Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Holly Connors is talking with Brit Lunden, the author of The Knowing: A Bulwark Anthology (Book 1).
FQ: As I mentioned in my review, I was a bit surprised (in a good way!) that you didn’t center this first book in the “Bulwark Anthology” on the main character from Bulwark, Clay Finnes, but rather someone who played a minor role in that book. What made you decide to go in that direction?
LUNDEN: I didn't know who was going to be the main character when the other authors approached me and asked if we could turn Bulwark into an anthology. I simply opened the book, and it happened to be the chapter with JB. I wrote the first sentence, and JB took over the story. Originally it was going to be a haunting, but JB had other plans. While I loved Clay and his wife, I felt Bulwark has many tales to tell, and even minor characters have interesting backstories.
FQ: Every chapter in The Knowing uses a football term as its name – I assume in honor of JB and his love of football. Plus, each term perfectly described something in that chapter (in “Blitz” there’s a big fight, etc.). Was this something you planned to do from the onset, or did the idea come to you as you were writing?
LUNDEN: I have to share that I've never watched a football game. I've never played football, but JB had to be football crazy. I knew most small towns love their team and felt it would play an important part in his life. My brother told me about the famous football coach, Bear Bryant and I had a lot of fun looking him up and trying to imagine what he might say. That scene between JB's father and the coach was so vivid in my mind. In fact, a friend of mine from Georgia couldn't believe how natural that chapter sounded. When I finished the book, I googled football terms and then matched them to each chapter.
I never plan anything when I write. I let the plot evolve naturally and I like not knowing where it is going to go.
FQ: JB can’t shake the feeling that he somehow knew Ellie, that there was some connection. His grandmother had said “It’s the Knowing. It’s that feeling when you gonna meet your someone special…” I suspect many of us have experienced this, but I’ve never heard the term “Knowing.” Is it something your family called the sensation or was the term made up by you? And do you think this feeling is spiritual, mystical, or?
LUNDEN: I made the term up. I don't remember if I named the story or it was born from that scene with JB's grandmother. I think I was calling it JB's Story for a while and switched to The Knowing somewhere in the middle of writing it.
I truly believe we come here to live our lives with the people we need to be with. I also think we come back many times. How often have you felt as if you have been to a place before, or had that instinct that the person you met is not a stranger? It has happened to me all my life. I am a believer, and it brings me comfort to know it doesn't just end here. There's more to everything.
I've also had past life regressions and I knew the minute I met my husband 48 years ago, that not only did I know he was meant for me, deep in my gut, I knew we had been together before. I have been to mediums and many have confirmed those feelings.
FQ: JB has a rather depressing home life but at least he can share football with his father. The game certainly plays an important role in many families, and indeed, would do so for JB. Without football, what do you think would have happened to a young man like JB with few options in a small Southern town?
LUNDEN: He would have been a peanut farmer, like every other male in his family. College was out of the question. His parents allowed him to play in high school as long as his chores were being done. When Bear Bryant recruits JB and promises a full scholarship, his parents are dead-set against him furthering his education. As far as they are concerned, he has no future in that direction. Remember in the sixties, very few players were getting those big paydays. The Straton's absolutely had nothing extra to support his dreams.
FQ: Scent plays a big role in The Knowing, Lilies of the Valley being a significant aroma. Indeed, scent brings back so many specific memories to many people. Do you think it’s hard-wired into the human brain?
LUNDEN: I do. Scents trigger all kinds of memories for me. When I write, I try to include all the senses because it's it how we perceive our world, even when we are not aware of it. Smell french toast and what memories does it bring back? How about that odor of blacktop after rain? Even the smell of a book brings back my tween years and junior high for me- hanging out in the library. Scents take us back to comforting times or incidents that brought us stress- the astringent smell of alcohol before a needle, or the stifling, heavy fragrance of flowers at a wake. Scents trigger something primeval in us. It's built into our DNA.
FQ: Without giving too much away, the events after JB’s fight with Ellie’s brother, that take the reader to the Civil War, had me at first perplexed, and then, mesmerized. How did you come up with that?
LUNDEN: When I realized it was going to be a book about past lives, I knew with Georgia as a background it would have to be the Civil War. I've made the drive from New York to Florida many times in my life and I always travel back in my imagination to that time period. I think about the soldiers slogging away in muddy terrain, the awful hand-to hand combat. The close proximity of fighting to homesteads, the horrors of invading armies, deserters and just the casualties of families caught in the 'cross-fire' of fighting, whether young sons were leaving home or the war was brought to the front door. War is a terrible thing, and the wounded are not just on the battlefield. How many lives are interrupted, family matters left unsettled?
FQ: The idea of soul-mates plays a central part in your story. Do you believe that everybody has a soul-mate?
LUNDEN: Yes. I believe we have many soul-mates. I have had many soul-mates in my life, and they don't have to be romantic ones. There are people that I have felt connected to, rooted in such a way they are as much a part of my make-up as my skin, or my hands.
FQ: In your author’s note, you thank numerous people for helping build “…the Bulwark Universe.” What is the process you go through, with your friends, to build the world in and around Bulwark?
LUNDEN: Writing is a very insular activity for me. While I do write in the office I share with my brother, he is basically the only person I talk to when I work. He knows what I am thinking and where my brain needs to go. We are very close. His imagination is very different from mine, but I do bounce certain things off him. He does not believe mediums, past lives, or many of the things I do, so it's good to have someone so very opposite listening when I relate an idea. He is legally blind, so when I finish a book, I usually read it to him and he will offer up suggestions.
I thanked the people who enable me to do this. My kids who encourage, and push me to fulfill my dreams. My fellow indies, whose unwavering support and encouragement find ways to help promote and market. I don't know if I would have written an anthology for Bulwark, if not for RL Jackson who asked if we could do it. Then all those wonderful authors agreed to take my world and expand it. It was a great moment of pride for me. The town I created, the characters I lovingly nurtured were considered important enough that others were willing to invest their time and efforts to make it bigger. I am both humbled and honored. Lastly, I am forever indebted to my husband, who encouraged me to reach for the stars and never be afraid to jump.
FQ: Have you started the next novella in the Bulwark Anthology series? If so, would you give our readers a peek into what to expect next?
LUNDEN: Dayna Dalton has something to say, and I think I have no choice but to accommodate her.
Here is a very rough draft-
The crisp, clear sunlight was not her friend. Dayna Dalton winced at the bright light that squeezed in through the slats on the venetian blind. She reached over giving the cord a hard tug, sending the tiny bathroom into near darkness. Behind her, the shower head dripped with a steady plop that reminded her of the expose she did on water torture in Guantanamo Bay, that never got published. It was deemed too harsh to print. The Bulwark Advance preferred her to write… fluffy pieces. She sneered thinking of the crap on her computer, the half-written article about the elusive Easter Bunny that was waiting for a final edit. She hung her head in shame, thinking what her sorority sisters from Georgetown would feel if they knew where Dangerous Dayna Dalton ended up. There'd be hell to pay in the form of eternal humiliation.
She twisted the faucet, her freckled knuckle turning bone white from the effort. It was no use, the leak continued relentlessly driving a hole in her throbbing head. Oh, that last round of shots was totally not necessary.
No matter how hard she wrenched the faucet, the dribble continued. She should ask her guest to fix it before he left, he was a plumber after all.
Skip Benson’s bear-like yawn turned into a growl from the bedroom. “Dayna,” he whined.
Dayna rolled her kohl-smeared eyes in the mirror.
“Dayna, come on back to bed.”
Dayna took a steadying breath, both hands gripping the sink. What was she thinking last night?
Skip Benson? How low could she go? A shudder ran through her thin frame. That left only Trout Parker and she could now report she had officially and irrevocably scraped the bottom of the barrel of Bulwark, Georgia.
Look for The Devil and Dayna Dalton coming this June 2019.