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What Matters Most In Life Are Relationships

Donan Berg Author Interview

Lucia’s Fantasy World follows a young girl as she experiences coming-of-age moments and learns her full potential while trying to help a sick friend. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?

In human life, struggle, anxiety, loneliness, and depression are too often inevitable, even more so for youth. This leads to and begs a question. What should be valued? Of the many moments in my life, a phrase and a first grade experience stand out.

The phrase comes from the Orient. It says: “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”

The first grade experience involved crayons. I’d spent six months with my mother and brother in Ireland visiting her relatives, well, mine, too. In doing so I’d missed kindergarten where each student received a new box of sixteen crayons to be used and carried into first grade. My first grade teacher removed a crayon discard box from a windowsill and gave it to me. Fellow students teased me for scribbling with broken and stubby crayons.

However, I was happy. My classmates had only one of each color. I had six reds, eight greens, etc. Lucia learns she has a special skill – drawing or sketching. I can’t draw or paint, but did win a national photography award. Upon learning of the honor, I had to give a speech. I used the Oriental quote above and the words of Mark Twain. To paraphrase, he was reported to have said, “When I was fourteen, I couldn’t stand to have the Old Man around. When I was eighteen, I was amazed at how much he had learned.”

As the question of “theme” appears below, I’ll skip a long answer to say that there’s a ripple throughout Lucia’s Fantasy World that what matters most in life are relationships, not material things, not a physical Christmas tree, but learning and living the spirit it embraces.

Lucia grows in this novel from a carefree child to one that realizes the world is bigger and has more challenges than she imagined. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I recall this quote from John Ciardi: “You don’t have to suffer to be a poet. Adolescence is enough suffering for anyone.”

Lucia, although her family is split, has basic needs fulfilled. There’s shelter, food, and clothing. Although she might not be a school “glamor” girl, she has fun snow sledding with Johnny. He shares his sled and doesn’t complain his leg is in a metal brace. Yet, in her own mind, Lucia longs for material things her Mother can’t afford, especially a Christmas tree. Friend Omar has access to multiple Christmas trees as a Boy Scout worker at a tree stand, yet, he can’t give a tree to Lucia.

Twelve novels ago in A Body To Bones, my first writing adventure, I coupled a whodunit mystery with the main character’s growth to be a person of strength after years of emotional suffering. Now after a debut fantasy, Find the Girl, A Fantasy Novel, that offered greater fantasy adventure than self-realization, I desired to explore an adolescent coming of age. This effort began a story, unrelated in style and concept, but nevertheless subconsciously tied in with my novel, Aria’s Bayou Child, where a mother is falsely imprisoned for killing her husband and desperately seeks to find her stolen child.

Although totally different in tone and circumstances, Lucia, like the adult Aria, learns determination, trust in her own ability, and the value of human relationships. Lucia doesn’t just feel good; she harnesses her ability to do better than good.

What were some themes that were important to explore in this book?

While I touched on theme in answer to the first question, I often take exception to the adage that a theme is so important to a novel that it can’t exist without one. All too often, theme is dumbed down to be “Love conquers all” or “Principle trumps greed.” Theme is thus treated as parallel to teaching a lesson. If the reader discovers it, the author receives an A.

The goal should be to create, and have empathy with, characters who make choices, take risks, and subject themselves to the consequences. My viewpoint strives to delve into virtue. It’s to understand morality or societal goodness and the individual’s journey of faith, hope, charity, justice, and, along the way, come to a realization of what’s important.

Did Lucia lack virtue because she yearned for a Christmas tree, a material object? No. Her obsession was natural in her teen world. Did it hinder her growth? No. But who’s to say it wasn’t required?

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Excuse me if I chuckle. Questions after book readings often include “How long did it take to write your first novel?” I answer: “thirty years.” When the puzzled expressions fade, I explain that as a journalism student it was taken as gospel that you would write the “Great American Novel.” I started, then everyday life intervened. Two children grew into adulthood before my wife died of cancer. I retrieved 54 typewritten pages from a file cabinet that represented my debut novel. I fully understood that putting onto paper the novel that had matured in my mind was a distraction to grief. When I finished, my publisher asked, “What’s your next book? We need an excerpt.”

Today, I ponder if I’m destined to write my 13th novel as a Halloween trip along Elm Street?

Absolutely not. Lucia’s Fantasy World offers an excerpt for a mystery/suspense, “Albert’s Deadly Fate.” It’s said to be available in 2024. The long lead time is because I’m working on a minor league hockey team romance, a third fantasy, another romantic mystery, and tinkering with expanding a short story highlighted by the Giant’s Causeway on Ireland’s Antrim Coast. Of course, completing a trip to the Scottish Highlands, delayed by COVID for two years, may upset all plans, although I’ve promised myself one story about Jamie and Clare and the Jacobin Rebellion is enough.

Thank you to Literary Titan and all my readers. It’s a joy to be able to express myself. How troubled we’d all be if one error caused us to begin again with a new rock.

Author Links: GoodReads | Amazon

Lucia McFate finds her life changed when sledding friend, Johnny, is stricken with a life-threatening infection. Discovering she has a rare, if dangerous gift, Lucia literally falls into a tunnel and her escape lands her in a far-off land many centuries in the past.Her challenges are many, but the most important is how to transport a spirited box found in the past to her real-world reality to save her friend.In superbly crafted writing that builds suspense, award-winning author Donan Berg gives us a most enduring fantasy fit for all ages.
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