The protagonist of my novel, Architect of Courage (AofC), scheduled for publication June 4, has lived in my head so long, it’s hard to remember when he wasn’t with me. Or, for that matter, where he came from. I wrote a version of this post 18 months ago, but now that the book’s publication date is nearing, it’s time for an update.
One aspect of the choice, is that I didn’t want the story to be about a cop or a p.i., or a former CIA officer–I wanted an everyman. The kind of “ordinary” person who lands in extraordinary circumstances. How such a person deals with trauma and fear is and carries on despite them is of great interest to me. A person whose world is literally “upside down.”
n AofC, Archer Landis recalls a childhood doing a lot of what I had to do, tromping around housing developments, being disappointed in what was on offer. So he created his own design for “the perfect house,” which his parents had built and lived in the rest of their lives. He has this sketch framed in his office, and as the story proceeds, his feelings about it and what it represents change markedly.
In college I lurked around the studios in the architecture school, fascinated by the students’ model buildings and the smell of sharpened pencils, rubber cement, clay. A scene in the novel has Landis ruminating on that kind of by-hand work versus today’s 3-D printing. Decades later, I’m still a rubber cement kind of gal.
Landis is confronted with people who are his symbolic opposite. He wants to build; they want to destroy. Their destructiveness affects him directly, personally and professionally, and threatens his family, his business, his life.
To write about Landis, I had to try to see the world through his eyes, an architect’s eyes—the things he notices, how he approaches relationships, the way he circles back to the touchstone of his calling. Straightedges and French curves and stone samples. Also, quite a lot of the story takes place at his office—interactions with staff, police visits, coping. While I tried hard, I had to make sure the world I’d created rang true, and I asked a prominent architect to read an advance copy. Ralph Hawkins, FAIA, Chairman Emeritus of HKS, Inc., one of the nation’s largest architectural firms read it and, thankfully, not only survived the experience without tearing out his hair, but gave it a nice blurb too!
Photo: Elmgreen & Dragset, The Hive, 2020, stainless steel, aluminum, polycarbonate, LED lights, and lacquer, commissioned by Empire State Development in partnership with Public Art Fund for Moynihan Train Hall, Photo: Nicholas Knight, courtesy Empire State Development and Public Art Fund, NY. See it!