Plotting, Perspective, and Burnout in Utah

At long last, UTAH. This is Lucy’s farewell to New York, her get-out-of-town story and as such it is full of high drama of all kinds. This is the book I wrote before, during and after my own departure from New York.

At the time of writing I was burned out on Lucy and her travails, which, however obliquely, did reflect some of the troubles my partner—my wife!—and I had been going through in New York. So, as it played out in real life, our crazed, hectic and very complicated departure from New York also played itself out in the book UTAH. On an emotional level this book was probably closer to the truth of what I was feeling at the time we left.  It was a difficult time.

First of all was the departure itself, with all its attendant awfulness brought on by the unexpected appearance of the landlord on a Saturday. This guy was Jewish and he should have been home or at temple, somewhere other than at the building. Hias absence was critical to our plan, which was based on the notion that once our loft buyer was in possession of the loft, there was no way the landlords could get him out. But like I wrote it,  the landlord did show up, and we had this awful confrontation which was fundamentally unresolvable because we had committed to leaving that day and getting the truck to the west coast in a given number of days, and we had left no time for error. So, when Lucy decides to just close up the truck and get the hell out of town, hope for the best from the legal system, she is doing exactly what Donna and I chose to do the day we left. Walk away, and hope that the lawyers could sort it out in our favor at some point down the line. Unfortunately the guy to whom we had sold the “fixtures” (in what was a marginally legal but acceptable transaction, at least according to the then-current laws regarding lofts and fixtures) was a weasel and a coward, and instead of fighting he chose to try and suck up to the landlord with the hope that said landlord would give him a break.

This landlord would not then or any other time give this putz any such break, and so when Lucy left—when we left—we left a lawsuit in the making. Later, we would lose that lawsuit, mostly because we weren’t there to argue it. Later still, that poor sap to whom we sold the fixtures ended up committing suicide. A sad ending for a sad, depressed, and miserable guy. He didn’t get what he deserved, nobody deserves to hate life that much.

You might say that New York killed him, and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong.

Driving cross-country with the big yellow truck was a lot easier for Donna and I, in reality, than it was for Lucy, alone. We did meet some weird characters. Donna, alone in the truck stop for ten minutes while I was making a phone call, got approached by an aggressive creep. We did sneak the dog (and our cat as well!) through a window into a hotel room in Tremonton, Utah. More importantly, when I approached the bathroom at the Denny’s across the parking lot from our hotel in Tremonton, a girl came out of the womens’ bathroom and gave me a look—and it was that girl who became the star of my show. A broken-hearted teenager. I have no idea if she was pregnant but I watched her sit down with her two brothers and her mother and father, and the story just presented itself to me, fully-wrapped. Obviously, many details and plot points and other elements emerged later, but somehow that story found me. Perhaps because of all the “Choose Life” billboards that we drove past en route through Utah. Not sure. I do know that I am not one to really…well, is “trust” the right word? trust people of the Mormon faith in many ways, because of their fanatical pro-life positions. Not to mention the polygamy, not “legal” in the mainstream Mormon church but winked at nonetheless, and definitely still ongoing in some of the more, shall we say, “traditional” branches of the Latter Day Saints. And so, bad little writer that I am, I went after them.

In spite of my obvious prejudice I believe that by the end of the book I presented a fairly nuanced if none too complicated debate on the abortion issue.  I tried to show where the gray areas can be found in this endless, endlessly unresolveable argument. Maybe I made a few people shift their points of view half an inch, I don’t know. It did make for some fun plotting in any case.

The other noteworthy thing here is the point of view—who is telling the story. Perhaps one doesn’t really think about that consciously while reading books like these, but the writer certainly has to. And so—fanfare of trumpets!!!—this is the first book where we get outside of Lucy’s head and into the minds of various other characters. This opens the story up, as we experience events through Ellen’s eyes, through the eyes of a couple of cops, through Ellen’s mother’s eyes, through Loretta’s eyes, and so on.

This opens the story up and it also notches up the suspense, for each time you leave one character, you leave the reader hanging, wondering, what next?

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2 thoughts on “Plotting, Perspective, and Burnout in Utah

  1. pcb says:

    Question. Sex and Death ended with Lucy planning a wedding to Harry. There is no explanation in Utah about what happened to that and Harry wasn’t even mentioned (and then, just briefly) until the 7% mark. I’ve read a lot of reviews and the confusion in that shift seems to be a common theme. Would love to know what took place between the two books.

    Like

    • sarahcaleypublishing says:

      Thanks for the question. Yeah, they broke up between the books but it wasn’t explained in Utah. You’re totally right that it’s a confusing shift. I’ll try to get a blog post up covering what happened in between.

      Liked by 1 person

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