Today it is my great pleasure to bring you an extract from Roger Bray’s latest novel, The Picture. My thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to join the tour. Here’s what the book is all about.
About the Book
A warehouse in Japan used as an emergency shelter in the aftermath of the 2011 Tsunami. A distraught, young Japanese woman in dishevelled clothes sits on a box, holding her infant daughter. Ben, a US rescue volunteer, kneels in front of her offering comfort. They hug, the baby between them. The moment turns into an hour as the woman sobs into his shoulder; mourning the loss of her husband, her home, the life she knew. A picture is taken, capturing the moment. It becomes a symbol; of help freely given and of the hope of the survivors. The faces in the picture cannot be recognised, and that is how Ben likes it. No celebrity, thanks not required.
But others believe that being identified as the person in the picture is their path to fame and fortune. Ben stands, unknowingly, in their way, but nothing a contract killing cannot fix.
Scene Setting: Ben Davis a retired Portland, Oregon police officer has been shot and lies in a come in hospital. His estranged daughter, Anna, has been coming to the hospital with Ben’s lifelong friend, Paul Truscott. Anna has started to learn about her father from Paul and finds out that Ben did not abandon her mother, as she had thought, but was unaware that her mother was pregnant when she suddenly left Ben. When Anna finds out about the efforts Ben went to to try and find her and her mother when he found out about her she finds her opinion of him changing. She realises that what she is being told makes perfect sense and in that context her mother’s behaviour does as well.
Anna had always known her mom had had some sort of mental condition. She’d put it down to Mom being herself until Anna had reached about sixteen when, she realized that the behavior she was seeing was not normal. It was probably her mom’s needs not being recognized, least of all by herself, that prompted Anna to study a discipline to help people, so she chose psychology with a view to social work and counseling as a practical way to provide help.
It was in one of her early elective subjects that the pieces finally clicked into place. Bipolar; that was what it was that explained the seemingly unrelated relentless highs and black lows of her mom’s life.
She couldn’t help but smile when she recalled her mom’s manic episodes.
Cleaning, that was her thing, which given the sometimes-extreme self-harming behaviors that the untreated sufferer can inflict upon themselves was a fairly mild outcome.
Alcohol, drugs, even extreme sexual behavior were just some of the more destructive actions that sufferers exhibit. In her mom’s case her actions were not destructive, unless you count toward germs or the occasional cockroach, weird enough to be recognized as such but, manic it was and that was Anna’s life.
Studying Hamlet in her senior year Mr. Phillipson, her English teacher, had pushed his classes to recognize what was behind the words, what had this or that author meant by a phrase or sentence? What was the context or hidden meaning behind the passage? There had been a lot of discussion around the open scene of Act 3, but one line jumped out and Anna did not need context from Shakespeare to understand.
Though she never made her personal interpretation public, the third line ‘suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’, was her life and she knew, in her own mind, exactly what it meant; putting up with her mom’s problems, not in a position to do anything about it but having to put up with it. Life had dished it out, and she was expected to deal with it. Earlier, with her aunt’s help, but later, on her own, helping her mom through the depressions, and trying, though failing, to understand what it was that drove her mom.
Anna would be woken in the middle of the night by noises of furniture being pushed across the floor, drawers and cupboards being emptied. Every inch of floor was scrubbed, every utensil and dish washed over again, every piece of linen and clothing put through the washer a dozen times over the next three or four days while the episode continued, and every piece ironed precisely between washes. Anna had taken to putting clothes in her school bag for fear of waking up and finding that everything was in the washer. Hardly any sleep, repetitive cleaning for days on end, apparently to a strict timetable, but one that Anna couldn’t fathom.
When her Aunt Jean had been alive she had known what was going on and tried to shelter Anna from what was obviously not normal. Once Anna asked what her mom was doing, and Aunt Jean had answered with a shrug, “She’s doing what she needs to do, she won’t stop if we ask so we should let her get on and do it.”
And they had, until, the invisible timetable reached, everything would be cleaned and polished, dried and pressed, put away and her mom would return to being herself.
But then there were the downs, the exact opposite of the cleaning frenzy when her mom would often lie in bed for days. Anna would come and sit by her and her mom would either cry softly into her pillow or apologize over and over again to Anna.
About the Author
I have always loved writing; putting words onto a page and bringing characters to life. I can almost feel myself becoming immersed into their lives, living with their fears and triumphs. Thus, my writing process becomes an endless series of questions. What would she or he do, how would they react, is this in keeping with their character? Strange as it sounds, I don’t like leaving characters in cliffhanging situations without giving them an ending, whichever way it develops.
My life to date is what compels me to seek a just outcome, the good will overcome and the bad will be punished. More though, I tend to see my characters as everyday people in extraordinary circumstances, but in which we may all find our selves if the planets align wrongly or for whatever reason you might consider.
Of course, most novels are autobiographical in some way. You must draw on your own experiences of life and from events you have experienced to get the inspiration. My life has been an endless adventure. Serving in the Navy, fighting in wars, serving as a Police officer and the experiences each one of those have brought have all drawn me to this point, but it was a downside to my police service that was the catalyst for my writing.
Medically retired after being seriously injured while protecting a woman in a domestic violence situation I then experienced the other side of life. Depression and rejection. Giving truth to the oft said saying that when one door closes another opens I pulled myself up and enrolled in college gaining bachelor and master degrees, for my own development rather than any professional need. The process of learning, of getting words down onto the page again relit my passion for writing in a way that I hadn’t felt since high school.
So here we are, two books published and another on track.
Where it will take me I have no idea but I am going to enjoy getting there and if my writing can bring some small pleasure into people’s lives along the way, then I consider that I will have succeeded in life.
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