Voice is the quality in writing that lends authenticity to the experience of reading and compels a reader to trust that what he is doing is worthwhile. Like singers, a writer's voice gets stronger with training. Almost all writers have a sense of what their voice is; it's that combination of story setting and characterization that fits the author's range of authority, knowledge and expertise. Although voice can be confused with character, because usually an author speaks through his characters, either through dialogue or interior monologue, voice is more than just finding the intonation, accent and authentic mood to fit a specific character. It is about having the competency to range above and beyond the character's diction and mental frame of reference. After all, an author is the creator of a world, and that world has to be seamless and apparently boundless in all directions in the reader's imagination. The trick is a type of illusion, a leading of the reader's attention with smoke and mirrors elsewhere while the stage is being set.
As citizens of a liberal culture in which we are urged towards self-actualization, we are all supposed to find our true voice in our actual lives. What does that really mean, when someone is said to have found his or her voice? It is a proxy for achieving a place in the world. Most adults need to feel useful and accomplished. In Maslow's hierarchy of needs, acceptance and recognition come just below the apex of moral development. Acceptance and recognition from peers is usually reserved for people who have a voice, a say in what is being done and how it is being done. But as many people strive to have their voices heard, sometimes a cacophony results that leads nowhere. Look at Cliven Bundy in the news today as representative of a faction in adult America today that have lost their voice and never will find it again, seemingly.
In SAVIOR, I worked hard to get the voices of the characters right. I had the most fun with the villain, Samael Chagnon, whose voice is strong and compelling, and frightening in its lucidity. Al's voice is calm and sure and honest and therefore sometimes despairing. Ricky, Al's teenage boy, is hopeful, sometimes angry. For me, the greatest compliment so far in the reviews for Savior has come from a reviewer who had some difficulty with the book, but loved all the characters, even the minor ones, because they seemed alive and true. As a writer, that tells me I am on the right track.
A father and son stumble into the secret world of the Santos Muertos, a crime cartel bent on global domination. The son must find his father and keep the secret of the ancient Mayan code underlying the creation of matter in the universe from falling into the wrong hands.
A story of sacrifice and love.
A sample from Chapter One – The Hole:
The morning that Mary died, the television broadcast F5 tornado warnings in the mid-Atlantic, a man shot up a hospital in Fort Wayne, Dittohead Larry’s car dealership promised amazing deals in Kissimmee, and a crack opened in the sky that was getting bigger every day. Nobody noticed the crack, and nobody noticed that Mary and I had our two hands intertwined, as they had been for better or worse for seventeen years. Her face just held a remnant of the youthful girl I’d once known. The lines of intelligence around her eyes and the compassion that had burned brightly in them were fading before me.
She whispered something that I had to lean down to hear.
I pity you.
They were her final words. She was sure she was moving on, to a place beyond our comprehension and ability to touch. I have a hard time thinking about what I felt for her in the hospital. I wanted to turn off the television. There’s something so awful about a television in a hospital room. Now I would welcome the banality of it, the familiar numbing sensation and otherworldliness of it, especially the commercials. Yet, when I think about all the time I wasted watching television, I get angry with myself. We spend so much of our lives killing off any opportunity for wonder and grace; and then when it comes, we don’t recognize it until too late. But Mary, even in her dying, she was teaching me a lesson about how to live. I’m not sure about where she is–that place beyond our comprehension. Maybe it’s there for Mary. I can almost hear her voice. It’s the train that rips overhead like it would tear the roof off a house. I drop off the bunk and roll in a self-defense reflex. It disappears, leaving not even a Doppler, not even an echo of its passage.
I’m in a hole. I put my ear to the floor and can almost hear the ground water gurgling and working away at the stone. Blackness and the sound of the wind, not any real wind, are all I’ve got besides the resource of my senses. There’s almost nothing to feed on. Slowly the senses will atrophy and without them I will lose my mind. Not my soul. But a soul without a mind must be a tortured thing. Some would say they are the same, but I have proof of the contrary. His name is Samael Chagnon, and where he walks is a ruined place. Two, three steps and I come to the wall, the cold, wet, rough-plastered wall. Turn around 180 degrees and six steps back the other way. There is no sound, no light, no smell, nothing. But out of this nothing can come everything. Twice a day a vent opens in the wall. Somebody—I can hear the steps going away, the loud ringing of boot heels fading away as a corner is rounded—has slipped in a tray of cold rice and mush. The smell makes my head shake. Once in awhile there’s a piece of grisly chicken in it. It’s almost as good as sex. Then sometimes there are the beams of light shooting through the air over my head. It’s a grey light, not daylight, some kind of fluorescence, but it hits my eyes like the glory of God’s kingdom and lifts me to some other plane of existence. For a second it’s enough to keep me sane. It is a living hell. The devils that have imprisoned me here, the foot soldiers of Samael’s army, they call themselves Los Santos Muertos, expect me to roll over and forget who I am and die. But of course I have the resource, my memories to sustain me. I have to dole them out wisely though, because I don’t know how long I will be here. No, it’s a mistake to think that. That kind of thought lets in doubt, the pain of desiring light, touch, and mercy. The Dead Saints, Los Santos Muertos, make it a point not to feel any human emotions. They train themselves to seek out pain in themselves and force it on their prisoners. There is no mercy in this underground. No light. Only my sacred soul, but he will come to try and steal even that.
About Anthony Caplan:
Anthony Caplan is an independent writer, teacher and homesteader in northern New England. He has worked at various times as a shrimp fisherman, environmental activist, journalist, taxi-driver, builder, window-washer, and telemarketer, (the last for only a month, but one week he did win a four tape set of the greatest hits of George Jones for selling the most copies of Time-Life’s The Loggers.) Currently, Caplan is working on restoring a 150 year old farmstead where he and his family tend sheep and chickens, grow most of their own vegetables, and have started a small apple orchard from scratch His road novels, BIRDMAN and FRENCH POND ROAD, trace the meanderings of one Billy Kagan, a footloose soul striving after sanity and love in the last years of the last century. LATITUDES – A Story of Coming Home, released in the summer of 2012, is a young boy’s transformative journey overcoming dysfunction, dislocation and distance. His new book SAVIOR, a dystopian thriller, was published by Harvard Square Editions April 18, 2014.
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