Deep Break

“Deep Break” is an antiquated method of plowing when the soil is overturned and exposed in the early spring to ready the soil for new growth. As I construct my work-in-progress, Where the Sky Meets the Earth, I, too, dig for roots deep in history to create my novel, gathering research to develop both plot and character.

Where the Sky Meets the Earth is a work of literary fiction delving into the consequences of the recent economic fallout entangled with a perceived second coming of a messiah (think a twist on Stranger in a Strange Land set during the Great Recession). A nuclear family has exploded—unemployment, opioid addiction, and divorce. The son, a fourteen-year-old mixed-race boy, disappears into the mountains of Wyoming, seeking a true way of living.

Preliminary cover art

Preliminary cover art

In order to weave a complex story such as this, it takes hours of sifting through threads of history; research on the causes of the Great Recession and the impact on the lives of ordinary people. In order to build the Arapaho shaman character who becomes the lightning rod at the center of the story, I read indigenous history books such as The Wisdom of the Native Americans and In the Hands of the Great Spirit.

But a book that truly resonated with me was an incredible work by Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, published initially in Hebrew (2011), then in English in 2014. This is a stunning book on the anthropology of homo sapiens, and various competitor humanoids, up to the present time. This is not a dry rendition, it is filled with Harari’s philosophical spin on the effects of capitalism, government, and religion.

I was particularly interested in researching the hunter/gatherer period before homo sapiens became trapped into the agricultural revolution, which begs the speculative question—how would society look if that leap hadn’t occurred? And as my novel will attempt to reveal—what if a new messiah led us back to the hunter/gatherer life—turning away from modern society?

K.E. Lanning is the author of THE MELT TRILOGY: A Spider Sat Beside Her, The Sting of the Bee, and Listen to the Birds


Melt 3D (Small).jpg

What if the ice caps melted . . . in one human lifespan?

I’m OK, You’re Not so Great

For a brief moment, I breathe a sigh of relief at the completion of a trilogy (The Melt Trilogy) which has consumed me for years. But there is no rest for the weary—I leap into my next Work-in-Progress, Where the Sky Meets the Earth, outlining the plot and characters, letting my mind wander as I step into the cold, dark waters of a new novel. The other day, musing over my nascent characters, a book that I had read decades ago popped into my consciousness: I’m Okay, You’re Okay, written by Thomas A. Harris, M.D [1967]. Harris linked studies performed by brain surgeon Wilder Penfield, who stimulated the brains of conscious patients during surgery, eliciting vivid memories from his patients, with experiments from Eric Berne, who developed the ego-state models we acquire as humans interacting in the world: Parent-Adult-Child [Transactional Analysis].

In his book, Harris simplified these internal/external feelings and subsequent interpersonal transactions into four categories: 1) I’m Not OK, You’re OK, 2) I’m Not OK, You’re Not OK, 3) I’m OK, You’re Not OK, and finally (Whew) 4) I’m OK, You’re OK. According to the studies, people who were abused as children may conclude that 1 or 2 is their go-to place, whereas a con-artist may be happiest in the I’m OK, You’re Not OK existence. But Harris goes on to describe hybrids of these positions; contaminated Adult states via forms of prejudice by a Parent, or delusions from childhood memories influencing the Child within us. Hopefully, most “normal” folks are in the I’m OK, You’re OK in their attitudes, but who wants normal in their novels?

As a writer interested in creating flawed humans, not caricatures, sculpting realistic characters from clay can benefit from utilizing these various “programmed” human responses. Did the character have a happy or horrible childhood? How might a damaged soul react when confronted?

An editor once told me that one of my male characters should immediately respond to a rather personal question posed to him. I disagreed—many people simply change the subject, and either never respond or respond only when they feel secure. For those characters, body language is their primary communication.

Can these rather simplistic interpersonal responses help guide an author as to whether the dialogue or action is appropriate for the character given their specific background? Perhaps, for we humans are creations of our past, regardless of how we attempt to mask the scars beneath the surface.

K.E. Lanning is the author of THE MELT TRILOGY: A Spider Sat Beside Her, The Sting of the Bee, and Listen to the Birds {2019]

Melt 3D (Small).jpg

What if the ice caps melted . . .

in one human lifespan?