• Shan

TRACKING "BANDS OF A SMALL HURRICANE"

(episode 1)


Bands of a Small Hurricane is, hands down, the best thing I’ve ever done (and if I’m being honest with myself, likely the best thing I’ll EVER do). But it’s currently in complete disarray as I struggle to salvage it before it weakens and eventually breaks apart over the unpredictable Gulf of Subjectivity.


This segment of my blog will be on ongoing project, tracking Hurricane across this crazy landscape of publishing. I’ll give you a brief rundown of where it is right now, and what’s happened thus far.

Right now, Hurricane is bipolar. Or perhaps multiple personality is a better label. There are two completed versions: the original, and the one my agent urged me to create instead. My editor with Thieves laid eyes on the second version, and ultimately passed. I choose to see this as a great opportunity…disguised as bad news.
Every single thing that happens in life serves to put us on the right path, even if we don’t know what that is yet. I absolutely loved working with my last editor, but Hurricane, it seems, it destined to land elsewhere.

Now that you know where we are now, let me tell you where we’ve been.

The original Hurricane followed dual storylines: That of Danni, a 14 year old girl growing up in the Florida Keys in 1967 and struggling with a unique sexual revolution of sorts, and that of her father, Richard, an alcoholic “ex hero type” who, in an effort to reclaim his fading reputation, helps a German woman rescue her brother who plans to defect his country by way of leaping over the side of a freighter in the Atlantic Ocean between Key West and Havana. There's a powerful dynamic between Danni and Richard, and the stories overlapped in such a way that highlighted each other’s individual struggles.

I’d never been more proud of anything I’d created in my entire life than I was of Hurricane. I was convinced it would win every literary award under the sun, launching my fledgling career into the sky. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I was right. As I type this out today, I still have no idea.

An agent’s job is to sell your book. Publishing houses exist to make money by offering books that the most amount of people will want to buy and read. My agent did not believe she’d be able to sell the original version of Hurricane because it was half coming-of-age, half ocean adventure, interwoven, and there's no defined "slot" for that. After I had a moderate (or not quite so moderate) panic attack, we ultimately decided to cut the entire adventure/rescue element of the novel and focus solely on Danni’s coming-of-age. Half the book - gone.

And the remaining half was rewritten into what it is now. (And ultimately, what my editor passed on.)

I feel a tremendous loss with Hurricane. I recently reread the original, and it’s made me realize how important it is for me to tell this story. It’s not just a work of fiction for me. Danni is me. And my mother and my father, all rolled into one. All three of us grew up in the Florida Keys, and before I began writing Hurricane, I interviewed both of them, gathering stories from their respective childhoods: suntanning in the middle of US1 during the slow summer months; chasing down Soviet ships in the middle of the ocean so soldiers could toss beers overboard to the crazy Americans navigating their wake; nudist hippies living on a secret beach; watching boat accidents under the Vaca Cut Bridge; the infamous hammerhead shark that patrols the waters of Bahia Honda; an alcoholic father overly obsessed with Moby Dick. Nearly every scene in Hurricane comes from one of our personal memories, down to the very description of Danni’s high school, which is based on Marathon High, long ago torn down and fully rebuilt. The memories of that building live only in my mind now, and in a handful of photographs.

And it’s not just Danni's character who sprang from real life. Her father, Richard, is my grandfather. My grandfather, Bob, died when I was about 10. I never really knew him, but stories of him lived on. Not the least of which was the fact that he helped a German man rescue his brother from the Atlantic in 1971, when he jumped from a freighter halfway between Key West and Havana.

Though Bands of a Small Hurricane is a work of fiction, it is very much inspired by my own family’s history.

And this, as you can imagine, is a hard thing to delete. It’s not just a creative project. This is my blood.

But many would say - that’s the sacrifice you make. It’s no longer about you. It’s about the audience. Both views are fair.

These days, I wake each morning with Hurricane on my mind. It keeps me up at night. It distracts me throughout the day. I need to figure out what I’m going to do with it. I’m trying to predict its path so I can make the right decision. And that’s an impossible task. I’ve never been part of a more subjective world than that of literature. When everyone has a different opinion, who do you listen to? After I wrote Thieves, Beasts & Men, it took me almost a year to find my agent. She loved it. But none of the other agents had. We then went to a ton of publishing houses, and heard “no” much more than yes. And now Thieves has 3 award stickers on the cover*. No one was right or wrong to turn it down. It was pure opinion, and opinion is never wrong. But a career path that offers a spinning compass and no definitive road signs makes for some seriously rocky terrain. (Man, I’m killin’ it with the nature metaphors today!)

So, to conclude, this new ongoing segment I’ll title “Tracking Bands of a Small Hurricane” will follow this novel through the ups and downs, the wins or losses. The heartache and celebration. All of it.

And I ain’t scared. Bring it on. Because as always, any failure is merely a great opportunity…disguised as bad news.



-Shan


* Thieves Beasts & Men was a Finalist for the American Fiction Awards, 2021; a Finalist for the Shelf Unbound Award, 2021; and is currently shortlisted for the Chanticleer Intl’ Book Award / Somerset Prize, 2021.