Coming Clean: Time for A True (?) Confession

I have a confession to make:

I have broken the Historian’s Oath.

I have written a novel.

First, a little background. I had tried twice before to write a novel. The first was when I was just 24 and a second-year English teacher. Lasted two days. The second was when I was 28 and had just quit teaching to become a full-time writer. Lasted two weeks.

I spent the next thirty years making a respectable living writing non-fiction: 1,040 weekly newspaper columns, hundreds of magazine articles and ten books.

All non-fiction. But – what a terrible word. Non-fiction. It’s like describing your career with a negative. A nurse isn’t called a ‘non-doctor’. A legal aid isn’t labeled a ‘non-lawyer.’ A waiter isn’t a ‘non-chef.’ Yet we write non-fiction!

(It seems, however, that no non-fiction writer has yet to create a word that encompasses and describes what we write. What does that say about us?)

But now I am also a Novelist. A writer of fiction, although my first work of fiction contains as much history as it does mystery.

My story starts where history ends: explaining that which has no explanation.

It takes place on the night of August 27, 1918, when Henry Ford and Thomas Edison did, in fact, arrive at the Grove Park Inn, along with a horde of national newspaper reporters. They were met by E. W. Grove and Fred L. Seely, his son-in-law, who was then leasing the famed hotel from Grove. But halfway through the evening Fred Seely makes a startling discovery: the body of a beautiful, young woman lying in the third floor Palm Court. A very dead, beautiful, young woman.

While I wouldn’t praise myself by calling it a ‘psychological thriller,’ it does become Fred Seely’s nightmare, as her unexplained death that August evening jeopardizes everything he had worked his entire life to achieve.

I completed the final draft a few months ago, but when my agent told me it could take eighteen months before it appeared in print, I decided life was too short to wait that long. And so I went from being a Novelist to becoming a Publisher.

This month I printed a Special Author’s Limited Edition of just 500 copies of “An Unexpected Guest,” 450 of which now remain in my office after sending copies to my family and setting aside copies as thank-you gifts for each of my Small Group Discussion leaders at this week’s Arts & Crafts Conference. I did have to phone my 80-year-old mother first, warning her about Chapter Six and reassuring her that the steamy scene with the two prostitutes was not based on any first-hand experience. Really.

Initial response to “An Unexpected Guest” has been very positive. It is not and was never intended to rival Faulkner or Wolfe. It’s a fun, fast-paced read with an ending that, well, that just may catch you off-guard. Or perhaps not, if you’re a sharp reader….

Anyway, it’s done, its published and its going to appear this week at the Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Conference.

And, of course, it has its own website with Chapter One available for you to read right now. Plus a picture of the front and back cover and information on ordering a signed copy if you won’t be at the Grove Park Inn this week.

But I hope you will, because we are going to have fantastic weather, the finest assemblage of Arts & Crafts antiques and new works ever seen anywhere, and the greatest group of people you could ever hope to meet.

Until then,

Have a great week!

– Bruce Johnson

An early review just appeared this past Sunday: