I’m doing a series of fun insider posts on my novel THE DEVIL GAVE THEM BLACK WINGS which will be released March 17th, 2015. I’ll share why the setting is personal and unique to me; I’ll share about the main characters and their conflicts; my beliefs on Grief and Healing—which is essential to moving on with our lives after tragedy strikes us; I’ll share the inspirations for segments of the storyline; how racism isolates a small black family when their daughter is kidnapped; and we’ll hit the points of curses and blessings, how each can pivot into the realm of the other.
I hope you find this interesting, and I’m glad to give you a look inside my head and the inner mechanics of one of my latest novels.
Please feel free to share the posts. And if you have any questions you can ask me on my Goodreads Q & A here.
Inside “The Devil Gave Them Black Wings” Setting
In THE DEVIL GAVE THEM BLACK WINGS a cursed angel battling a paternal complex shadows an abducted child with a vengeful father who will do anything to get her back… He mourns the loss of innocence in the young neighbor girl who is determined to find the kidnapped child… And he seeks to offer peace to a despondent husband returning to his wife’s childhood home after her death on 9/11…
Through triumphs and setbacks, unlikely friends forge an unbreakable bond, and find a way to always remember the value of love and courage.
When I was in my early twenties I was reckless and impulsive. I was an alcoholic without a car, a violent young man with a large chip on his shoulder, and I had tired of where I grew up. I wanted adventure, a calling, a purpose for my life. I started reading the Bible, and believed that if I learned to rely on something outside of myself, I’d make better choices, maybe I’d be happier. Self-pity and anger were holding me back and I did my best to purge myself of their venom. I decided, somewhat out of the blue, that I wanted to be a pastor. I wanted to teach something good, values that I believed I needed to aspire to, and I wanted to learn by listening to others, maybe help them in some small way. So, without a car, with sixty-something dollars to my name after buying a bus ticket, I rode down to Cleveland, Tennessee with a small bag of clothing and a guitar.
I choose this place in Tennessee because it had Lee University, where I could go to their music school and study to be a preacher. I figured the influence of others with a devout seriousness would help me stay on track. But I was dirt poor when I got there, I didn’t know a soul, I was homeless, hungry, and frustrated. In a homeless shelter on the bad side of town there were all kinds of addicts. I could relate to them because, although I hadn’t had a drink in a year, I wanted one every single day.
It was a time of turning points, big changes. I did great for a while, got on my feet, made friends, stayed away from the bottle which pretty much represented a loaded pistol I used to stick in my mouth for the better part of every day.
Cleveland, Tennessee is a Bible belt. A dry county. That helped for a while. But then I visited a local music store and made friends with this guitar player (Don Wade) who was kind of a mentor to me. I went out and watched his band play. As much as I wanted to be good, I missed the seedy sides of life, and I liked the neighboring town Chattanooga for all the enticement it offered. I didn’t fit in with most of the Christians I’d met. They were all so naïve (or so it appeared) and I felt out of place, like a square peg among a bunch circles.
It was more natural to return to the type of things I knew. I walked everywhere (I love walking because it’s good exercise and gives me time to think). I went all over town, all the time, the good parts, the bad parts, just a wayfaring stranger in a strange land. I didn’t hunt trouble, but I didn’t shy from it either.
I gave up the idea of preaching. I didn’t feel worthy, didn’t feel as if I had anything to say, and to me Christian meant Christ-like, and I was far from that. But I watched everybody and listened, and there were a million small heartaches all around, and I found I could listen to a stranger and it seemed to help them because nobody else gave them the time of day.
In THE DEVIL GAVE THEM BLACK WINGS, my thirteen-year-old character Nina Kunis has this trait. She likes to give people a chance to open up. For her—pretty much still forming into who she will be when the story begins—life is full of mystery, darkened corners, and exquisite possibilities. But there is a danger in the connections we make, a risk we have to take if we want to truly connect with someone else, which Nina learns the hard way.
And then there is Jacob, who brings his wife Santana’s ashes back to her home town from New York. After she dies in the towers on 9/11, he carries an excessive amount of guilt because she had wanted to return home, to Cleveland, Tennessee, the week the Trade Towers were hit, but Jacob had refused her. He was a bit of a control freak then, and like most control freaks, he did not want to risk losing her to her childhood memories when the life he had built for himself in New York was exactly what he wanted. But his refusal to give her what she wanted, just a simple trip home, carried her down among the rubble at Ground Zero. To make matters worse for him, a young black girl goes missing, and a local policeman designates him as the prime suspect because Jacob appears homeless, and has spent three days in that park watching the children play before the girl was taken.
There is so much more I wish I could tell you, but I’ll save it for other posts about the inner workings of this novel. I’ll wrap it up for now with the whole point about what I learned while living there and why I felt it was the perfect setting for this story.
When I lived down there, one of the first places I lived was in a shitty motel room that cost about a hundred bucks a week. I went to this church I liked, and there was this constant bombardment of the wholesomeness and sincerity of the congregation in contrast to the shitty neighborhood, the fights and drug deals and crack whores, I had to return to. I could have just returned home, back to Michigan, but I was stubborn, and I think there was a part of me that liked how vastly different the two worlds were that I resided in.
The light and the dark meet in certain areas. There can be great love, tremendous hope, butted up against violence and despair. And that’s what THE DEVIL GAVE THEM BLACK WINGS is all about: great love and tremendous hope butted up against violence and despair. The novel is a slow burn and I hope that by the time you finish it you’ll know these characters better than you know your family.
Thanks for taking the time to read and share this. If you’d like to pre-order a copy of THE DEVIL GAVE THEM BLACK WINGS, you can do so here.
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