Thursday, April 7, 2011

Undrawn - Conchie Fernández

Kyle Reed stands on the verge of his lifelong dream of artistic immortality when a call from his estranged older brother Stuart puts a halt to everything in his carefully constructed life.  Kyle faces the impossible decision to go back "home" and attempt to undo the many painful choices he made that severed his ties with his family and the woman he once loved. As he steps into the house he grew up in, Kyle revisits the lives he led. He walks through the elegant rooms where he learned to keep quiet to avoid his father's temper, and dealt with the debilitating disease that opened the doorway to his art. In his journey through his past, he assesses the perilous habits that distanced him from his family, the bitter enmities that still ravage his peace, and the surprising loyalty he finds in the people who surround him. Kyle juggles with the present and the past and he clings to sanity through his art, the passion that has become his true north. Between the sculptures and images that fill his spaces and canvases, lie the crucial aspects of his life that he's been avoiding for years: the icon he destroyed, the crime that still fills him with shame, and the forgiveness he never offered...or received.

Conchie Fernández was born in the Dominican Republic. She was an editor for "Touring", a tourism newspaper printed in English and Spanish, for several years. She later translated and edited the panels for the Altos de Chavón Museum of Archaeology and taught Creative Writing at Casa Chavón, an affiliate of the Altos de Chavón School of Design and the Parsons School of Design. She moved to the United States in 2006 and lives in Florida. "Undrawn" is her first published novel.
What will readers like about your book?
“Undrawn” is the universal story of someone who’s forced to look back and own up to his stumbles. 
It’s a journey into what made him the man he is in the present, and the choices he can still make to paint a different canvas for the rest of his life.  My book is about self-forgiveness, about the love that surrounds us and which we often fail to recognize.  Ultimately, it’s a story about the elaborate brushstrokes that make up family ties and intimate relationships.  These are stories and experiences that we can all relate to.

Why did you self-publish?
I tried to go through the Big 6 publishing houses and got tired of 10+ years of hopping around agents and houses and hoping to get my foot in the door.  I did a lot of research and realized that today we have technology and amazing resources that enable and empower us as authors. One still has to write a good book and promote it, but there are higher royalties and unprecedented freedom in self-publishing.   

What is your writing process?
Pre-writing work is almost as important to me as the writing itself.  I do a lot of meditation and introspection before I put the first word on paper.  My characters generally ‘appear’ in my mind. I first see what they look like, and who they are.  I take notes on where they live, what their backgrounds are, what their ages are.  They dictate the gist of what has happened to them, and I write an outline of their lifelines and stories.  Then I get to tell their stories in my own words. It’s almost like doing an interview; I’m the impartial narrator. 

How long does it take you to write your first draft?
9 months to a year, but then the real work kicks in: revision and editing!  Re-writing and self-editing can take me several read-throughs (usually 4-6) which can translate to 3-4 months.  Then I have my work edited professionally. I have a fantastic editor, and his work on “Undrawn” resulted in pretty minor reworks, so I only spent about 10 days on that.  In all, my books take me about 1.4 years to ‘finish’.

What inspired you to write this particular story?
I grew up surrounded by art and I’ve collected artwork for over 25 years.  In my dealings with artists both as a collector and a student of Liberal Arts, I couldn’t help but fall in awe and fascination with the intricacies of the lives and personalities of many painters and sculptors I met.  I felt I had to tell the story of an artist, of the layers of thought, concept and vision that fill the minds of artists, the impact of their lives on their art and viceversa.  Kyle became more complex as I wrote and revised the novel, during the span of over 10 years, and I feel very happy with the literary painting I drew. I can’t paint at all, so this is my small contribution to the arts.

 Kyle looked down the hall at the doors to his parents' room.  The double doors beckoned him and lured him to walk into that once-familiar room.  Would his father be lying there, dying, or was the guest room in the first floor fixed as his last bedroom?  Whatever the case, Kyle could not resist the temptation.  He advanced toward the room, his face stone, his entire being possessed by a numbing sense of obligation, as if he knew he was about to be sacrificed but could do nothing about it.  But he pressed on in spite of every internal protestation.  He felt like a cross between a native hypnotized by a conqueror’s shiny baubles and an insect trapped in a giant spider web.  

He paused before the doors, which were opened a crack, then stepped through the threshold and into his father’s lair.

The large bedroom was dark, silent.   Kyle had been right; the master bedroom was now an ad- hoc hospital room for his father, who lay raglike on the bed.   A nurse hovered over him, checking the monitors for vital signs, which were visibly bleak. 

The nurse turned her head in his direction when she heard the discreet creaking of the doors that closed behind him.  She smiled ruefully and took a step back from Brandon's side so Kyle could have a full view of his father’s wretched figure.

There’s something to be said about how people look when you haven’t seen them for a while—when all you see of them are pictures stuffed into photo albums or hidden somewhere in your mind.  He couldn’t get over the contrast between those pictures and the figure on the bed.  Brandon Reed was reduced to a painfully thin, balding old man.  His cheekbones poked through the reptilian skin on his face.  He was already a cadaver; death seemed to have settled into his body a long time before.  He wasn't even struggling to live anymore; Brandon looked like he had succumbed and was breathing only because his body still held onto that one last function.  Bone cancer had vandalized every part of his body; he was already the ghost of the man who at one remote time Kyle had called Father.

"Is he awake?"  Kyle whispered.  The nurse nodded.

“You'll have to come closer for him to see you."

Kyle stepped closer to Brandon's bed.  His heart was pounding and he admitted this was the moment he’d dreaded most -- the weak recognition in his father's nebulous brown eyes.  He dreaded not knowing how either one of them would react. Not knowing what anger, what disappointment and regret were still left there—in both of them, in any one of them. He was witnessing the mystery of what time and distance and bad blood leave between a father and a son who had never really been close, loving or compassionate to one another.



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