Was writing this novel a ‘one-off’ for you or is this really a second-act following your career as a journalist?
That depends on whether The Ocean Above Me finds an audience. I’m committed to this as a second act, but book sales will determine whether I get another bite at the apple with Harper.
That being said, I just completed a draft of my second novel.
It’s called Freedom’s Deep for a fictional Ohio city founded by abolitionists on the deepest spot of Lake Erie’s northeastern shore.
After years abroad as a foreign correspondent, Sebastian Rooke has finally come home. But no one in Freedom’s Deep is particularly happy to see him.
As the new owner and editor, of the town’s storied but long-struggling hometown paper, The Liberator, Rooke has taken on the role of an avenging angel, using his personal column irreverently titled, Better Forgotten? to unearth old secrets, root out rumors, and air dirty laundry that the people of Freedom’s Deep would rather be left alone.
Still, Better Forgotten? has become Freedom’s Deep must-read, a journalistic sturm and drang that has everyone on razor’s edge over both what and whom will be reported on next.
But these truths, tales of greed, ignorance, lust, and cruelty destroy trust, partnerships, and marriages, open new wounds, and even inspire violent recriminations for grievances thought to have been healed by time long ago.
And just when it seems he’s done everything possible to polarize his hometown, Rooke turns his muckraking skills to a dark rumor going back to the Civil War.
One concerning the role of a celebrated town father Josiah Gunn and an escaped enslaved woman he’d been sheltering on a final stop of the underground railroad before her crossing to anew life in Canada.
Rooke’s ongoing determination to force his former friends and neighbors to face the truth of their most shameful moments combined with his latest myth-shattering investigation threatens to rupture the very foundation of the community.
Also prompting him to reconsider whether the truth at any cost is always worth pursuing.
Especially if he’s able to answer the one question from the past that can forever change the town and its future: what lies at the bottom of Freedom’s Deep?
I see this as part of a loosely-based trilogy, that I started with The Ocean Above Me on the dilemmas journalists face in reporting the truth.
In Ocean, the protagonist Lukas Landon forsakes the truth and pays the consequences.
In Deep, Sebastian Rooke pursues the truth despite the terrible costs.
The final book in the trilogy concerns a journalist who has fled to an isolated sanctuary in the Pacific Northwest, haunted by a truth from the past that will not be appeased.
As journalists, were taught that seeking and reporting the truth is the prime directive. The very purpose of our profession.
But there are complexities and consequences that make the entire exercise less didactic, more dangerous — and more interesting.
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