National Geographic Society by Gerald Hawkins and Evan Hadingham. But I was most inspired by actually visiting Stonehenge and other Neolithic sites (built around 4000 B.C. to 2000 B.C.) in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. In our travels my husband and I met many people like us — not trained archaeologists, just folks fascinated with chasing stones. I hope “The Stonehenge Scrolls” appeals to them and also attracts new interest in Stonehenge.
Did you have ask family, friends or colleagues give you feedback on the book before publishing?
Novelist and writing teacher Leslie Pietrzyk and a few friends read the first draft and provided helpful critiques. As I revised the book, a writing group also offered suggestions. Another novelist/writing teacher, Priscilla Rodd, reviewed the close-to-final version. After the publisher accepted the book, I was assigned two terrific editors to help polish the manuscript before publication.
You tell the story from the point of view of a monument builder, his lover, her daughter and others. Why so many points of view?
I just wrote a blog posting about that: “When I began writing the book, I thought that if I could find a character’s voice, I would come to know him or her more deeply. So I wrote a draft in the first person from the viewpoint of each character. At one point, I considered revising the manuscript to a more traditional, third-person narrative, but in the end decided to let each character relate, in his or her own words, the events surrounding the building of Stonehenge. Of course, I then had to decide which character would get to tell which part of the story.”
What else did living in Ireland bring to your life besides knowledge of great-stones and stone circles?
My husband and I lived in Ireland the year I wrote the first draft of “The Stonehenge Scrolls.” It was a wonderful experience that changed me in many ways.
Did you have a message or theme you want to convey in the book?
I just wanted to tell a good story about compelling characters and give readers food for thought. If there’s a message in the book, it’s probably that people are psychologically much the same today as they were 4,000 years ago, when Stonehenge was built. People, then and now, devise ingenious solutions, plot and scheme, adore their children, fall in love and confront envy and opposing viewpoints.
Did you learn anything about yourself while writing this book?
I learned I was naïve to think I could write fiction well because I have a journalism degree from West Virginia University and because I’d spent my career writing hundreds of ads, press releases and presentations. Writing fiction is completely different. So I embarked on a course of self-study, joined writing groups and attended a few conferences and workshops. That’s why it took me nine years to finish this novel.
About five years ago, my short stories began to be published — on WashingtonPost.com and in Shepherd University’s “Anthology of Appalachian Writers,” among others — and I placed in the top 10 in the annual Writer’s Digest competition. After that, I went back to work on “The Stonehenge Scrolls.”
I also learned I was capable of taking a lot of rejection (from agents and publishers) without giving up.
What sort of response have you got from people who have read the published book?
The Stonehenge Scrolls is getting five-star customer reviews on Amazon, and people have told me they’ve enjoyed the story and also learned a lot reading it.
Are you working on another writing project? Your biography in “The Stonehenge Scrolls” said you have a memoir in the works. Anything else?
A second novel is completed, and it’s definitely not a sequel. “PMS: The Power & Money Sisters” is women’s fiction set in 1998 and written in a more traditional third-person narrative. I’ve begun submitting it.
“The Blow-Ins,” a memoir of living in Ireland for a year, is completed in draft form and I’m currently polishing it up.
For the past several years I’ve also been doing research for another historical novel, this one about California.
So far, I’ve written nine short stories set in Jefferson County, W.Va., and someday I may write another nine more and publish the collection.
Is your book available in bookstores in our area? Where? If not, how can a reader buy a copy of the book?
“The Stonehenge Scrolls” is available as an e-book only. There is no paper edition. (Great for readers who got a Kindle for Christmas.) It’s available for Kindle from Amazon.com and for all e-reader formats from MuseItUpPublishing.com.
Readers who don’t have an e-reader can download a free Kindle app from Amazon.com, buy my book and then read it on a computer. Or they can order directly from MuseItUp Publishing, which will email the manuscript directly.
For complete ordering information, see www.thestonehengescrolls.com
— By Chris Copley, Lifestyle assistant editor