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"Threads: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn"

December 30, 2007

     I haven’t said anything up until now because I’ve been fascinated by the feedback I’ve received from readers. I didn’t want to spoil things by telling them how I wanted them to interpret Threads, or what I expected them to get from it. The emails I receive all focus on different aspects of the story and quote different passages as having meaning to the reader, indicating that people are seeing it differently and getting different things from it. That’s exactly as it should be. Once I put it out there I shouldn’t interfere with the reader/book relationship.

      Now that I’ve compiled enough emails and reactions, though, I’ve decided to be a bit more forthcoming. First of all, its genre is "Visionary Fiction", which comprises books of a meditative nature that contain a message or a lesson, and which usually employ a spiritual or paranormal vehicle to tell it. Examples of the genre include, "The Five People You Meet in Heaven", by Mitch Albom, "What Dreams May Come", by Richard Matheson, and "The Celestine Prophesy", by James Redfield. So it's a little different, and its intended audience is people who like a complex story with challenging, thought provoking concepts that require some introspective examination. (If you prefer sirens and car chases, try, "The Di Vinci Code.")

       The story is an allegory, or a kind of "fable". Allegory is a form of extended metaphor, in which objects, persons and actions in a narrative have meaning beyond the narrative itself. This underlying meaning has moral, social, religious, or political significance, and characters are often personifications of abstract ideas as charity, greed, or envy. Thus, an allegory is a story with two meanings, a literal meaning and a symbolic meaning. 

       I wrote the book in layers. I’ve heard from people who saw all of them (Bravo!), and people who saw one but not the others. I also read the reviews and could make that distinction pretty easily. 

       And I wrote it with two opposing timelines. The main story is in past tense, and progresses forward in time. The secondary story - the "other-worldly" one with Anne's past lives - is in present tense, and progresses backward. Each past life presents her with and emphasizes a point or a lesson Anne needs to learn about the situation she just examined in her lifetime as Anne Boleyn.

     In addition, as I constructed the story, I played on the tapestry theme, and wove the "threads" of little sub-stories from beginning to end throughout the lifetimes, and the book. If you skip or skim the beginning or the middle of a sub-story, you won’t understand or even notice its conclusion, or will miss clues that give you insight into some of the background relationships. For that reason, fortunately or unfortunately, Threads demands your undivided attention – or may require a second reading, if you'd like to catch everything.

     The story contains ample foreshadowing, so you should have a pretty good idea of where it's heading when it ends. The ending isn't an ending at all. It's a continuation, because in order to effectively follow the reincarnation theme the story can have no ending, just more up ahead. 

         Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII are incidental to the story, which I could have written about any dysfunctional couple faced with forgiving (or committing) the unforgivable. I just liked the pair of them and the explosiveness of their relationship, and did my best to make their known history accurate. Their history in Threads is a melding of five notable biographies. None of them agree on what happened in Anne's life, so I was as careful as I could be, and listed the instances at the end of the book where I knowingly changed the facts. 

      Nevertheless, the story isn’t about Anne and Henry. It isn’t even about reincarnation. Those are just two of the allegorical layers – and many people have liked, or even loved the book without looking past them. Threads in its entirety is about spiritual evolution in one lifetime or many, and about how difficult the growth process is. It’s about good and bad, right and wrong, and learning the difference. It’s about personal accountability and obligation. It’s also about love – each of the characters in the book represents a different aspect of love – and how it never dies, even when it disguises itself as hatred. 

     All of my life I’d been exposed to truisms, just as everyone else has. These come in a number of forms, most frequently in timeworn sayings, such as “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” or “Power corrupts.”

    Other times the truth comes to us in books with eye-opening morals, such as “To Kill a Mockingbird,” or in books with haunting beauty and hope in the face of obscene ugliness, like “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.”

     Millions of people read books or watch movies that have the potential to inspire or teach. Millions of people proclaim themselves devout followers of this religion or that, and can repeat the teachings of those religions verbatim without prompting. Everyone hears, and can recite, the timeworn sayings. It is NOT as if people aren’t thoroughly exposed to these truths and these morals.

     What bothered me was how infrequently people actually listened to these truisms, and actually lived their religions, and actually learned from the morals of the stories they’d read. Even though everyone can quote, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” for instance, most people don’t believe it. They still judge people by their shoes or their hairstyles or their clothing or their careers. They care about the kinds of cars they drive. They value that cutthroat, embezzling Wall Street broker and his millions of dollars (provided he doesn’t get caught – which immediately turns a “winner” into a “loser”, and nobody likes a loser) more than the teacher, or the woman whose endless patience got that autistic child to speak, or the man who serves food to the homeless in a soup kitchen. Given a choice, they’ll take money over friendship, without even taking the time or making the effort toward any internal soul searching. They judge and dismiss and ridicule and condemn, see themselves as good people with value, and make value judgments about everyone else based on superficial things. They use a measuring stick of “success” and gauge the worth of the people they meet by how popular they are, how pretty, how much they earn, and how enviable their situations are.

     I saw this, and lived it, and experienced it and got tired. In short, I lost patience with people when they acted like jerks and wrote a book. In writing that book I reminded myself and came to terms with the fact that we're, each of us, a work in progress. It was a cathartic effort.

     I found a philosophy, reincarnation, which makes those truisms and morals real. Whether or not you believe in the mechanics of reincarnation, its philosophical viewpoint uses a measuring stick that is very closely aligned to the underlying message of every major religion and every basic moral code. It makes adhering to those truths and messages a tangible thing with tangible consequences. For that reason, it was a useful literary device in the story I wanted to tell.

         In essence, Threads is a reminder to everyone using the measuring stick of “success” that, when you use a DIFFERENT measuring stick – probably the same one your religion uses – you have less reason to feel smug and self-satisfied because of material things…or, as the case may be, to feel like a failure. 

     The book doesn't preach; it just offers up another way of looking at life.

     If you’re reading Threads the way I hoped you would and keep that measuring stick with you at all times until you’re finished, you will catch the message. If you aren't and don’t, it’s still a nice story about the reincarnation of Anne Boleyn.

Thanks to all of you who have written! I LOVE hearing from you!!!