Posted at 8:18 pm
ecently, I came across a file in my backup drive labeled ROSS. Somehow the folder had been miss-filed. I’d not thought about my first attempt to write a novel recently, and my original research was long gone. My in-depth research about the Russian settlement of Ft. Ross, California, for one of my post-secondary degree classes, had prompted me to rewrite my report as historical fiction.
I developed a protagonist and gave him a name, Rubik Ivanovich Karnov. I put the 14-year-old into Sitka, Alaska, in 1806 and gave him plausible association with real people of the time and place. Then the Rubik’s Cube came into the public eye and gave me pause about my character’s name. I changed his first name Pyoter but called the book Peter’s Diary: The Story of Ross.
I spent many hours keyboarding my idea on an Apple II with primitive word processing software. The file I found has 34,000+ words, but I remember it being closer to 70k. When I thought the manuscript was nearly finished, I queried a publisher and got an answer I can still paraphrase. “We’ve just accepted a manuscript in this genre and don’t believe we can work with another.” I realized Michener’s Alaska had been recently published (not by the publisher I’d queried). Reading Alaska made me realize someone might have thought I’d tried to paraphrase his work. I put the entire project, including the research, in the trash. Several years later I did transfer the first half of the manuscript from an old 5-1/4 floppy disk to a more current hard drive.
Reading what I had left of the story was fun, but not seeing the work for nearly 30 years was eye-opening. The change of voice sometimes from sentence to sentence and more often from paragraph to paragraph is a problem I’ve managed to impede but not totally cure.
It would be an interesting project to rebuild the story, but with only headers for the second half of the manuscript and none of the research available, the task would be too daunting at this time of my life.