Originally published 2016-02-04: Inspiration from the Classics | A Guest Post by Jennifer-Lynn Keniston
Writing is a lot of things to different people. Some people write “just for fun,” while others write for self-expression, truth, justice, fame, fortune, or a dozen other reasons that are individual to each writer. Some of us write because we are compelled to do so. Others come to it later, not necessarily as a calling, but as a way to share their ideas and knowledge.
I recently volunteered to take part in a blog tour for Jennifer-Lynn Keniston, author the 2015 thriller, Afta-U.
Michael’s smile broadened. “It seems you’re surprised to see me, Jean. Don’t tell me you thought that they’d leave an eleven-year-old boy locked away forever.”
Twenty-nine years after the tragic death of her childhood best friend, Hope, Jean Cartwright Rhodes returns to her hometown with her husband and daughter after she inherits the house her friend’s family once lived in. Now, years later, she finds herself haunted by a dark truth – and by the specter of Hope herself.
Every time Jean looks through her kitchen window, she sees two stark reminders of her troubled past; the Afta-U sailboat, ironically named after young Hope, and the old oak tree where her eleven-year-old friend met her death at the hands of another child.
How the Greytown/Graytown Lighthouse with its Fresnel Lens was inspired from the sign of Dr. TJ Eckleburg in The Great Gatsby
by Jennifer-Lynn Keniston
If you have read Afta-U, you have already discovered that The Great Gatsby is my favorite novel. I love to dive into the figurative interpretations buried in the pages. Perhaps my favorite symbolic image in it, is the large billboard sign overlooking the wasteland of the roaring twenties, in what Fitzgerald refers to as “the valley of ashes.”
This billboard sign is for the optometrist practice belonging to Dr. TJ Eckleburg. In this advertisement, the commercialized big eyes and glasses are deteriorating. This sign overlooks and symbolizes the loss of spiritual values in America in the quest to find quick wealth and live the “American Dream.”
I often look up the definitions to words and look deeper into meanings behind them. For this blog, I went and looked up the word sight. I’m intrigued that the definition of sight references the word “power” in it: “the power or faculty of seeing.”
Moreover, the noun tense of the word power defines power as: “the ability to do something or act in a particular way, especially as a faculty or quality.” Personally, I believe that you can interpret “seeing” literally or figuratively, and “power,” well, that can be something you see, feel, or believe.
In The Great Gatsby this billboard sign can be literally seen, emulates emotion in the narrator when he describes it, and shows the displacement of believing in the one true power of God to materialistic wants.
When I sat down to write my first novel, I knew that I wanted to create and embrace a similar symbol to that billboard, yet, I had written about a third of Afta-U, before the lighthouse symbolism was formed.
So, like the sign that overlooks the wasteland, the Fresnel lens of the lighthouse is the “eyes” and “sight” watching over Greytown/Graytown. This lighthouse is situated on the only road in and out of it. Years ago, Greytown, changed its name to Graytown, unaware of how this name change would match how dismal the town would become.
In Afta-U, this lighthouse begins to deteriorate soon after the death of Hope. Well, of course it would start to deteriorate then, since this story is after all, what happens “Afta-U,” or after Hope, dies.
Only Danny Eckleberg (yes, I chose his last name on purpose but changed the u to an e) discovers that permanently leaving Graytown might be his only way to find happiness, to be uplifted spiritually, and find the “hope” that died and is buried back home. But to do so, on his way out of town, he had to pass by that lighthouse one final time.
This Greytown/Graytown lighthouse becomes the key symbol in my second novel in this trilogy entitled Fresnel Lens. Fresnel Lens jumps back in time to when this lighthouse and its Fresnel lens was functioning and powerful. Back to a time when its “eyes” quietly saw the truth of the mystery embedded in this second story.
About Jennifer-Lynn Keniston
Raised in Hanson, Massachusetts, the author earned a Master of Arts degree in English, from Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy, from Plymouth State College in New Hampshire. Jennifer-Lynn currently works as a project manager for a company that provides cloud software products for call centers at small, medium, and enterprise companies. In April 2014, she started her own business, Ansel Resume Resolution Services LLC, writing resumes and cover letters. She now lives and writes in Concord, New Hampshire, and enjoys teaching Spinning classes in her free time.