I would like to take the time to thank Sarah for stopping by BLH today. Without further ado I turn this post over to Sarah.
Thank you to Book Lovers Hideaway for giving me the opportunity to contribute to this wonderful community.
JANE WAS HERE is a suspense story involving the idea of reincarnation. The main character, Jane, has a partial memory of another existence long ago, when she was born in a different town and grew up among different people. She comes to believe she was another Jane, who mysteriously disappeared in 1853. As she searches for answers, she finds herself in dangerous territory. The secrets of the past, if revealed, may destroy the present.
I was standing on a platform over a limpid blue ocean, a snake in each hand. The serpents twined and tightened around my wrists and bare arms. And I was not afraid.
This was striking because I was under hypnosis to be cured of my snake phobia. Holding snakes should have sent me into a screaming fit.
I never got cured in the end, but I did come away with my first glimpse of past lives. At age 25, I hadn’t thought much about reincarnation. It had nothing to do with me. And yet this image – wherein I was a priestess, someplace in the Mediterranean, in some ancient time, and handling snakes was a solemn ritual – this image was packed away in the drawer of memory, stored as fact. I knew well the mental drawer where I rummage for my creative ideas, the fiction keeper. But this flash of past was remembered as factual, and unlike fantasy, I was standing fully inside the picture, inhabiting it, body and soul.
When writing my (just published) novel Jane Was Here, I returned to this feeling. My title character Jane has a few snatches of memory that suggest she existed in a different time, long before she was born:
Fragments come to me and I don’t understand them. But they have a certainty – I know them to be true, as I know my name is Jane, and if they come not from my memory, then where?
Jane also senses that something terrible happened to her in this other time. She can’t adjust to living in the present unless she can find out what befell her in the past. And so my story begins: Jane’s search leads her to a small New England town. She doesn’t know that her arrival brings with her a host of new terrible events that will engulf the inhabitants. She doesn’t know that she is their Fate.
As for me, you could say I was passing from one incarnation to another when I made the step from screenwriter to novelist. It’s been more than 30 years since my last novel Dry Hustle was published in 1977 – a foul-mouthed erotic romp based on my true adventures with a couple of female con artists. In the meantime I’ve been toiling (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) in the film business. Turning to prose fiction was a step I
made with joy. What a relief to own my own work, and no committee of nervous execs and stars giving me notes, and I couldn’t be replaced by another writer!
I did bring my screenwriter’s sense of plot to the task – how to construct a mystery with enough twists and turns to keep them in their seats. Many readers tell me Jane Was Here was like a movie. They even offer casting suggestions!
Excerpt from Jane Was Here:
Brett steps back in surprise, turning to yank the chain on the overhead lamp; the light goes out. With the kitchen gone dark, he can see outside more clearly.
He surveys the patch of abandoned garden, the scalloped wire border, the single iron chair, the flagstones thrust up at angles by the roots of a lone sycamore.
The woman is gone.
Then: a soft rapping on the glass of the front door.
He walks to the entry, his heart thumping; flips on the porch light. Through the etcheddaisies on the frosted pane, a shadowy head waits. He could call out, “Who’s there?” but he knows who it is.
He opens the door.
The first thing he sees are her eyes: light gray and solemn, full of request. Long muddy-blond hair tangles about her thin face; clam-digger pants and an ill-fitting wrinkled blouse hang on her slim frame. She holds a pink nylon duffel. She’s maybe a few years younger than he, about five-six to his six-three. And she is pale, so pale, as if fed onmoonlight.
She speaks, her voice low and a little husky, as if she has just woken up. “I’m Jane.” She watches him hopefully.
“Hi. Are you looking for someone?” Warily, he scans the street for a possible accomplice.
“This is my house.” A simple statement, without accusation.
Brett shifts awkwardly. “Oh. Well, Father Petrelli’s away. I’m just renting. My lease is ’til mid-August.” Maybe she’s the owner’s daughter. No, impossible: he’s a Catholic priest. His niece?
But the girl is shaking her head. “I don’t know him. Nor anyone,truly.” An odd word, “truly.” For a young person, her manner of speaking is strangely prim. “Yet I am sure, this is where I was born, here in this very house.”
“Did you live here before he moved in?”
“I must have.” She gazes at the house facade. “It resembles exactly the picture in my mind. Sir, if you please, may I come in?”
Her presumption is irritating. “It’s after three a.m., do you mind? Come back in the daytime.” He starts to shut the door, but she clings to the knob, panic flaring in her eyes,her cry shocking the silence of the empty street: “Please—please! I have nowhere else to go!”
“Shh!” Worried about his son upstairs, he steps forward to warn her away, leaving the doorway open. She flits past him into the house.
By the time he recovers, she’s halfway down the hallway. Eagerly she assesses the walls and floor and fixtures, as if she’s considering buying the property.
“Hey! You can’t just barge in.” He helplessly follows her into the front parlor, where she is already setting her pink duffel on the sofa.
“Here is where I belong,” she declares, surveying the room. “I
confess I see nothing familiar. Except…” She is peering over the cheap plaid sofa at a peculiar wooden box wedged in the corner. “It’s possible I remember that.”
He folds his arms testily. “Okay, what is it?”
She turns wondering eyes to him. “I don’t know, sir.”
“The name is Brett. And it’s very late for games, so, sorry, but
you’ll have to leave.”
“But…I live here.”
“No, you don’t. Not anymore. I have a lease.”
“But I am so tired.” She sits on the sofa before he can protest. “I have walked a long way.”
His curiosity gets the better of him. “From where?”“That’s of no consequence. I won’t be going back there ever again.” Removing her shoes, she rubs her feet. The skin curls away from the pink sheen of a blister.
“Is there someone I can call who can pick you up? Don’t you have family?”
“Perhaps I did have, once.” She swings her feet up, tucking them under her. “I imagine we sat in this room after supper.” She nods to the bay window overlooking the street. “It’s an agreeable place to watch the people walk by.”
Brett has a sudden thought: she’s adopted, come in search of her real family. He gentles his tone: “Jane, are you looking for your birth parents?”
She makes a dismissive gesture. “You refer, I presume, to the two people who conceived me? I know where they are living, and want nothing to do with them. No.” She fixes her earnest gaze on Brett. “Truly, I am looking for myself.”
Brett sighs. He’s arguing with an amnesiac, a mental patient, someone having a breakdown, or a stoner. Whichever she is, short of carrying her bodily to the door and dumping her back into the night, there seems no way to get rid of her.
Curling up on her side, she settles her head on her pink duffel, her eyelids drooping.
He tries another tack. “Can I get you some water?”
“Yes, thank you,” she murmurs.
Brett retreats to the kitchen, crossing to the wall-mounted phone. His hand pauses on the receiver. If he calls the police, they will hold her in custody, contact her family or whatever home she walked away from. Maybe he would be returning her to some dire
situation, abuse: some peril that prompted her to flee.
He needs to know more before he decides her fate. Filling a glass with water, he returns to the parlor.
She has fallen asleep, knees drawn up, her shallow breath muffled in the folds of the duffel.
If he can remove the bag without waking her, there might be an ID inside. Setting down the glass, he kneels beside her.
“Jane,” he says in a normal voice, testing. She’s too deep in slumber to respond.
Up close, he can see the lavender halo of fatigue around her eyes, the delicate lashes shivering imperceptibly as she dreams, her lips slightly puckered, like an infant’s seeking milk. Gently he takes hold of the duffel’s strap, his other hand reaching to lift her head and slide the bag out.
Without warning her fingers uncurl, blindly seeking, and wrap around his wrist, dragging his hand to her cheek. Her eyes open, glimpsing him briefly through the clouded film of sleep.
Brett remains paralyzed, even after her lids droop closed again. His hand stays pressed to
the softness of her white cheek. Suddenly, unaccountably, he is drenched in tenderness.
Every cell’s invaded: he loves her as if he already has loved her, as if he started loving her long before he opened the door.
MANY DAYS FORWARD, he will wonder about this moment, when he questions once again why he let her stay on in the house. He will tell himself: it’s like that moment when you’re walking along and a little stray dog crosses your path. It was abandoned long ago, and years of dumb suffering have taught it that there is no rest anywhere, and yet it casts one sidelong look your way, a feeble spasm of hope.
The second your eyes lock, you know that from now on this animal belongs to you. Its need puts the flame to your love. And you stick your hand out, offering an end to its wretched wanderings.
Come. You are already thinking of what name to call it. My Jane.
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Now on to the giveaway, Sarah has generously offered a copy of Jane Was here to one winner, all you have to do is leave your email or some way for me to contact you and answer which you would prefer a hardcover copy or ebook?
The Giveaway will run from July 11th to July 25th and winner will be announced on July 26th!