A down and out writer in contemporary Key West -- bankrupt, blocked and stalked by a jealous lover -- encounters a miraculous emissary from Writer's Heaven: A Young Ernest Hemingway reincarnate, sent to get him back on track as a writer and a man. Sound interesting?
Thus begins award-winning novelist Rick Skwiot’s latest book, KEY WEST STORY. The novel was just released by Antaeus Books, also out of Key West, FL.
Rick joins us today to talk about ‘reincarnating Ernest Hemingway’ in his KEY WEST STORY.
What would it be like to hang out with a young Ernest Hemingway in today’s Key West and communist Cuba 50 years after his death? That’s what I wondered and then sought to answer in my new novel of love and redemption KEY WEST STORY.
Over the past year we’ve seen Ernest Hemingway resurrected in Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris, Paula McClain’s novel The Paris Wife and Paul Hendrickson’s biography Hemingway’s Boat. In all cases we encountered a historic Hemingway set in his proper time and place.
But in KEY WEST STORY I reincarnated Hem, brought him back from the dead and Writers Heaven (where admission requirements differ somewhat from biblical paradise) to contemporary Key West. There he acts as a foil, mentor and friend to my protagonist Con Martens, a down-and-out novelist suffering from advanced writer’s block while dodging a homicidally jealous girlfriend.
I chose to bring Hem back as a vital 40-year-old man in his prime instead of the older, bearded, white-haired, alcohol-addled Papa Hemingway so often depicted. I did this for a couple reasons. First, it made him roughly the same age as Con, so their relationship would be that of peers rather than with echoes of a father-son relationship, which might have taken some of the fun and friendship out of it. Second, that’s the Hemingway I would have liked to have known, before the booze, ego-inflation, bitterness and self-involvement ruined him as a man and a writer.
Bringing back to life a younger yet more mature Hemingway (benefiting, as he would, from a posthumous perspective) turned out to be a deep pleasure. I delved back into his work, his biographies and what he had to say about life, literature and writing. I worked to make him a flesh-and-blood angel, a man still passionate about wine, women and good writing.
Reincarnating Hem also gave me a chance to see today’s Key West through his eyes—how he might view the annual Hemingway Days, cruise ships, mass tourism and general mania that have overtaken my adopted hometown. As you might imagine, he has some pithy things to say.
For writers, creating a believable and breathing fictional character—even if it’s one that had a prior earthly existence—requires you to get inside his or her skin, head and heart. That is, to use your imagination. As the real Hemingway himself once wrote: “[Imagination] is the one thing beside honesty that a good writer must have…If he gets so he can imagine truly enough people will think that the things he relates all really happened and that he is just reporting.”
A tall order when writing about angels, perhaps, but an enjoyable one, I see, now that all the work is done. And in the process I feel like I made a new friend, even though I never got to shake his hand.
Rick, thanks for guest blogging today. Your reincarnating Hemingway is a unique look at the man to say the least. Interesting take on him and a neat spin to the book.
KEY WEST STORY: Havana, hurricanes, a Santeria Priestess and an alcohol-soaked Key West enliven this romantic tale. The story draws on every writer's fantasy of meeting a literary hero, while maintaining a realistic story line: There are no ghosts, per se, just the suggestion of Papa's spirit, which is enough to change one frustrated writer's path.
Rick won the Hemingway First Novel Award for his book DEATH IN MEXICO (originally published as FLESH), and is the co-founder and director of the nonprofit Key West Writers Lab. He lives in Key West, FL.
To read a sample chapter of KEY WEST STORY and for an author video interview, visit his blog, www.keyweststory.com. For more on Rick and his writing, also drop by http://www.rickskwiot.com.
What are your thoughts on reincarnating a famous figure? Who would you like to bring back to have a chat with? Thanks so much for stopping by today.