A Follow-Up To Souls Triumphant?

Writing is a funny thing.

Sometimes a story demands to be written, and when this happens, it is both exciting and terrifying.

A very long time ago, I wrote a book called Souls Triumphant.  It spent some time in limbo before I finally published it, and when people read it, I invariable heard, “Will there be a sequel?”  Stupidly, I would immediately answer, “No, this is a one and done deal.”

I say this was a stupid response for three reasons.

The first reason is that a writer should never do anything to quell a reader’s excitement.  If people wanted a sequel to Souls Triumphant, I should have at least kept an open mind to it.  Instead, I blatantly stated that there would be no sequel, and in doing so, I effectively lost a future reader for a potential book.

The second reason I say this was stupid is because who the heck was I to say I would never write a follow-up to Souls Triumphant?  As I get older, I realize that there are different phases of “me.”  The twenty-four year old me was one distinctive person.  The thirty-four year old me is someone else altogether.  Both “me,” and yet not.

The third reason is that stories are sometimes out of the writer’s control, and writers would do well to accept that inarguable fact.  As clearly established, I never considered writing a sequel to Souls Triumphant.  But then, about a year ago, an aspect of the story crept into my mind and provoked my imagination.  Every once in a while that little detail would flash through my head, and I would always give it weight.  And then tonight – tonight! – an entire story unfolded as I did the dishes.

I kid you not.

The plot, the characters, the theme – all of it.  It just happened.  I wasn’t trying to make it happen.  I really hadn’t even been thinking about it too hard (on a conscious level).  It just popped in there.  And now that it’s fully there, it has to get out.

Will I actually write it?  Yeah, I probably will.  You see, I care about my characters from Souls Triumphant.  I almost consider them family.  And when it dawned on me that one of them in particular got treated in a way my thirty-four year old self just can’t handle … Well, I guess the story demanded something be done.

Is it a sequel?  No, I don’ t think so.  What I have in my mind is more of a follow-up.  Ten years have passed since I wrote the story, and I want Joe and Alessandra to have aged ten years as well.  I want the world to have moved on, too.  Those ten years, in fact, are essential to the plot I have in mind.  We’ve all matured in the last ten years, and this story will reflect those changes in tone, values, and senses of responsibility.

Times like tonight make a believer out of me.  The imagination and the capacity for love are indeed our most beautiful gifts, and make no mistake about it – love is the driving force behind this story’s emergence.

 

Free Samples Of My Fiction

I’m excited to announce that free samples of my work are now available at my website.  Among them you’ll find stories delving into horror, religion, family dynamics, love, humor, and empowerment.  If you like them, I hope you’ll consider checking out my two short story collections and novel.

Just click on the link to find them:

https://scottwilliamfoley.com/sample-stories/

Thanks To Illinois Central College Library

My appearance at Illinois Central College yesterday went very well.  As you know, they invited me to speak and hold a book signing in honor of National Library Week.  The turnout was better than I expected, and it was one of the best question-and-answer sessions for which I’ve ever participated.  We ran the whole gamut from publishing trends to my thoughts on Print-On-Demand technology to what sort of books I like to read.

The audience’s general amiability and politeness, as well as thoughtful questions and comments, really made it a joy for me and more than worth my time.  I wouldn’t hesitate to return to ICC if invited.

I want to thank Heidi Rhea for inviting me to ICC, Cate Parish for giving her my name, the rest of the ICC Library staff for organizing a splendid event, and those generous folks who showed up and were fantastic participants.

Moments such as yesterday fill a writer’s heart with delight.

Visit Me At Illinois Central College On April 15th

Illinois Central College was kind enough to invite me to speak during National Library Week.  I’m honored to be among their special guests and hope you can attend.

Here’s their official write-up found at:

http://icc.edu/facultyStaff/eNews_story.asp?id=1757

“The ICC Library presents…
Scott Foley — A personal discussion and book signing
Wednesday, April 15
10 – 11 am
Room L307, East Peoria Campus Library

Scott Foley is a local science fiction author who was born and raised in Beardstown and now resides in Bloomington-Normal. His books include “The Imagination’s Provocation: Volume I,” “The Imagination’s Provocation: Volume II,” and “Souls Triumphant: A Novel.” For more information on Foley, check out his web site http://scottwilliamfoley.com

This presentation is in recognition of National Library Week.”

Photographs Of Tim O’Brien and Scott William Foley

A few weeks ago, I wrote about meeting Tim O’Brien.  (Click HERE if you’d like to read that account.)  I just received a few photographs from the reception.  Thankfully, I don’t look as nervous as I felt.  Enjoy!

Tim O'Brien and Scott William Foley (I)

Tim O'Brien Signs ScottWilliam Foley's Book

Meeting Tim O’Brien

Last Thursday, I had the honor of meeting Vietnam veteran and novelist Tim O’Brien.

Now, first things first: I honestly had never heard of Tim O’Brien before my invitation to attend a private reception for him at the Bone Student Center.  I obviously needed to read one of his books before talking with him, so I got in touch with a few friends and they quickly suggested I start with O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.

I ran to my nearest bookstore and picked up a copy.  It astounded me!  O’Brien writes mostly about his Vietnam experiences, but he calls his work fiction, and so therefore the reader never quite knows what “really” happened and what he’s fabricated. 

The Things They Carried utilizes such potent emotional honesty and simple, vivid imagery that it really does haunt me still to this day.  O’Brien cuts to the core of what most of us are really like beneath are words and gestures.  When the chips are down, when we’re called upon to rise above, O’Brien knows how most of us (admittedly himself included) will honestly react. 

His stories dig deep because we see ourselves in each of his characters, and most of us know that if we were put in the place of those characters, the end results would probably remain the same.

I’m looking forward to reading more from Tim O’Brien, but this isn’t a book review, so I’ll move along to meeting the man.

Armed with my (read) copy of The Things They Carried, I put on my best formal-but-not-too-formal outfit, grabbed an umbrella to ward off that day’s never-ending rain, and headed out.  It had been a rough one with the baby that afternoon, so I was both a bit frazzled and running a little late.  When I arrived at the Founders’ Suite in the Bone Student Center, I walked in, realized I had my book in a grocery bag to protect it from the rain, and walked right back out to find a garbage can. 

Good start, huh?

On the second take, I walked in and was quickly greeted by Toni Tucker-the event organizer-and her coworkers and interns.  These friendly faces immediately helped relax me, and so I talked a bit with them, slapped on my nametag, propped my umbrella against the wall, and made my way into the main room where several people surrounded Mr. O’Brien and were having a pleasant conversation. 

Mr. O’Brien wore a black suit with a red tie and his ever-present baseball cap (which was navy blue, if you’re interested). 

I glided right past he and his group and made my way to the tasteful wine bar.

Perhaps now would be the time to mention I get very nervous in general about a lot of things, but especially among people whose work I admire.  For instance, when I met Michael Chabon in Chicago several months ago, I sounded like a total moron. 

I hoped I would do better with Tim O’Brien.

I didn’t.

So anyway, I approached the wine bar, asked for and took the bartender’s suggestion since I know nothing about wine, then grabbed the nearest wall where I could watch and listen to Tim O’Brien’s conversation without a chance of actually being drawn into it.

Pretty soon one of Toni Tucker’s coworkers approached me and we had a nice talk, mostly about Elie Wiesel’s visit from a few weeks before.  Then Toni herself appeared and asked me why I hadn’t spoken to Mr. O’Brien yet.  My heart started racing and I muttered something about not wanting to overwhelm him with too many people, and she quickly scoffed at me and led me right up to the man.

My mind emptied like an aboveground swimming pool full of bullet holes.

I mumbled how thankful I was for his coming to visit us in Central Illinois, and he politely said it was his pleasure.  Toni then asked if he’d sign my book, which he nicely agreed to do.  As he was signing, my chronic verbal diarrhea attacked and I began talking about how happy I was to make it to his reception, that I’d been elbow-deep in poo-bombs all day with my baby girl, and I just wasn’t sure if she’d settle down enough for me to leave her.

When Mr. O’Brien heard the word “poo,” I got the look.

I knew it well.

Michael Chabon had given it to me several months before.

And like with Michael Chabon, I kept talking.  And talking.  My brain yelled “STOP TALKING!” but my mouth wouldn’t comply.

He handed my book back to me, smiled, shook my hand, and then I wished him luck with his talk that night.  Afterwards, I moped away, cursing my incessant need to talk about nothing when I get nervous.

I spent the rest of the reception talking with a former coworker, his father, and some other nice people all-the-while wishing I had been more articulate and intelligent when meeting Mr. O’Brien.

When I got home from the reception I discovered my daughter had developed a red bump on her tongue during my absence, which thankfully turned out to be nothing.

An hour later, I left for ISU again to listen to Mr. O’Brien’s address at Braden Auditorium after my wife assured me she and baby would be fine.  Toni had kindly given me front row tickets, so I settled in next to my former coworker and his father and thoroughly enjoyed Mr. O’Brien’s talk.

He mostly told stories to illustrate his points about writing and life, and he was both hilarious and full of gravitas at the same time.  This is not surprising considering his books are equally juxtaposed.

I think the words that affected me most deeply were that when we send men and women to war, especially when a draft is in effect, we’re essentially sending children out to slaughter children.  We teach them “Thou Shalt Not Kill” and then we toss them into combat and tell them you better kill somebody or we’ll throw you in jail.  We are a society of contradictions and that sort of thing has to catch up with us one day-if it hasn’t already.

He also warned us against anyone who deals in absolutism.  I’ve always been terrified of those people who see things from only one perspective without any willingness to consider another angle, and Mr. O’Brien solidified my fears.  Absolutes are the quickest way to war, and also the quickest way to make sure children slaughter other children.

But you have to understand that Mr. O’Brien was not pulling the self-righteous card.  He offered several instances when he did not act bravely.  He recounted an event where one of his fellow soldiers picked on an old, Vietnamese man and he didn’t intervene.  He spoke in great detail about killing an enemy soldier with a hand grenade whom he could have allowed to walk unknowingly by and how he still sees the man in his thoughts to this day.  He talked about many moments of insanity in Vietnam, and he also spoke about rare moments of true, moral fortitude. 

He was there, and he shared with us those things from Vietnam he still carries.

I found Mr. O’Brien exceedingly honest, humble, insightful, and engaging.  I’m so glad I got a chance to meet him and listen to his speech.  I’ve even almost forgiven myself for talking to him about “poo.”

While I was at his talk, the neighborhood’s power went out and my wife had been on her hands and knees crawling up the steps in search of a flashlight.  My daughter, never before subjected to complete darkness, was not handling the situation well.  Eventually they found a flashlight, the baby settled down, and after I got home we all sat together and waited for the electricity to return, which it did two hours later.

Author Tim O’Brien Is Coming To Illinois State University and Illinois Wesleyan University

Novelist Tim O’Brien will visit Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, for the 7th Annual Ames/Milner Visiting Author Program on October 23, 2008.
 
At 2:00 p.m. at the Illinois Wesleyan University Hanson Student Center, Mr. O’Brien will participate in a question and answer session.

At 7:00 p.m. in Braden Auditorium at Illinois State University, Mr. O’Brien will address the community with “An Evening with Tim O’Brien.”  A book signing will follow the event.
 
All events are free and open to the public.

Mr. O’Brien is a Vietnam veteran and calls upon that experience for many of his works.  He attended Harvard University and once worked for the Washington Post.

His books include:
If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home (1973)
Northern Lights (1975)
Going After Cacciato (1978)
The Nuclear Age (1985)
The Things They Carried (1990)
In the Lake of the Woods (1994)
Tomcat in Love (1998)
July, July (2002)

For additional information contact Toni Tucker ttucker@ilstu.edu or (309) 438-7402.