Most of my newly revised novel, Out of the Blue, occurs in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Back then, a person could board an airplane with a large bottle of shampoo in their carryon bags. Back in the era where in-flight movies were shown on a pull-down screen and they shut the lights off in the cabin. Back when they issued silverware with meals, and you didn’t have to pay extra for dinner as it was part of the cost. Those days when people smoked on airplanes, although they were confined to the back seats.
Customs consisted of being asked why I was in England, how much money I had, they didn’t bother to look, and a kindly older gentleman wished me a “happy holiday!”
I visited Cornwall and saw Pendennis Castle. In Falmouth, I was surprised to see supermarket cashiers sitting down on the job. Traveling to a small Cornish town, I discovered the local Jigsaw Puzzle Club met every Tuesday afternoon in the library’s upstairs reading room.
As London was too expensive, I took a train to the Cotswolds. There I stumbled upon a small country inn that served as a model for the Windrush Arms Hotel.
I’ve contemplated rewriting this book for over a year and only got around to it this summer. This book has romantic elements, but I feel it’s more suited to coming of age/contemporary fiction categories. Out of the Blue contains scenes that convey why Sylvia’s attracted to older men, and we see another side to Mrs. Gardner.
Here’s a scene that describes main character Sylvia Gardner’s burgeoning obsession with the English actor:
Having more information on Alexander, she was relieved that she could see his current flick, Up In the Air. It was playing in a second run movie theatre on the other side of town.
She made the trek to the Eastside Theatre, a white brick building surrounded by an empty parking lot. Weeds sprouted from cracks near the edge of the sidewalk. At noon on Sunday, the movie house looked deserted.
Sylvia pulled her car into a space and got out. The humidity was the same as the temperature. Her nervousness accelerated her own perspiration; she was seeing a feature film starring her newly beloved.
Up In the Air was about the adventures of a turn-of-the-century English balloonist who wanted to fly over the Himalayas.
She gave her two bucks to the guy behind the box office window. A hefty woman at the concession stand stared into space. The enticing popcorn boiled from the trapdoor inside the machine, the sound and scent permeating the lobby.
Inside the cool, dark theatre, third row back. She rested her bare legs on the seat in front of her and waited for the event. Minutes later, he appeared. In the cinema, she encountered Alexander Thorpe looming several feet high. The stereo amplified his timbre. His British accent sounded overly proper to her ears. Amidst the lightly populated movie house she sat, her infatuation moving and speaking on screen expressly for her. The sight of him enraptured her. Flying above a pristine landscape in a brightly colored balloon, she soared along with him. Alexander Thorpe, the man who had appeared out of the blue.
Sylvia was bathed in the reflected light from the screen and watched him glide past the Swiss Alps as he watched the magnificent scenery. She envisioned herself onboard. For a fraction of a second, she really was there, her feet touching the basket’s bottom, his hand reaching for hers. They were about to look into each other’s eyes when she was back in the third row of the Richport cinema keeping cool on a quiet Sunday afternoon.
Her fixation intensified over the months. In October, she was working a few hours overtime at the drugstore. Her increased wages were not enough to allow her to make a down payment on a plane ticket to London, but if she saved her money, then the likelihood of meeting the actor would increase. She realized the Englishman was not going to stop by Jenson’s Drugstore and purchase a pack of Marlboro’s and a Playboy. The only way to find the man was to journey to his homeland. Sylvia kept her desire to herself, for who would understand her burgeoning obsession with an actor of some renown? A man old enough to be her father; a man she had never met?
It all began in the summer of 1979 …
Sylvia Gardner is a naïve library clerk who lives with her dysfunctional mother in Richport, Illinois. Vivian tells her daughter not to trust men because they only want to use her. After being dumped by her first boyfriend, Sylvia falls in love with an English actor after watching him on a PBS drama. Researching Alexander Thorpe’s life and career for two years, she saves her money so she can visit him in his Cotswolds village. She stays at the Windrush Arms Hotel, soon discovering they share a secret connection.
Complications ensue when Harry Livingstone, the hotel’s drunken proprietor, takes a fancy to the young American. As in her dreams, Sylvia and Alexander get together – but with unexpected results.
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