The changes brought by the Sixties extend far beyond the political. In fact, the political may be a reflection of the upheaval in the cultural and social fabric of the nation. It was as though pressure had built until the seams of conventional life burst: the unspoken became spoken—shouted through the streets. Long-buried issues of racial, sexual, and gender behavior became the primary focus of the media. Two of my novels, HOME FIRES and THE CAMERA’S EYE, were born of the cataclysm. They are stories of people dealing with the explosion of social change.
In HOME FIRES, Myra Benning, a professor’s wife and mother of two lovely children, lives an idyllic life on the shores of the Santa Barbara Channel, walking the open land above the sea, running their dog on the beach, watching the dolphins play, exploring the ever changing tide-pools—a fairytale existence that almost begs for an ogres When Myra discovers her husband’s affair with a graduate student, her mother-in-law implies that silent acceptance is an unspoken condition of faculty wives. But when her fourteen-year-old daughter’s screams waken her in the middle of the night, she must face far more sinister suspicions, and her family explodes, leaving a limping shadow of itself.
I spent fifteen years in this setting, while teaching at the adjacent University of California, Santa Barbara, and the very unreality of the location never completely faded. Setting again gave birth to the story. Though it is in no way autobiographical, my familiarity with the mores of academic life play their part, also.
In THE CAMERA’S EYE, professional photographer, Veronica Lorimer, wakens to the sound of a rock crashing through the front window of the Puget Sound island retreat she shares with retired prosecuting attorney, Charlotte McAllister. Soon, ugly signs painted on their garage door make clear they are being harassed as lesbians, though they are not. The police blame a local vagrant boy, but Veronica and Charlotte suspect the source may involve their own pasts and Veronica’s estranged family. As they get close to the truth, a sudden discovery pitches their search toward tragedy.
Setting again played a role in the creation of this story, for I have, for the last fifteen years, shared two different houses with a good friend on Puget Sound—another idyllic, though wetter, location. In one of those houses, harassment over a property issue gave us a good taste of the effect of such attacks, though there the similarity ends. I don’t know of two characters I’ve enjoyed more than Veronica and Charlotte, perhaps because they are most mature.
These are dark subjects born of past secrets, past taboos burst forth into public life. All of the protagonists emerge intact, though changed, to continue with hope beyond the pages of the book. I hope readers will relate the stories to the upheavals in their own lives and know they are not alone. That’s what stories are for.
NOTE:THE CAMERA’S EYE is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. HOME FIRES is out of print, but paperback copies are available from me for $10. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your address, and you’ll receive a PayPal invoice. When that is complete, I’ll mail your book.
Judy, your are very perceptive and creative. I is true that literature is s reflection of our time. You have taken your familiar surroundings and created realistic characters and good plot lines to convey the conflict in a society. Thank you for your great stories.
You’re welcome, Hema. Keep writing.