Welcome to my Second Acts Series!
Today, we have Linda Bennett Pennell talking about changing direction, taking risks and Al Capone.
Life can at times be frustrating, joyous, depressing, boring, even mysterious. It is not always clear in the moment why things happen as they do, but one thing is for certain, unless we make the best of what we’ve been given, life cannot be lived to the fullest. I think I always knew this, but it took a change in direction and taking a risk to grasp its true meaning.
I never intended to be a writer. In fact, as an elementary student, I despaired of even being competent in the language arts. It should be said that my early education left a great deal to be desired, but that is another story. It was not until my senior year of high school that I had a rewarding creative writing experience. Thank you, Miss Miller, wherever you are. Once in college, however, I put aside creative writing for the rigors of historical research and expository writing. Another degree and several certifications later and I have come full circle.
My other life is in public education as a reading specialist and secondary school administrator, but about five years ago after I “retired” to part time work, I decided to pick up my creative “pen” again. I can’t say exactly why or when the decision was made. That is one of those mysteries. All I can say is that I came to feel a burning desire to write and the experience has been a revelation and a joy.
It hasn’t been all easy sailing. Nothing in life worth having ever really comes without some pain. Sending out queries and the rejections that came with them were not particularly fun, but it was not as difficult as I thought it would be. With a debut novel that is being well received, I can now say that the process was definitely worth the risk. Most importantly, my venture in writing has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Writing has allowed me to tap into skills and talents I had all but buried for many years. I am a newer, better version of myself for the experience.
Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to herself or himself, “Let’s pretend.”
Lake City, Florida, June, 1930: Al Capone checks in for an unusually long stay at the Blanche Hotel, a nice enough joint for an insignificant little whistle stop. The following night, young Jack Blevins witnesses a body being dumped heralding the summer of violence to come. One-by-one, people controlling county vice activities swing from KKK ropes. No moonshine distributor, gaming operator, or brothel madam, black or white, is safe from the Klan’s self-righteous vigilantism. Jack’s older sister Meg, a waitress at the Blanche, and her fiancé, a sheriff’s deputy, discover reasons to believe the lynchings are cover for a much larger ambition than simply ridding the county of vice. Someone, possibly backed by Capone, has secret plans for filling the voids created by the killings. But as the body count grows and crosses burn, they come to realize this knowledge may get all of them killed.
Gainesville, Florida, August, 2011: Liz Reams, an up and coming young academic specializing in the history of American crime, impulsively moves across the continent to follow a man who convinces her of his devotion yet refuses to say the three simple words I love you. Despite entreaties of friends and family, she is attracted to edginess and a certain type of glamour in her men, both living and historical. Her personal life is an emotional roller coaster, but her career options suddenly blossom beyond all expectation, creating a very different type of stress. To deal with it all, Liz loses herself in her professional passion, original research into the life and times of her favorite bad boy, Al Capone. What she discovers about 1930’s summer of violence, and herself in the process, leaves her reeling at first and then changed forever.
Where to find Linda…
Thank you, Linda for sharing your journey. It is an inspiring one that will provide hope and encouragement to all writers and creatives. Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel is simply riveting and should be on everyone’s ‘To Read’ list.