Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Jennifer Archer: "A Poet Is A Nightingale..." plus a giveaway!

Huge thanks to Jennifer Archer for this original guest post!

“A POET IS A NIGHTINGALE . . . ” by Jennifer Archer

In my novel, THROUGH HER EYES, which was released last year by Harper Teen, Tansy and her family move to tiny Cedar Canyon, Texas and into an old house at the edge of town. From the Cedar Canyon residents she meets, Tansy soon hears about a seventeen-year-old boy named Henry who lived in the same house in the 1930’s. Henry has become a local legend – it’s believed that he took his own life by jumping from a bridge into a small canyon on the property and that he haunts the house and grounds.

Tansy finds a journal that belonged to Henry, and the handwritten poems on the pages inside seem to be written just for her. Soon Henry is everywhere – in the poems she reads, in her thoughts, in the pictures she takes with her camera. And when a bird begins showing up each night at her window, its melancholy song drawing Tansy deeper and deeper into Henry’s world, she wonders if the nightingale is the physical manifestation of his soul, calling out to her from the spirit world.

Perhaps because they fly, since the earliest of times birds have appeared in literature, folklore, myth and religion as representations of a supernatural link between people and the afterlife. A deceased person’s soul ascending to heaven is symbolized by a dove in Christianity, and birds are often depicted as redeemed souls in Christian art. Similar representations appear in the Christian Bible, as well. Ecclesiastes, Chapter 10, Verse 20 reads, “. . . a little bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.” Christianity isn’t the only religion linking birds and the afterlife. In the Islamic religion, souls manifest as birds until Judgment Day. Frequently, too, Asian and Middle Eastern philosophies speak of birds as a symbol of everlasting life. And according to The Myths Encyclopedia, “ancient Egyptians believed that the soul, the ba, could leave the dead body in the form of a bird, often a hawk.” And, “The feather cloaks that Central American and Mexican priests and kings wore may have been connected to the idea of a soul journey.” 

The idea to have Henry, the ghost in THROUGH HER EYES, visit Tansy in the form of a bird came to me after reading a quote by one of my favorite poets, Percy Bysshe Shelley, whose wife, Mary Shelley, wrote the classic novel Frankenstein. In “A Defense of Poetry," Shelley writes: "A poet is a nightingale who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds; his auditors are as men entranced by the melody of an unseen musician, who feel that they are moved and softened, yet know not whence or why.”

Discovering this quote seemed like serendipity to me! It described Henry perfectly. Henry is a poet and a musician. Tansy is “entranced” by him. I was intrigued. After I did some research and discovered all the many ties between birds and the afterlife, I knew I wanted to include such a connection in my own story. But what kind of bird should Henry be? I wasn’t sure, so I did more research and learned that in mythology, nightingales often typify love and longing. I knew then that I’d found my bird! In my mind, the fact that nightingales don’t exist in the United States made the presence of one in Cedar Canyon, Texas even more eerie and haunting.

At the age of ten, Jennifer Archer made up her mind to become a writer. Then she grew up, became “sensible,” and earned a business degree with a minor in accounting instead. After years of trying to find her way through a confusing maze of debits and credits she realized that, for her, accounting was no more sensible than becoming a World Federation wrestler. So in 1993, she enrolled in a creative writing class, and five years later, sold her first novel. Since then, Jennifer has published several novels for adults, as well as numerous non-fiction works.
Find more at Jennifer Archer's website.

And now it is...

Jennifer Archer has sweetly offered up quite a prize pack to one lucky winner! 

You will receive:
- An autographed copy of Through Her Eyes
- A Through Her Eyes bookmark
- An autographed copy of Mari Mancusi's Night School

To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Should you need further convincing, you can find my review here, and the trailer embedded below. Enjoy, and good luck!



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