At GCC, ‘Tale’ author shares threads of debut novel

Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013 
By Ben Beagle, Special to The Daily News

Peter Troy, author of this year’s “A Tale for Three Counties” book selection, recalled an existential moment he had while editing the novel.

He was near the end of his historical epic, “May the Road Rise Up to Meet You,” his 401(k) which he had been living off while writing his debut novel was running dry, and his story was 245,000 words long (“The Grapes of Wrath,” he noted, was only 175,000 words).

“I could have thrown it all up. I had a jumbled mess of a book that was part of a jumbled trilogy,” Troy said during an afternoon talk at Genesee Community College, Batavia, the first of four planned talks and booksignings as part of this year’s Tale community reading project.

“That’s when I began to wonder what I had gotten into. I wondered if I should forget it,” he told the gathering of about 90 people.

Troy talked about the development of the book and its characters. He also read several excerpts, that featured Ethan, Micah and other characters.

“I could not put down this book. I absolutely loved it,” said Jane Caccamise of Akron, who said the characters drew her into the book.

“I liked the way he didn’t tell everything about them, how you had to make it up in your mind and use your imagination and experiences to get into the story,” Caccamise said.

Sharon Beattie of Batavia, who has been attended Tale programs for years, also “loved the characters and the way their stories all became intertwined.”

The author talked often about the challenges of both his characters and his own self doubts as a writer.

“Doubt can’t stop you. It’s gonna be there,” Troy said. “When I got past that, that’s when this became my own story.”

His existential moment would soon guide the characters in his novel, which features such subjects the Irish Famine, immigration, slavery and the American Civil War. Each of the four characters whose journeys are told in the novel faced daunting obstacles – whether the attitudes toward Irish immigrants that Ethan McOwen encountered, the role of women against which Marcella rebelled, or the lives led by slaves Mary and Micah.

So Troy pushed on, learning from the slave girl Mary who as she was being evacuated from Richmond as the Union Army approached, stepped off the train and managed to escape.

“For me, that’s when I knew I was going to see this through,” Troy said.

It’s also about that time that he recognized each of his four main characters had a distinct voice. He returned to his manuscript, deliberately editing the actions and dialogue of each character.

“Each character was so real,” he said. “I realized I should tell the story not only in their own mind, but their own voice.”

“I hesitate to admit it, but it was kind of like they spoke to me,” Troy said. “Originally, Ethan did not sign up for the Union Army, but he wouldn’t let his friends go do that alone. It was as if Ethan spoke to me, saying ‘Hey…’ ”

Troy’s schedule began Thursday morning with a reception at Genesee Community College for the GCC Tale Committee, winners of the college’s essay contest and invited guests.

Among the guests was Yvonne McAulley, a freshman psychology major at GCC who received second place in the essay contest. She read “May the Road Rise Up to Meet You” as part of her English class and then wrote about the character from the novel whom she would like to meet.

“I most identified with Ethan because he was really driven, and self-motivated,” she said. “I found inspiration, as a college student, in him.”

Troy, who is travelling with his mother, told of how his own family’s Irish heritage and family’s baseball history has shaped his pending trilogy.

“I stole the metaphor from my mom,” Troy said in reference the story that Mary recounts of Gertie’s “stitchin’ ” in which the back of the piece is a tangle of thread even as they come together in the front of the piece presents a beautiful picture.

Troy’s mother had embroidered “a very big lion’s head that turned out so well we hung it in a prominent place in the living room,” he explained. Though you never saw the back of the lion, the author’s mother would often relate a similar description as Mary.

“About a year into writing I said this is what I think the story is about,” Troy said.

Troy also offered a glimpse into the direction book two, to be called “The Plowshare Legacy,” and book three, which he plans to call “Frontsways” – the title he originally wanted to call his first book, until dissuaded by his publisher — will take.

“My life, my experience mirror the characters a little bit in the sense of the obstacles they face, whether real as these characters have or placed upon yourself as I did” when writing the novel, Troy said.

Troy is also scheduled to speak at 7 tonight at Richmond Memorial Library, 19 Ross St., Batavia.

He will also speak 7 p.m. Friday at Hoag Library, 134 South Main St., Albion, a new location for the Tale author programs; and 2 p.m. Saturday in the auditorium at Perry Elementary/Middle School, 50 Olin Ave., Perry, which will be hosted by Perry Public Library with assistance from other Wyoming County libraries.

Admission to all of the Tale programs is free. For details and directions, go to the Tale website,www.taleforthreecounties.org .

The Tale author programs traditionally feature a talk or reading of about 30 minutes, followed by a question-and-answer period and a book signing. The signings often allow people to have a brief conversation with the author.

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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