Frying Pan Park, 1975: A Novel
Frying Pan Park, 1975 is a family saga that centers on the efforts of a son to find his father. Daniel, a young British boy, has never known his birth-father. His mother has emigrated to America and re-married leaving behind the secrets of the past. When Daniel accidentally uncovers part of the story his mother has been hiding, he is drawn into a search for his missing father that spans two continents. The story presents revolution through the lens of Republican politics, both American and Irish. In making a link between family values and national values, the work explores masculinity in the context of political power. Throughout the novel, father-son conflicts mirror the shifting power relations between conservative and liberal ideologies that drift across national borders as freely as liminal spaces.
My research in this book has led me to explore such far flung topics such as the history of the Royal Ulster Constublary in Ireland and the origins of the evangelical moment in American politics. One of the greatest challenges in writing and revising the book has been to present the complexities of the global, adult world through the non-omniscient point of view of a child. As a result, the plot often turns on points of knowing and not-knowing. This work continues to explore the role of history and historical material in fiction, a question which has absorbed my interest for a decade now.
A Room With Twelve Doors: A Novel
A Room With Twelve Doors is an historical novel set in New York and Warsaw in 1958/9. The story follows Janice Rausch, an aspiring pianist and recent conservatory graduate. Although Janice struggles to make headway in her career, her entanglement with an expatriate Polish conductor results in national exposure. Subsequently, Janice receives an offer to tour as part of a cultural exposition of American music in Eastern Europe. During the tour, Janice’s State Department chaperones involve her in a CIA-financed campaign to destabilize the communist government of Poland. This plot point becomes the central historical pre-occupation of the novel and the touchstone of my research.
Exploring the political and social contexts of the Cold War, both in the US and Eastern Europe, my research draws on the work of David Tompkins, Janine Wedel, Eleonora Bielawska-Batorowicz, Ryszard Rasinski, Frances Stonor Saunders, Anne Applebaum and Walter LaFeber. Because the story of the novel follows a female performer, I am also researching the role of women both as performers in the classical musical establishment of 1950’s America. While these conflicts set the stage for a dialogic exploration of gender roles and national ideals in post-war America, the structure of the novel, in its architectural representation of Western musical tonality (i.e. the 'twelve doors') offers a series of interlocking voices with which to investigate the multiple and simultaneous modes of perception in postmodern American political experience.
The nature of the novelist’s work is to be far flung. Success demands that the researcher be both determined and flexible enough to respond to the evolving needs of the story. The focus at any given point could quickly turn to include: piano competitions, composers, conductors, instruments, locations, music theory, forms, performers, piano technique, piano pedagogy, etc.; such that the challenge to balance productivity in fiction with efficiency in research becomes paramount.