Long Journey to Self-Awareness
Posted by Literary Titan
Pillars of Salt follows a man’s journey from bitterness and cynicism to a place of appreciation for his father’s integrity. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
My inspiration for writing this story was an actual unsolved disaster in Louisiana: in 1980, an oil drilling rig atop a lake punctured a salt mine, causing the mine’s collapse. Some drastic miscalculations, intentional or otherwise, led to the loss of millions of dollars of equipment and homes, yet the cause was never properly investigated.
In my narrative, H (Harvey Doucet, Jr.) carries out an investigation that the authorities neglected to do. After his father’s alleged suicide, H knows that his father, Harvey, Sr., a passable if not devout Catholic, could never have committed such a mortal sin. H, a bitter young man, has resented his father ever since H’s mother and the baby she was carrying died during childbirth. In his grief, Harvey, Sr., simply left his two young sons in the care of his older sister, Ethel, and rarely visited them. Understandably, H feels abandoned and harbors his bitterness all his life, estranging himself even more by joining the Air Force after college instead of working for Doucet Drilling Company as his father had wanted.
But as cynical as H is, he can’t desert his father after this tragedy. It’s too late for H to atone for past resentments; all he can do now is clear his father’s name of the false allegation of suicide. In the process of finally gaining respect for his father, he uncovers the greed and corruption that have led to so much destruction and death.
H is an intriguing and well-developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
At the beginning of the story, H is not an admirable character; life circumstances have made him a depressed, self-absorbed cynic. At times, though, he is able to see himself through a critical lens: he understands that Midge probably saw that he had more of his father’s flaws than he ever realized; he is able to admit that he is probably as much to blame for his breakup with Midge as she is; he also reasons that his father was just trying to bury his grief in the business after losing his wife and infant daughter. Unlike his father, though, H has the moral compass in this situation to take an extended leave from his job in the Air Force, risking both his chance of advancement and his own life, to vindicate his father’s name.
During H’s long journey to self-awareness, he has occasional flashbacks to rare visits by his father, during which he was always scolded more than his brother Victor. H finally understands that Vic looks like his father’s Cajun side of the family, while H looks more like his mother; he rationalizes that his resemblance to his mother might have caused his father more pain. H also understands how his enlistment in the Air Force instead of joining the business would have contributed to his father’s suffering.
H marvels at the loyalty and respect that employees, Placide and Earlene, have toward his father, despite Harvey, Sr.’s hard exterior. By the end of the story, H is still cynical about corporate and political greed, but he appreciates his father’s integrity and honesty in the face of such malign corruption, and he has renewed his faith in humanity, particularly in his new circle of loyal friends.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
A main theme is good vs. evil: H against the greed and corruption of the wealthy and powerful. H vows to clear his father’s name, whatever the cost, and the cost turns out to be steep. Facing extreme danger, H, with help from Placide and Earlene, uncovers a widespread conspiracy leading all the way to the White House. In this sense, H becomes the “David” to the “Goliath” of corporate and political corruption.
Another theme is redemption. H knows it’s too late to change his past relationship with his father, but he believes that if he can restore his father’s good name, he will somehow atone for past resentments. His journey is as much an internal as an external one, as he uncovers bits of his father’s past that afford him new understanding of Harvey, Sr.’s motivations and the forces working against him. H finally arrives at empathy for his father’s lonely and tragic life and death.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
With Ukraine much in the news recently, I’m exploring the effects of the Soviet breakup on the ideologically split Ukraine, with many in the eastern portion being sympathetic to Russia’s desire to annex the country, while many in the western portion want to remain independent and become more allied with Europe.
The family of my protagonist, Mykola, moves to the US shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union, as did many Ukrainians, while Myko is still in high school. His father had been on a Ukrainian naval ship tasked with returning nuclear weapons to Russia after the Soviet collapse. One nuke was lost in a bomb cyclone near the Kerch Strait, an event that piques young Myko’s curiosity, so much so that he plans to return to Ukraine and search for the lost nuke. It consumes his university career as well as his professorship until he finally visits Ukraine one summer to comb the suspected area. He discovers the bomb’s coordinates and alerts the US Embassy in Kyiv.
Meanwhile in Ukraine, Oksana, the daughter of Russian sympathizers, is recruited by Russia to spy on Myko in the US. The Russians, through surveillance of H’s research and teaching, know of his interest in finding the bomb and suspect he’s found it. Oksana’s assignment is to move to the US, enroll in his class, and use all her seductive wiles to acquire the bomb coordinates from him. Some interesting and dangerous twists ensue as several groups attempt to be first to find the bomb and potentially use it, or prevent its use, as a dirty bomb during the unrest in Western Ukraine and Crimea.
I hope to have the book completed in the next year or two.
About Literary TitanThe Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.
Posted on November 17, 2021, in Interviews and tagged author, author interview, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, ebook, fiction, goodreads, kindle, kobo, literature, mystery, nook, novel, Pillars of Salt, read, reader, reading, story, suspense, writer, writing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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