Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Fog of Dead Souls"

Jill Kelly is a writer, visual artist, creativity coach, and freelance editor. A long-time college professor of literature, she has been writing and publishing since 2002. Her memoir, Sober Truths: The Making of an Honest Woman, was a finalist for the prestigious Oregon Book Award.

Kelly applied the Page 69 Test to Fog of Dead Souls, her second novel and first thriller, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Saturday was hard. Ellie didn’t want to be alone with her feelings, so she and Sandy played Quiddler and Canasta, watched old movies, exercised to an old Jane Fonda tape—anything to not think and not talk. Sandy stayed while she napped, ran her a hot bath in the late afternoon. At seven, she took two more Valium and sent Sandy home and went to bed.

Sunday morning, she found she didn’t have the energy to get up. She fed the cats and went back to bed. The cats were happy to follow her into the bedroom. She dozed and dreamed and slept some more. She woke thirsty from the drugs but with little appetite. When Sandy showed up, she was asleep on the couch. Sandy made tomato soup but Ellie let the bowl grow cold on the coffee table.

She slept through the next five days. She slept through her doctor’s appointment but got the woman to agree to refill the Valium. Sandy, who worked at the college library, came by on her way home to fix supper. But most of the nights, Ellie lied and said she’d had a late lunch and not to bother fixing anything.

Late Friday afternoon, her cell phone rang. Only a few people had that number: Joel, Sandy, her sister, her best friend in Virginia. But it was none of those. It was Detective Hansen.

“Did I wake you?” His voice was already familiar and somehow comforting, and she found it odd that she felt that way.

“No, yes. I’ve done nothing but sleep all week. I think I must be depressed.” She heard a low chuckle from the other end.

“I would think you have a right to be,” he said. “How are you doing, other than sleeping?”

“I don’t know. I just get through the days. I’m looking forward to going back to work next week.”

“Isn’t that a little soon?” She heard the concern in his voice and it made her feel somehow safer though she knew that was silly. He was two hundred miles away.

“You sound like Sandy,” she said. “I need to work. I need to get back into my life. I can’t watch any more game shows or soap operas. I’m not cut out to be idle.”
It’s a curious thing to read a page out of one’s own book, a page at random, and see how it represents the story as a whole. I was tempted to use another page, not page 69 as asked, because this is a “glue” page, not a “plot” page. Glue pages are those pieces of writing that help fill in the gaps, hold the main events together, and deepen the reader’s knowledge of the characters.

Page 69 is a quarter of the way through Fog. It’s in a quiet chapter of aftermath, where the main character, Ellie, gets a chance to recover from the trauma of violence and death that culminated in the death of her boyfriend. Yet rather than recover, as it might first appear, Ellie is really beginning to relapse, for we already know that she is a recovering alcoholic and that sedatives like Valium are a threat to her sobriety. We also see that she’s sinking into depression and isolation.

At the same time, this page reveals that Hansen, the detective in charge of the case, is less objective than he should be, that some kind of relationship is brewing between these two that may prove both intriguing and problematic. In that sense, page 69 is a perfect distillation of this thriller. The characters hide much from each other in relationships that are intriguing and problematic and ultimately dangerous.
Visit Jill Kelly's website.

--Marshal Zeringue