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Monday, March 14, 2011

Review and Guest Blog: Kay Springsteen's New Release, Heartsight

The motto of Astraea Press is "Where Fiction Meets Virtue." You can be sure any story published here will maintain the highest moral standards. Within this framework, Kay Springsteen delivers a stirring love story full of well-crafted language, vivid imagery, and hope in Heartsight.

Heartsight is the story of Trish, the now single mother of Bella, a delightfully drawn girl with Down Syndrome. Although Bella's father couldn't handle her different needs, she is the center of her mother's life. She quickly captures the heart of Dan, a veteran Marine who was blinded in Afghanistan and has come to the remote Carolina beach to escape. The tension builds nicely as Dan and Trish try to understand the meaning of their feelings for each other, and Bella's father is reintroduced as an uncaring villain who could tear their world apart. But Mother Nature herself provides the culmination of the story in the form of a hurricane the characters must walk directly through in a truly life-and-death chapter. Masterfully switching between the perspectives of the two lovers, Kay Springsteen shows herself to be an experienced writer who cares as much about language as she does about her characters and her happy ending. Using Dan's "handicap" as a new way of experiencing the world, Springsteen creates sensory-intense scenes filled with perfumes, sounds, and textures the reader will not soon forget.

Heartsight doesn't hit you over the head with prescriptive morals and the characters have their doubts about the existence of God. Their lives have given them a realistic degree of uncertainty that makes it all the more rewarding when they make the final decisions of the book. While never crossing the bounds of propriety, the sensual scenes evoke the mixture of heartfelt longing and hesitation in the characters.

Kay recently shared with me the fascinating, roundabout way her inspiration works.

Deep in the darkness my heart still sees
Everything that I'll never be
Behind these eyes I'll go everywhere
There's no need for sympathy
Everything breathes and I know each breath
In my world there's no compromise

Those are the words from a song from a Warner Brothers full length animated movie called Quest For Camelot, which came out in 1998. It was a play on Arthurian legends and had a lot of cute kid-moments. But the thing that made this animated children's movie different was that the hero, Garrett, was blind. But he was by no means pathetic, even though he definitely felt sorry that he couldn't see, especially when he fell in love with the heroine of the story and couldn't see her. However, despite his blindness, he saved the day and helped King Arthur save Camelot. In the movie, Bryan White sings the song for the character, but it was Steve Perry from Journey singing solo who made it a huge hit in 1998. That song is one of 2000+ songs on my MP3 player because I am a huge Steve Perry/Journey fan. My MP3 player is set to random unless I am writing to a self-made sound track or writing a scene that calls for specific music to move me. That song came on one day and I hit repeat because I hadn't heard it in a while. 

I wanted to write the story of a blind man overcoming his handicap. I researched activities people who are blind can do. I had vaguely heard of blind people participating in various very physical sports - swimming, hiking, mountain climbing, and other extreme sports. So I researched these. But I came to realize that I needed someone who had an active, productive, intensely fulfilling life before blindness. I happened to see the story of a blind U.S. Army soldier who was fighting (and subsequently won) to stay in the Army. And it struck me. A warrior, struck blind, would feel the despair of being useless. Because we have family friends who are U.S. Marines, and my daughter is engaged to a Marine, it seemed natural to make my hero a Marine wounded in Afghanistan. He needed to do something spectacular. He could have been instrumental in saving the world...but I wanted this to be realistic. So I decided he needed to rescue a child. This was another idea literally ripped from the headlines as I had recently read of an girl with autism who had been missing for several days in a swamp somewhere. I don't recall the particulars, but the basics stuck. I thought of various scenarios, from winter storms to forest fires. I realized he needed to be the only person who could rescue her. So it had to be that sight would not be an asset in the child's rescue. My thought was when the child's mother would say "I can't see!" his response would be "I can," meaning because he "sees" differently than a sighted person. When I started playing with this outline in September/October 2010, a hurricane was heading for the North Carolina coast. I've lived through hurricanes. Definitely it gets dark and impossible to see in these storms. Add in the mom, and make her divorced (unattached), and there are the basic elements of the story. All I had to do was put them together. 

Yes, the inspiration for Heartsight, as with all of my stories, was that complicated. I am a news junkie and a music junkie, and very often my ideas form as a result of the weird combination I just described. 

Buy Heartsight hereFor every copy of Heartsight purchased through the Astraea Press link from March 1 to June 1, 2011, $2 will be donated to the USO Wounded Warriors Program. 

See the beautiful trailer here.

And find Kay Springsteen's blog and Facebook pages here:

See her Amazon author page, too!