Historical Fiction Book Proposal

October 24, 2018 |  Tagged | Comments Off on Historical Fiction Book Proposal

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Subject: Historical fiction surrounding the creation of Jap Herron, a book transcribed through a Ouija board by two women claiming the author to be the deceased Mark Twain and published in 1917.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Important information to understand proposed story:

  • 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0
  • The two main women involved were Lola V. Hays, a medium, and Emily G. Hutchings, a spiritualist and writer.
  • Both women lived in St. Louis, Missouri but Emily Hutchings was apparently born in Hannibal, MO which is where Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) was raised.
  • There is evidence of communication between Clemens and Hutchings during his life. Two letters are held at the UC Berkeley Mark Twain Project although the text is not available online.
  • The city of St Louis, MO has a long history of spiritualism practice and is still home to one of the last remaining Spiritualist churches.
  • Emily G. Hutchings was once a friend to Pearl Curran, who also claimed to have transcribed works from the other side. These were attributed to and published under the name Patience Worth.
  • At the time of Jap Herron’s publication, it was written in newspapers that Hutchings and Curran were no longer friends, although no details were given as to the cause of them drifting apart. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch; July 30, 1916)

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Overall Structure:

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 The story will center on the creation of Jap Herron:  from the women meeting and deciding to undergo the endeavor together through to post-publication and it being pulled from shelves and destroyed.  There will be flashback sequences where the reader will discover that letters were exchanged between Clemens and Hutchings, her friendship with Pearl Curran, and her previous attempts at writing.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Outline:

  • 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0
  • Lola Hays and Emily Hutchings meet at a séance at the Hays residence. After the séance, Hays approaches Hutchings and tells her that she has been waiting for her to complete this task.
  • The women begin their communication through the Ouija board, and details are shared about how tedious the process is becoming and how they modify their board to ease communication. Lola Hays does the communication and Hutchings completes the transcription to paper.
  • Flashback 1- Hutchings growing up in the shadow of the great Mark Twain, it is revealed she hails from the same small town and aspires to become a writer.
  • Flashback 2- Hutchings attempts to write but finds no success so she reaches out to Samuel Clemens to seek advice and wisdom. His responses are not encouraging.  This may need to be more than one flashback scene- perhaps one for the original letter and one for his response.
    • 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0
    • If permission is given by the Mark Twain Project and/or the Mark Twain estate, the text of the letters should be an exact transcription.
  • Flashback 3- Friendship between Curran and Hutchings and their first experience with a Ouija board together.
  • Flashback 4- Curran begins to write from her communications through the Ouija board. An idea begins to form with Hutchings.
  • The women finish their transcription, the entire process took an entire calendar year. They seek publication and receive it.  The reviews are not all favorable.
  • The Estate of Samuel Clemens sues the two women and demand the publisher remove all copies from print.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 Some major considerations:

  • 10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0
  • What was the purpose in Hays and Hutchings doing this? Was it true communication? Or did one or both have an ulterior motive?
  • There is little information available online about these women, aside from their publications. Some research at the local historical societies of the Missouri towns may reveal more information but a large amount of onsite research may be needed.
  • There are a number of places for flashback and exposition to fill out the story of these three women, including Curran. The story would take place almost exclusively in St. Louis and details of the city and life within can fill in some of the gaps from the lives of the main characters.
  • There may be a bigger story to tell of why Emily Hutchings and her husband were once both associated with the Patience Worth material. They were both writers (for the Globe-Democrat) and perhaps he had a bigger hand in this production than what was publicized.

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12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 There could be a real market for this material because it crosses a lot of genres with historical fiction, primarily the supernatural and mystery.  Since the true motivations of the parties involved can never be known (unless a letter or diary is discovered in the research- which is unlikely) it will also be up to the readers to make their own decision about what was real and the reasons behind their decisions.  A large portion of grounding the story will involve depicting a true early 20th century St. Louis, Missouri.  In order to accomplish this, the research process would need to involve some time onsite in the city, engrossed in their historical archives, and getting a sense of place through old maps and photographs.  The historic districts of the city are spread out in unconnected zones, so exploring these may take a while but could add to the material retrieved from the archives.  If possible, locating the residences of Hays, Hutchings, and Curran and exploring those (either in person or through original planning records) would be really valuable considering a large portion of the settings will be these houses.  The largest hindrance to producing a finished product would be the time possibly needed in St. Louis.  Once local resources and online research requests have been exhausted, an extended trip there would be inevitable.  However, proper planning and advance retrieval requests would make the time in the city as efficient as possible.  The overall scope of the project is feasible but there is always the chance that insufficient information is uncovered after digging through the archives.  In this case, a much greater amount of the story would have to be fictionalized, which would be unfortunate but not impossible.

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