December 5, 2012

Paul Alan Fahey on The View from 16 Podwale Street

Guest post by Paul Alan Fahey ...

Every Story Has a "What If?"

My novella, The View From 16 Podwale Street, started with an idea I had for a character. When I was an undergraduate in the 1960's, I had a brilliant sociology professor at San Francisco State who was also an albino. One day in class, he was lecturing on diversity. I don't recall the specifics since so much time has passed, but the themes were social injustice and the lengths we humans go to label those who are different as outsiders. Over two hundred of us sat in rapt silence and watched as this kind and gentle soul emotionally fell apart and had to excuse himself for the remainder of the class; to say this incident touched me and most of the class deeply would be an understatement. I wasn't a writer then and had no idea I'd become one, but this experience has stayed with me over the years. It took 45 years to finally write a story that spoke to this moment.

Before writing The View From 16 Podwale Street, I began with a two word question most writers ask themselves to develop character and plot: What if? And here's where the process led me:

  1. I knew at the outset, due to my interest in World War II, I wanted to write a suspense story set during the 1940's. What if I set my story in Europe during the early stages of the war?
  2. There had to be something important at stake. What if two women were living together as lovers in Warsaw just months before the German invasion of Poland? The coming invasion would add immediacy to the story while the women's secret relationship would up the stakes even more.
  3. Knowing how negatively the Nazis viewed diversity in terms of physicality, or anything else for that matter, what if one of the women happened to be an albino, who from childhood lived a life of seclusion -- a way of life conditioned by her parents and continued into adulthood by habit and a fear of the outside world?
These what if questions led to more questions that helped me flesh out the two main characters, Elwira and Raz, delineate the plot's event, and expand upon the theme of one's adherence to blind faith -- in Elwira's case, her unshakable belief in Pope Pius XII as Poland's savior when daily events pointed to an altogether different reality, the Pope's failure to act. Plenty of conflict? You bet.

Readers have posted several reviews of The View From 16 Podwale Street on Other reviews can be found at Novel Approach and Some Writers.

The View From 16 Podwale Street recently placed third in the 2012 Rainbow Awards Best Lesbian Historical category. And you can download it for FREE for today only at JMS Books!

If you enjoy the novella, and I hope you do, I think you will like my next story, a WWII thriller/gay romance called Bomber's Moon, to be published by JMS Books January 2013.

Paul Alan Fahey
Nipomo, California

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