Greetings Readers. This week’s post is written by an engaging author and good friend, Chuck Latovich. Chuck recently published his novel, The Girl in the Boston Box, a ‘Mystery Times Two.’ Any lover of history, Boston, or thrillers will enjoy it. I asked Chuck to share with Awkward Pose readers his challenges in writing the book. Please enjoy his perspective on a middle-aged gay male author creating a young straight female protagonist.
THE GIRL IN THE BOSTON BOX is available on Amazon, IndieBound, Apple Books, and other channels.
When I start to write a novel, I have goals in mind, over and above the simple objective of getting to “The End.” With my mystery, The Girl in the Boston Box, I wanted to expand my technical repertoire and compose a third-person narrative. Eventually, I chose a structure for the book that was a combination of techniques. The novel’s subtitle is “A Mystery Times Two” because I have two storylines that compliment and enlarge one another (and eventually converge). One of my narratives is in the first person, with a main character not too different from me: a middle-aged man, gay, single. Easy to write, and a style I’ve employed before. The other narrative, told in third person, is that from the viewpoint of a young woman in her early twenties.
Those parts of the book were my biggest challenge since, obviously, I’m not a young woman, and the character was a major part of the book. To make her believable, I began with external details, like choosing a name popular for those in her generation, (“Caitlyn”), and identifying some of her cultural touchstones (Harry Potter). Concrete items, and all fine and good.
As for her inner life, I started by giving her a personality that will propel the plot (she’s a snoop, of sorts). Moreover, so I could be in her head with some kind of comfort, she has experiences akin to mine. Caitlyn walks where I have walked, lives where I have lived, uses with technology that I have used. She occasionally meets people with characteristics similar to people I know. Therefore, she feels what I have felt, and I hope that provides some verisimilitude.
As for deeper aspects of her psyche, I imbued Caitlyn with a few of my hang-ups and habits. For example, I projected my Catholic upbringing onto her. In one sequence, after her second sexual encounter in a week, she ponders questions about morality while she rides the subway. Could other passengers sense that had just had sex? Is sleeping with two different men over the course of the week irresponsible or immoral? I’ve had those thoughts. After a while, Caitlyn brushes them away, but the fact that she ponders them at all tells us about her earliest values and morals, and I hope deepens her.
These traits are the ones that I was aware of. I’ve wondered, however, if someday in the future, I will reread the book and, with some distance, realize that other quirks of mine were made part of her personality almost unconsciously. Writing a novel is a fascinating exercise in self-revelation and self-discovery; a story becomes a key to understanding a writer in ways that they may not recognize while they are in the process of creation. Of all the books I could have produced (in theory), The Girl in the Boston Box is the one that’s emerged. Sigmond Freud could have a field day interpreting it: my creative dream. What might Caitlyn reveal about me that I might not have realized as—occasionally inspired and typing so fast—I wrote her?
To protect a surprise in the book, I won’t share here the impact of one formative event in Caitlyn’s life (unveiled at the end of Part One), but I eventually grasped that it connected obliquely to something from my own past. With time and distance, it’s likely that I will identify other commonalities. It’s an interesting prospect for me, but although I can imagine an insight happening, it’s premature to speculate too much about what it might be. Maybe I will look at Caitlyn’s interest in hidden rooms and think, as I do now, “That’s a device.” All front and center. But maybe, instead, I will find something more revelatory, or symbolic, in her fascination.
I’ve concluded that using the third person for Caitlyn may be symptomatic of being just a little removed from her inner life, but in light of our differences (hers and mine), that seems appropriate. Third-person narration made me more comfortable in my pretense. And while I can already appreciate the technical lessons Caitlyn has taught me, it’s possible that in a few years, I will have the ability to dig deeper and appreciate what she teaches me about myself.