Saturday, November 16, 2019

#99 Inside the Emotion of Fiction: "THE MOMENT OF TRUTH" by Damian McNicholl

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****Damian McNicholl’s The Moment of Truth is #99 in a never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific excerpt from a fiction genre and how that fiction writer wrote that specific excerpt.  All INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION links are at the end of this piece. 

Name of fiction work? And were there other names you considered that you would like to share with us? THE MOMENT OF TRUTH. For a time, I called it The Maverick Woman.
Has this been published? And it is totally fine if the answer is no. If yes, what publisher and what publication date? Yes. Pegasus. 2018 Trade paperback

What is the date you began writing this piece of fiction and the date when you completely finished the piece of fiction? I started at my mother’s house in Northern Ireland in May 2015 and completed it May 2016.  

Where did you do most of your writing for this fiction work? And please describe in detail. And can you please include a photo? I had a writer’s studio over the garage before the house sold. It was pretty, overlooked the woods where deer and foxes went by daily. My Mac sat on an old New York library desk from the fifties, which provided inspiration. I don’t have a photo and am busy setting up a studio in the house I live in now.

What were your writing habits while writing this work- did you drink something as you wrote, listen to music, write in pen and paper, directly on laptop; specific time of day? I worked nine to five from Monday through Friday on my Mac on the novel. In the evenings, after a day of writing, I would enjoy some wine. 
          First, I write an outline as I find that works best for me. But then, after I begin the novel, I allow the characters to grow beyond their confines set forth in the outline. I allow them to develop personalities, interests and biases because they must have flaws and do things I didn’t think about when writing the outline. They become real people to me during the writing of the story. But I’m always careful to reign them in if they start moving too far away from the arc of the story.   
What is the summary of this specific fiction work? It’s explores emerging feminism in the 1950s (Above) and examines the bigotry and discrimination a young Texas woman faces when she tries to do the same work as a man. In this case, she tries to become a bullfighter in Mexico. The story was inspired by the late Patricia McCormick (Below) who was America’s first female matador and much feted in the 1950s.

Can you give the reader just enough information for them to understand what is going on in the excerpt? The scene unfurls at an enormous hacienda in Mexico belonging to the wealthy breeder of bulls, Don Raul, and his family. Kathleen has been invited to a Tienta, which is a testing of the young bulls to see which will become brave fighters in the ring, and it is an honor to be invited to work with the animals. She has been feeling a little overwhelmed and unsure of her abilities because there are Hollywood stars, European royalty and enormously wealthy Mexicans in attendance. On the morning of the testing, she is in the breakfast room when her overbearing trainer Fermin enters. (Above Left:   Salvador Dali, Tienta en Espana) 

Why is this excerpt so emotional for you? And can you describe your own emotional experience of writing this specific excerpt? It’s emotional because the scene with her trainer (who demands she call him ‘Maestro’) strikes at the heart of the book. It depicts perfectly how Kathleen must deal with obstacles and prejudices from allies as well as enemies in order to succeed as a woman in the profession she’s chosen. And it depicts how damaging it is to her confidence and psyche, just as in real life if it happened.
It made me very sad as I wrote the scene because I thought about how women struggle to get equality today and we’re in the 21st Century.

Please include the excerpt and include page numbers as reference. The excerpt can be as short or as long as you prefer. Pages 197-198/     The large breakfast room smelled of warm tortillas and fresh coffee. A long table decked in fresh linen tablecloths ran down the middle of the room. As I took a seat beside a friendly general in the Mexican army and his wife, whom I’d met the night before, Maestro arrived. Julio and Silvario sat across from me, their plates as loaded as mine with warm tortas (mine stuffed with scrambled eggs and red salsa), spicy chorizos, and slices of baked ham. Maestro glanced at my plate as he passed by on the way to the row of silver chafing dishes on a wide sideboard at the head of the room.
“So much food,” he said. “There will be a lunch.”
“I’m hungry.”
“Serious matadors don’t eat so much before a testing,”
he said.
I looked pointedly at Julio’s and Silvario’s overstuffed plates. The general and his wife regarded their own laden plates, then mine, and exchanged baffled glances.
“Eat the torta and one slice of ham,” he said. “No chorizo. And as much coffee as you wish.”
“Look at ours, Fermin,” Julio said, and he glanced sidelong at Silvario. “We’re serious matadors and we’re eating well.” He smiled at me briefly, then looked back at Maestro. “Why do you tell her how much she can eat anyway?”
“You know as well as I do she’s testing the heifers soon. Her body isn’t the same as a man’s.” His lips upturned into a sneer. “Maybe you don’t know what a woman’s body is like?”
Julio sighed and rolled his eyes.
“That’s enough now, Fermin,” Silvario said.
“Silvario and I are testing before her,” Julio said then. “Let her eat.” “If you eat like that every day,” replied
Maestro, his gaze sliding to
Julio’s plate, “you’ll soon look like a picador and need to ride a horse into the ring.”
After Maestro left, Julio told me to eat everything on my plate if I was hungry. “He’s no doctor,” he said.
I didn’t eat anymore, though. Maestro was probably right. A woman’s body was not dense like a man’s. The food was heavy and would lie hard on my belly. 

     Were there any deletions from this excerpt that you can share with us? And can you please include a photo of your marked up rough drafts of this excerpt. No, there weren’t any deletions. (Right:  Damian in October of 2018)

Other works you have published? A SON CALLED GABRIEL. This was my debut novel. Pegasus decided to republish it last year. Interestingly, they allowed me to rewrite parts of the novel and give it an entirely different ending. That is very unusual. This was the version the New York Times reviewed.

Anything you would like to add? Thanks for the great interview.

Damian McNicholl is a former attorney and author. His critically acclaimed first novel, A Son Called Gabriel was an American Booksellers Association Book Sense Pick and finalist in the Lambda Literary Awards and ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards. His second novel is Twisted AgendasThe Moment of Truth is published by Pegasus Books and was chosen as Houston Chronicle’s 10 Books to Read. Damian has appeared on CBS, WYBE Public Television, National Public Radio and other media outlets in the United States and United Kingdom to discuss his work. He lives in Bucks County Pennsylvania and is at work on a new novel.  


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