Greg Nepini: Author Website: http://www.gregnepini.com
Genre: Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Romance
Jonathan's Tears is based loosely on the legend of Moll Dyer, a woman who is said to have lived in the southern part of Maryland sometime during the late 1600s to the mid-1700s. Legend has it that she was a witch and was burned out of her house on a cold winter night by an angry mob. She was found frozen to death in the woods by a young boy a few days later kneeling on a rock that still bears her hand and knee prints.
Her ghost is said to be a malevolent spirit that walks the land to this day and causes misfortune for anyone who happens upon her.
I grew up a short distance from the place where this story supposedly happened, and the Legend of Moll Dyer was a popular ghost story that made its way around each year as Halloween approached. When I was in elementary and middle school, I really did believe the story, particularly after I examined “Moll Dyer's Rock” which is still on display outside of the old jail in Leonardtown Maryland. Looking at it now, I honestly can't see the hand and knee prints, but when I was a child they were quite clear to me. Maybe this is similar to the child in the movie “Polar Express” who stops hearing the Christmas bell when he no longer believes in Santa Clause.
Jonathan's Tears was my first novel. I began writing it shortly after reading “On Writing” by Stephen King (who is hands-down my favorite author). When I finally made the decision to sit down with pen and paper (I did actually write the first draft by hand!), I had just finished reading a historical novel entitled “Mary's Land” by Lucia St. Claire Robson. I found the idea of placing fictional characters in historical settings to be of great interest, however, I was not ready to tackle a Patrick O'brian style book that would require a great deal of research to complete. I was also reading a lot of Nicholas Sparks books at the time, and I found the emotion of his stories to be something that I wanted to emulate as well. These elements led me to consider writing about Moll Dyer. Very little is known about what actually happened to her on the night she died, or if she really even existed. Some say that she was murdered over money. Some say she was a witch. The legend provided a loose framework with which I was able to build a story. This seemed to me to be a perfect fit for what I wanted to do.
How did your characters come to life?
The short answer to this question is that they came to life all by themselves. I find that after I get past the rough sketch of each character that I imagine when I first begin the story, they will start doing things without me consciously directing them. I suppose that sounds strange to people who have never written a novel, but it happens with every story that I've written, and I imagine that most writers have a similar experience. The characters will sometimes turn from good to evil or play a much bigger role in the story than I had originally planned.
The character of Moll Dyer started out as a Wicken priestess and then transformed into a seemingly ordinary woman named Molly Sullivan who was born with magical powers, but hides them to keep from being accused of witchcraft. The ideas for her magic are based on a book called “Touch of Life” by the late Dr. Robert Fulford, an osteopathic doctor who did research on what he referred to as life force. He claimed to be able to detect the flow of life force in his patients and used it to aid in his diagnosis and treatments.
The legend says that Moll Dyer was found frozen to death in the woods by a little boy. As I thought about how to integrate this into my story, I asked the question - what if he knew her? This small twist set the stage for the whole story, and the rest of it developed from there. My version of the little boy (Jonathan Morris) began as a minor character but ended up completely taking over the story and becoming the narrator.
Amy Sterling, who eventually becomes Jonathan's wife, began as a servant working in a kitchen at a shipyard in Wales. I had no big plans for her either, however, she too became a major character in the story as well.
She becomes the voice of reason in Jonathan's troubled life. She is also the subject of the sequel “A Promise From Eternity”.
The last character that I would like to tell you about is Gale Andrews, the captain of the ship that brought Molly to America. Gale was based on Thomas Truxtun, a wealthy merchant seaman and the first captain of the USS Constellation. He too was a character for which I had no big plans, but he decided otherwise. The parts of the novel that involve Gale are influenced by the novels of Patrick O'brian, and will remind the reader of “Master and Commander - The Far Side of the World”.
Gale is a major character in the sequel and will be the focus of future novel which will be entitled “The Last Privateer”.
Watching the characters come to life is the most magical part of the writing process, at least for me. The four characters that I just described were all minor players as the story began, but decided on their own to play a bigger role. I don't use story outlines when I write, so what ends up on the page is largely spontaneous, and I believe that is what gives my characters the freedom to do as they please.
Sometimes while I'm writing I feel as if I am merely taking notes as my characters play out there lives before me.
Blurb of your book
Legend has it that Moll Dyer was accused of witchcraft and burned out of her house on a cold winter night by an angry mob. A young boy found her alone in the woods a few days later, frozen to death and kneeling on a stone. Her ghost is said to be a malevolent spirit that walks the land to this day and causes misfortune for anyone who happens upon her.
What if the story behind the legend is wrong?
Jonathan's Tears offers another possibility for how the legend came to be. It is the touching story of a mother's sacrifice and a young man's struggle to save her from an unspeakable tragedy.