Wednesday, April 8, 2009

photo therapy, a Flickering Light, family photos

I’ve heard that from several readers who have seen the advanced copies of A Flickering Light about the photographs I included in this biographical novel about my grandmother's life. I've shown a couple in previous posts. I'm glad I held out to include them in the ARC. Initially the publisher didn’t want to add them in the ARC and I thought it would really be missing something if we didn't include them. The main character, based on my grandmother's life, talks in first person about several different shots while the rest of the book is told in third person through the eyes of Jessie, her mentor, FJ Bauer and FJ Bauer's wife, Mrs. Bauer. I’ve added several more shots in the second book because of people’s responses.

The photographs are part of a family collection of glass plates from the 1900s. One blogger who did a review commented on how intriguing it was to read about a photograph from the character's point of view and also about a scene when my grandmother's mentor gives her a photograph he'd taken of her when she hadn't been aware, inserting it in a photographic case. She said she'd been moved by that scene then asked a question about fact and fiction of this book. Here's how I responded to her.

"As for the mix of fiction and fact: It isn’t a fact that he took a photograph of her that he gave to her for her birthday. But it seemed to me that this is how his relationship with her began, a collegial sort of contact, both of them liking photography, having some disagreement about the science of it vs the art, which was a part of the dialogue of the period and then moving toward where he enjoyed her company, could see the beauty in her, wanted to be a good mentor to her and then giving her gifts on the occasion of her birthday, perfectly innocent. Except that each had been denying a very strong attraction and sometimes the reality of those feelings aren’t even noticed but are difficult to hide inside a photograph.

I’m a mental health therapist by training and I took a continuing education class a few years back about photo-therapy, using photographs to help people get “unstuck” as they struggled with issues and patterns in their lives. Part of that project meant looking at photographs of myself and my family. I discovered during that time that in all the photographs of me and my mother, she never touched me, had never put her arms around my shoulder or stood close enough in a family shot to touch me. It had defined our relationship in many ways, this separation.

She was quite ill at the time and I made it a point to touch her, to get photographs of my touching her at least, even if she had difficulty touching me. The next months until her death were the very best between us. It seemed to me she rallied and we were able to do things together without her even carrying her oxygen with her. I have this terrific photograph of us both wearing cowboy hats as we attended an outdoor concert and my leaning into her, my hand on her shoulder, touching. I treasure it and feel strong about the importance of photographs as metaphors for our lives and that if we acknowledge the stories they tell in time, we can make changes.

My husband is a photographer and the best pictures of me have been taken by him; something about the eyes of the beholder bringing love into the picture. I was thinking of that when I wrote that scene you commented about.

The picture of her that is double exposed did get written up in the paper and was quite the invention for the time. I liked how there were two renditions, one with her nearly looking over her own shoulder which I think she did during that part of her life. (I tried to upload that picture today but given the size of it and the wind blowing my satellite dish'll have to come read the book when it comes out next week to see it).'
It's getting exciting....the release is scheduled for April 14, the day before tax day! You can visit the blogger's review at


Alice Trego said...

Hi, Jane!

I just read the review of A Flickering Light on the thinking girls guide blog as well as your thoughts here. The two dichotomies definitely intrigue this reader fan of yours.
One thing i have to say is I cannot wait to read your newest release! I'll be one of the first in line :)


Heidiwriter said...

Wow, Jane, that's a wonderful story about you and your mom. I'm looking forward to reading A Flickering Light!

Kaye said...

Hi Jane, thanks for stopping by on the tour. It is so nice to have the author for a visit. Your book was fascinating and I can't imagine the book without the photos. They added greatly to the story. I wish you the best of luck and success. I'm leaving the tour post up for several more days.