Hello from Bart Stewart!
My thanks go out to Shirley Ford for reviewing my debut novel, Painter of the Heavens, and allowing me to introduce myself to you here. I’m Bart Stewart, originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. Currently I reside in the orbit of Boston, Massachusetts. I’ve been writing since I was a little kid, chasing agents and publishers without success since roughly my early adulthood (of decades past.) My experience with writing fiction has always had two components: Enthusiastic reader response – and majestic, glacial silence from the industry. My plan is to self-publish from now on, with the hope of building a following over time beginning with this book.
I have one other book on Amazon, a collection of surreal fantasy stories that I released in print format in 2006. If you will allow me the cliché, it drew rave reviews. The too-long title of that book is Tales of Real and Dream Worlds. It won a finalist prize at the National Indie Excellence Awards in 2008. I’m quite proud of it, but I think it may have suffered from having a cover that screams “Horror,” while only about half of the stories are truly that. The other half are suspenseful, eerie, and certainly thought provoking, but not scary. A friend talked me into releasing a trilogy of the most frightening of the Tales as an eBook, so, that is on Amazon as well. (Links provided below.) Someday I will expand and re-issue this book, but I have a couple more novels in mind first.
I have adopted a little trademark with my writing; whenever possible I set the story in North Carolina. I know the atmosphere of the place and its people. Growing up there, I became acutely aware that no book, movie, or TV show story-line was ever set in North Carolina. American stories are set in one of two places: New York City or Los Angeles. A space alien monitoring our television signals would think that this planet consisted of those two locations. When I began writing, I resolved that my stories would be situated in North Carolina. The state has four distinct seasons, none overwhelmingly dominant. It has an ancient rolling mountain range to the west and a scenic Atlantic coast to the east. With the exception of Charlotte and a couple of smaller cities, North Carolina is wooded, rural and dotted with small towns.
Painter of the Heavens happens here, in the university town of Chapel Hill, with side trips to London, and the deserts of west Texas. This book is literary suspense, dealing with a woman’s love affair with a mysterious, charismatic fellow who, sadly, turns out to be a con artist. The point of view in the book is all hers, so we don’t know whether he is planning any foul play against her, which is the suspense of the story. He is definitely plotting a crime, a major forgery fraud, as he reveals to her about midway into the book. He has faked up a historical letter that he believes will net millions at auction. Lyle needs an accomplice for this particular scheme, and his eyes have turned to Penny.
Life has never been easy for Penny Sturdevant, and as our story begins, she is turning thirty just as she emerges from a bitter divorce. The marriage was supposed to have lifted her out of the cycle of poverty she had always known before, but over time, her husband had turned cold and dull; emotionally detached. It took all the personal strength and resolve Penny could muster to leave him and the security he offered. Now she wants something real and fulfilling in her life. What she ends up with is Lyle Chilton.
He is the manager of an indie bookstore in an old house in the woods outside of Chapel Hill. Back of the beyond, as Shirley described it. She meets him quite by chance. Lyle’s impact on her is hypnotic from the start. She finds him even more compelling and charismatic as she gets to know him during a series of dates that unfold in the first third of the book. Unfortunately, hints of a dark side start turning up. He was eccentric from the start, but disturbing moods begin appearing. He can pivot from light-heartedness to utter wartime gravity. He can be slightly controlling. Penny shrugs it off, as the good times are sweet, and she considers herself past due for something positive.
Lyle is a mass of mixed signals, which may be the result of a deeply conflicted personality. Is he a psychopath? He has the supreme self-confidence that is a trait of that condition. He would have to be unrealistically self-confident to attempt his outlandish crime. He is a somewhat exotic mentality. Penny on the other hand is someone you might actually know.
Her simple desire to live a fulfilling life is poignant. She wants to be “part of something,” she says. She wants a satisfying love life, but also to be part of something beyond that. Her needs are entirely healthy. The pathos of the novel is her struggle to attain them in this mercenary world. Lyle seems increasingly suspicious, even menacing as time goes by. Is his convoluted mind capable of genuine love? He claims he loves her, and wants to share his life with her—forever. He says all kinds of things. He sincerely means some of them. These matters are unresolved as the plot unfolds.
Painter of the Heavens is a little different, but I hope always to avoid the formulaic. I call this book character-driven noir fiction, and “A Novel of Crime and the Heart.” It is presently available only in digital format, but you can read the first 25 pages for free on its Amazon page:
As noted earlier, a friend convinced me to pluck three of the scarier short stories from my first book and release them as an eBook on Kindle. Thus, here you will find the trilogy called The Statuary Cats:
Management assumes no responsibility for any fright-induced heart attacks.
I am here in the Boston area, single, happy, and hard at work on my next novel, hoping to launch in the summer of 2014. I have another one in mind after that. No more seven-year hibernations. I also have a social media writing service: http://www.WaveOfContent.com. Follow me on Twitter, @BartStewart1, and look through my free-wheeling blog at http://BartStewart.com.
Remember—ultimately, we’re all indies.
– Bart Stewart, Boston, Massachusetts