A happy New Year to you all and let’s start with a good story!
Finally, Francine, the bright and beautiful West Virginian, came down the mountain in, Francine – Dazzling Daughter of the Mountain State. A corporate novel which heralds Francine’s meteoric rise at a New York-based international mining conglomerate, in spite of all odds. Kirkus Reviews, the reputed and critical Indie books reviewer, spiked it “A dramatically taut tale propelled by artful characterization and political relevance.”
“Why not solicit an agent for this fascinating story and have it traditionally published?” asked several reviewers of the manuscript. I may still do that but it simply takes too long. Count some 18 months before it is on the bookshelves, if ever. I don’t have that time!
How did Francine come to life?
That’s a great question. She was one of those fabulous young women growing up at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. I had good laughs when I met them in the midst of our daughter’s sorority circle, their sorority house, and the sunken garden.
True, Fiona of Enchanting The Swan was also born at William & Mary! Quite an inspirational college for a writer you would say. But it was the mountains of beautiful West Virginia that spirited Francine’s story. And the contrasting devastation of its coal country. How could such exaggeration of bad economic and environmental management destroy so many happy families, living in peace and suddenly thrown into desperation and suffering? A repetition of Upton Sinclair’s gripping tale of King Coal?
Francine is graduating first in class at William & Mary’s Mason Business School in 2010,
when she is confronted with the horrible mine explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine near Whitesville along Coal River in West Virginia. Twenty-nine miners lost their lives due to gross mismanagement of mine safety. It spurs her to forego a lucrative career in investment banking and join OHARA Mining Inc., the New York-based international mining company which has its roots in West Virginia. She will never forget the fate of those twenty-nine miners and attends the unveiling of their memorial in Whitesville in 2012 on behalf of her company. Her whole life will be dedicated to advance the lives of the company’s miners she works for.
Why place a novel about a promising girl in a mining company? Why not jewelry, fashion or music like A Coal Miner’s Daughter? agents asked whom I offered the story at Writers conferences. The question troubled me. Why not? Those agents did not want to get “their hands dirty.” They feared readers wouldn’t either. They worried about the novel’s support of the miners’ fight with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and overreaching environmentalists. It would choke off a certain group of readers. Well, so be it: Francine took up the fight, and she made it up in the corporate world. To their credit, Kirkus Reviews recognized her perseverance and the miners she stood up for, and gave the manuscript a resounding positive critique. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/john-schwartz/francine/
Born in Beckley, Francine’s journey in her international mining company takes her to many different places, in the U.S. and abroad. She’s propelled by the sight of closed mines along National Road 3 and in southern West Virginia. She vividly remembers the monument dedicated to the West Virginian miner at the Charleston Capitol.
Throughout the novel, she faces difficult issues, from fights in Congress and with a belligerent anti-coal EPA
to labor, financial and pollution problems with OHARA’s gold and bauxite investments in the Guyanas of the Caribbean.
Georgetown Guyana, Paramaribo and Suriname River, Suriname.
And she battles with China on corruptive practices. She participates in rallies of the United Mine Workers with Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Manchin speaking for miners’ rights for health care, and pensions.
But it was Sergeant Lanny A. Perdue of the Charleston Capitol Police who brought me onto Francine’s trail.
Charleston was not the place to start my search for her, he told me. Go down south, to Beckley. As of that critical moment, the search for Francine went on. I found her home in
Beckley, on Timber Ridge Drive,
visited Woodrow Wilson Highschool where she graduated
and admired the spectacular West Virginian scenery where she went trout-fishing with her father in the New River Gorge
And so Francine’s intriguing story developed, much of it playing in New York, starting with her troubled walk in Central Park.
Just one click takes you to a good read!