‘Tale’ author begins whirlwind series of local talks

Posted: Friday, March 8, 2013 
By Ben Beagle Special to The Daily News |

BATAVIA — When Peter Troy began his novel, “May  the Road Rise Up to Meet You,” he just wanted to tell a story.

“I had something to say, and I was content to say that if I’m going to do this and if I finish it I will run off 12 copies at Kinko’s and hand them out to friends and family. That was good enough for me,” Troy said during his Thursday night talk at Richmond Memorial Library, 19 Ross St.

Troy — and about 125 people who attended the second talk and booksigning for this year’s “A Tale for Three Counties” community reading program — got more than they expected.

The author, after months of editing and securing an agent in a surprisingly quick nine days, ended up with an epic of a historical novel that tells the stirring, often gripping, story of four distinct characters on a journey in mid-19th century America. He also found a trilogy – he’s working on book two – that will eventually span 160 years of American history.

“I was almost two years in with 700 single-spaced pages and still with a lot of story to go,” said Troy, who spoke in the afternoon to about 90 people at Genesee Community College, 1 College Rd.

And readers – who gave Troy a standing ovation (believed to be the first time that’s happened in 11 years of Tale author programs at the Batavia library) at the conclusion of the evening — got an entertaining look at Troy’s writing process as he related the challenges, discoveries and periods of doubt that he had to overcome to complete the story of Irish immigrant Ethan McOwen, Marcella and the slaves Mary and Micah.

“He was a great speaker, very engaging. When it was over I had no idea more than an hour had passed,” said Ryan Neal of Batavia, who has participated in the Tale program the past two years.

Sue Schwartz of Buffalo said she “enjoyed thoroughly” Troy’s talk and told the author later how touching she found his book’s dedication to his parents. His father died before the novel was published; his mother, Carol, is accompanying him on the trip.

“That dedication could have been written about my parents,” said Schwartz, who had been at Richmond earlier this year to do genealogical research when she saw a display for the Tale program and took an interest in the book.

Tale organizers looked at 44 books last year before settling on “May the Road Rise Up to Meet You.” The novel covers such subjects as the Irish Famine, immigration, slavery and the American Civil War. There was some concern, however, with the book’s length, said Leslie DeLooze, the reference and community services librarian at Richmond, who leads the Tale program.

“And then one committee member strongly encouraged us to challenge readers to take on a longer book,” DeLooze said, noting the many positive attributes from setting to timely historical topics in Troy’s novel.

Neal, who typically reads Stephen King’s often lengthy books, was not intimated by the 494 pages of “May the Road Rise Up to Meet You,” which is the longest of the Tale titles. “It didn’t feel particularly long,” he said.

Audrey Nagel of Clarence also found Troy’s novel to read quickly.

“I read it in a week. I couldn’t put it down,” Nagel said. “It was a great story that held my interest the whole time. I hated to see it end, so I’m thrilled to see that he’s writing a trilogy.”

Jane Caccamise of Akron “absolutely loved” the book, whose characters drew her into the overall story.

“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,” said Caccamise, who attended the afternoon program at GCC.

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

The Tale program is Troy’s first widespread participation in a community reading project. At booksignings, he’d typically read excerpts featuring Ethan, whose escape from the Great Famine in Ireland to the United States opens the book and carries much of the novel. In Thursday’s programs, he read many more selections and included the four main characters, as he often used their stories to illustrate his own journey as his own. He also explained how he came to follow strict rules of grammar to distinguish each character through their speech and behavior patterns.

“Each character was so real. I hesitate to admit it, but it was kind of like they spoke to me,” he said. “I realized I should tell the story not only in their own mind, but their own voice.”

Troy also explained how the characters’ overcoming their own obstacles helped him get overcome his own self doubts as a writer.

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

Frances Hoffman of Clarence Center said she was intrigued by the struggles Troy went through in turning his story – which once numbered in the neighborhood of 245,000 words – into a more manageable, and publishable work.

“I know that authors, like artists, have their own processes,” Hoffman said. “I think the way he identified with his characters came at a great point for him.”

Troy’s schedule began Thursday morning with a reception for about 20 people at GCC for the college’s Tale Committee, winners of the college’s essay contest and invited guests.

Yvonne McAulley, a freshman psychology major, was the second-place winner in the college 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 me.

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

At both programs, Troy offered a peak at what’s to come in the trilogy. He hopes to finish the second novel, to be called “The Plowshare Legacy” and covering the years 1898 to 1948, this summer. Expect Micah and Mary to have prominent roles. The third book will take the story into the contemporary era, including Sept. 11, 2001. He plans to call book three “Frontsways,” the title he originally wanted for “May the Road Rise Up to Meet You,” until dissuaded by his publisher.

Expect subsequent books to take inspiration from his own family history, especially his family’s baseball stories which include an encounter with Jackie Robinson.

Troy will attend a lunch Friday afternoon with six winners of a book review contest sponsored by The Daily News.

Two more talks and booksignings are scheduled. On Friday, he speaks at 7 p.m. in Hoag Library, 134 South Main St., Albion, a new location for the Tale programs in Orleans County. The program concludes with Troy’s 2 p.m. Saturday appearance in the auditorium at Perry Elementary/Middle School, 50 Olin Ave., Perry, a gathering hosted by Perry Public Library with assistance from other Wyoming County libraries.

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