Monday, July 2, 2007

"The Virgin of Small Plains"

Nancy Pickard is the author of seventeen popular and critically acclaimed novels and dozens of short stories. She has won the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and Shamus awards for her short stories and the Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards for her novels. She is a 4-time Edgar Allen Poe award nominee, a Mary Higgins Clark award finalist, and a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement award for suspense fiction, from Romantic Times.

She applied the "page 69 test" to her latest novel, the Agatha Award-winning The Virgin of Small Plains, and reported the following:
Page 69 is one of those pages in a novel where it looks as if nothing important is happening, but it is, at least from the writer's point of view.

It's a kind of summary page that novels require every l00 pages, or so, to ground readers in the basics of the story. This particular page does that in several ways, and I remember thinking about each of them as I wrote it. I did it on purpose, in other words. This isn't a page where I let my muse fly; this is a page in which I had specific things to accomplish.

First, it functions as a reminder of a lot of things such as the confusion surrounding the death of "the Virgin" of Small Plains, and the burden that confusion has placed on the principals. The wrong people have been blamed for the wrong things, or they've been idealized, or both, but nobody knows the whole truth about them or the events. People jump to conclusions, as people do, they give unneeded and unwanted advice, they make up stuff to fill in the blanks, they talk confidently of nonsense. On page 69, we're reminded that people have a tendency not to examine the contradictions in their own thinking. It subliminally reminds readers not to jump to conclusions, themselves, or to take anything about the story or the characters for granted.

It's also a page that reminds readers of Abby's character, that she is a woman who was willing to risk her own life to help another person. It reminds them of her strength of mind and will, and reminds them that somebody they like -- Rex -- admires her. It is, in fact, a page with a lot of clues about various people's character... Nadine was a snob who turned up her nose at small-town funeral feasts; Rex is a down-to-earth and loyal guy who loves green beans topped with fried onion rings; Abby is not only lovable, but also tough-minded when she has to be; and Mitch has a lot of abilities, but he's not a saint.

It’s not the most dramatic page in the book, but it’s necessary.
Visit Nancy Pickard's website and read an excerpt from The Virgin of Small Plains.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue