Saturday, July 23, 2011

"Original Sin"

Beth McMullen graduated from Boston University with a degree in English Literature and received an MLS from Long Island University. After landing a gig with Reader’s Digest, she eventually realized she’d rather write books than condense them.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Original Sin, and reported the following:
So what is the real story because everyone must come from somewhere and I am no exception to this rule. I grew up on a farm in upstate New York, surrounded by acres of corn and milk cows named Bessie and Moo. It was an idyllic existence in the beginning. During the summer, I’d roll out of bed, still in my nightgown and bare feet, and grab a few still warm biscuits and a glass of fresh milk from the kitchen table and go sit on the porch. Watching the farm hustle and move all around me, I’d plot my day. Maybe I’d get Luke from next door and we’d fish for trout in the river with our dime store poles. Or go swimming in Black Lake. Or ride our bikes down the endless dirt road that seemed to go nowhere. Or go searching for fossils in the dried out streambed that ran by Luke’s farm. The possibilities were endless. As I was only eight years old, I was not called upon to help on the farm. And because we lived in the middle of nowhere, I was allowed to run amuck, unquestioned. I had the long endless days of childhood summer all to myself and everything was a wonder to behold.

I would come flying into the house in the early evening, hair a mess, damp from swimming, covered in dirt and mud, a huge grin on my face and throw myself into my chair at the big oak dining room table. My parents would look at me and shake their heads. What are we raising here, a wild animal? I’d dig into my food, meat, potatoes, vegetables and bread straight out of the oven like I hadn’t eaten in a month. After dinner, I’d help clean up the kitchen, we’d play cards or watch TV and I’d go to bed. The next day I’d wake up and do it all over again.

The winters in upstate New York are another situation entirely. Long, cold and gray, it is safe to say nothing good ever happened in an upstate New York winter. I like to believe it was the bleakness that made the annual winter visits from the man in the dark blue overcoat stand out in my memory. Or maybe it was the fact that he was the only person ever invited into our house.
I swear this is the longest stretch without dialog in the entire book. Dialog is the most fun for me to write so it tends to show up a lot but in this section it is straight prose. By this point in the novel we’ve learned that stay-at-home mom Lucy Hamilton used to be Sally Sin, a covert agent for The United States Agency for Weapons of Mass Destruction. We’ve also learned that stepping out of that life has not been so easy for Lucy. She loves her mothering gig but old habits die hard. And now that her old boss, Simon Still, wants her back in the game to help trap a notorious traitor named Ian Blackford, the need to keep her past from taking over her present seems more urgent than ever.

On this page, we start to fill in the blanks of Lucy’s background. Nothing, of course, was as it appeared to be. What might have looked like a normal childhood from the outside was anything but. The last line on the page reminds the reader that despite the homey description that came before, something weird was going on. Why was no one invited into the house? What did they have to hide? By page 69, it is pretty clear everyone is hiding something.
Learn more about the book and author at Beth McMullen's website and Facebook page.

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

--Marshal Zeringue