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****Catherine Kullmann’s The Murmer of Masks is #228 in the 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.
(Left: Thalia, Roman sculpture, 2nd century CE; in the Pio-Clementino Museum, Vatican City.)
This is a pivotal moment in the story. When I came to consider the underlying theme of the book as a whole, I realised it was masks—the different masks we all wear, both consciously and subconsciously, what they reveal about us, and what happens when we unmask—or are unmasked. (Right: Catherine Kullmann in October of 2013. Copyright by Catherine Kullmann)
What is the date you began writing this piece of fiction and the date when you completely finished the piece of fiction? I started it in August 2012 and finished it about February 2014. It was first published in July 2016 so the final tweaking would have been then. (Left: Catherine Kullmann's study. Credit and Copyright by Cathrine Kullmann)
Where did you do most of your writing for this fiction work? I wrote it in my study at home. My study was then upstairs, in a spacious room with a bay window looking onto the street. I had two desks, an antique regency one, and a more modern on for my PC. Bookcases containing my research library and period engravings vied for wall space. I have recently moved my study downstairs, but the set-up is very similar. (Right: Catherine Kulmann's desk. Credit and Copyright by Catherine Kullmann)
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 was generally at my desk from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. each day. I don’t listen to music while I write—it distracts me from the scene in my head. I write directly on my PC. I am very familiar with my chosen period of the extended regency (1800 to 1830) but frequently interrupt my writing to check something or do further research. I might have a glass of water as I write but generally will take a short break for tea or coffee as otherwise I take two sips and then let it get cold. (Left: Cathrine Kulmann's modern desk. Credit and Copyright by Catherine Kullmann)
Please include just one excerpt and include page numbers as
reference. This one excerpt can be as short or as long as you prefer. Chapter Two, pages 17 to 19
England, 1803 The Treaty of Amiens has collapsed and the United Kingdom is again at war with Napoleonic France. Nineteen-year-old Luke Fitzmaurice is determined to join the army but his mother is against it. She considers that an illness he suffered some years previously may have lingering effects. In the end, she agrees that if his doctor has no objections, she will withdraw hers. We meet Luke at the doctor’s surgery.
“I am sorry, sir but I remain convinced that prolonged exertion might put an undue strain on your heart. I cannot in good conscience recommend a military career.”
Luke felt ill. He had been so sure the doctor would support him. “And if I were to join a volunteer corps at home?” he suggested hopefully.
“Not even that. Be grateful you’re as well as you are, sir. There were times we despaired of your life and you will recall how long it took you to build up your strength.”
“I see,” Luke said dully.
Unable to face anyone, he did not turn for home but headed towards the hills, picking up the pace as soon as he was free of the village confines. For some time he was aware only of the rhythmical surge of the big gelding between his thighs, the answering movement of his own body, the wind in his face. Leaning forward, he urged the horse into a gallop. ‘Don’t think, don’t think’, pounded through his head in time with the hoof-beats and then, ‘Useless, useless’. The ground grew steeper and he slowed his mount, patting its neck. “You shouldn’t suffer for my failings,” he said apologetically.
He continued more slowly, letting the horse pick its
way up an uneven path to a rocky outcrop that looked out over the surrounding countryside. A rough shelter had been built from grey stone to protect any wanderer or shepherd caught in a storm. Luke dismounted and loosely looped the reins around the branch of a bent and twisted tree. A little spring burbled nearby and he went to scoop up the fresh water in his hands, first drinking and then splashing more onto his hot face. He took a deep breath, drawing in the sun-warmed air, scented with grass and gorse. A skylark rose overhead, singing its heart out. He looked up at the tiny bird, a black dot against the blue sky. He had felt like that, ready to soar and be free. What now? He shook his head. A rough-hewn plank had been balanced between two piles of stones and he went to sit on the make-shift bench. Ignoring the wild beauty of the surrounding scene, he hung his head, frowning at the clasped hands that dangled between his spread knees.
He felt—un-made— was the only way he could
describe it. To be told he was more or less an invalid, infirm, not even an old crock, but a young one! And yet he didn’t feel unwell—he could ride all day and stand a bout as well as the next man. He was tired at the end of a day in the saddle and if his heart beat faster and he was out of breath after swordplay, well that was usual, wasn’t it? Everyone got out of breath when they ran a race or engaged in sports. It was part of the fun, to push oneself to the limit. But his limit was to be less than that of other men? He had never noticed it.
What was he to do? He felt aimless, purposeless, worse than when he had finally been permitted to leave his sickroom three years previously. Months of intermittent fever combined with aching joints had left him a gawky, gangling youth with pudding rather than muscles who had grown several inches during his forced bed-rest. It was Mr Adams’ head groom, a former cavalry sergeant, who had stepped in then to help him. Observing the boy’s struggles to regain his strength and revive his riding skills, he had suggested that a little sword drill might be of benefit. Fired by dreams of a commission in a cavalry regiment and gratified by the prospect of not appearing a complete Johnny Raw when this should come to pass, Luke had put himself in the hands of his instructor who, on occasion, had gone so far as to pronounce his prowess ‘not bad’. But it had all been to no avail.
Tomorrow he must travel to Dorsetshire for his sister’s betrothal party. Was that to be his future, to go from one engagement to the next as a society fribble, for ever looking on while others acted? (Below Middle: The Italian version of THE MURMER OF MASKS. Credit and Copyright by Catherine Kullmann)
Why is this excerpt so emotional for you as a writer to write? And can you describe your own emotional experience of writing this specific excerpt? I am more of a pantser than a plotter, or to put it another way, I develop my plot as I write my first draft. I chose this excerpt because writing it was one of those wonderful times when I felt I was really in my character’s head. (Right: Catherine Kullmann in November 2014. Copyright by Catherine Kullmann)
Writing can at times be arduous, but every so often something clicks and you and your character take flight. I still remember when the word un-made came to me. It was as if Luke and I were one, sitting on that rough bench, trying to make sense of what was happening to him.
As you see, it comes at the beginning of the book and set down important markers that I later drew on to develop Luke as a character. These include his resentment at his infirmity, his mentor the drill sergeant, his love of swordplay and his despair at being condemned to a life as a society fribble, (Left: Catherine Kulmann in November of 2017. Copyright by Catherine Kullmann)
Twelve years later, when Napoleon escapes from Elba, Luke will move heaven and earth to join Wellington’s army in Brussels, leaving everything he loves behind him. Even though I had always sworn I would not write about the Battle of Waterloo, he left me no choice but to accompany him there. (Right: Napoleon leaving Elba. Credit, Josph Beaume)
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? Because I write directly onto my PC, I don’t keep track of changes as I write, so I cannot show you a marked-up rough draft. I edit as I go, and will usually have 4 or 5 drafts. Passages like this one generally come almost fully-formed and just require polishing. (Left: The Battle of Waterloo. Credit, William Sadler)
Catherine Kullmann was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, she moved to Germany where she lived for twenty-five years before returning to Ireland. She has worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector. Widowed, she has three adult sons and two grandchildren. (Right: Catherine Kulmann in August of 2019. Copyright by Catherine Kullmann)
Catherine has always been interested in the extended Regency period, a time when the foundations of our modern world were laid. She loves writing and is particularly interested in what happens after the first happy end—how life goes on for the protagonists and sometimes catches up with them. Her books are set against a background of the offstage, Napoleonic wars and consider in particular the situation of women trapped in a patriarchal society. She is the author of The Murmur of Masks, Perception & Illusion, A Suggestion of Scandal, The Duke’s Regret, The Potential for Love, and A Comfortable Alliance
Catherine also blogs about historical facts and trivia related to this era. You can find out more about her books and read her blog (My Scrap Album) at www.catherinekullmann.com Her Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/catherinekullmannauthor
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