Posted tagged ‘Lyla Hopewell’

Lyla and Bel’s 4th of July

July 1, 2014

For this Independence Day holiday, I thought I would post one of the scenes from my novel The Best Place in which the main character Lyla Hopewell and her eccentric best friend, Bel, celebrate the holiday.

 

So on the Fourth of July, Bel comes over for breakfast, and I have to admit she tries really hard. I tell her when she gets there that I’m making scrambled eggs, but she says, “No, that ain’t festive enough for the Fourth of July.” Then she sticks in a video of this silly musical called 1776 that has that bad film look like most of those movies made in the ’60s and ’70s. And it seems like it’s all about Thomas Jefferson’s sex life from what little bit of it I actually pay attention to—and she tells me just to sit there and have my coffee and enjoy myself while she makes pancakes. So I says, “Okay,” to make her happy, and I drink two cups of coffee and pretend to watch half the movie, and I’m just about ready to keel over from hunger when she finally tells me she’s done.

So I drag myself out of the chair and go over to the table and I think, “What the hell did she bake a cake for?” Only, it’s not a cake. It’s a stack of pancakes, and she’s covered the top one in strawberry and blueberry jam and whipping cream so it looks all red, white, and blue, and then she’s got a little American flag on a toothpick attached to it. “I wanted to put in a sparkler,” she says, “but I was afraid it would set off the fire alarm, and I didn’t think we’d use a whole box of them—they don’t sell them separately,” she says.

The Best Place - the story of two women who grew up in Marquette's Holy Family Orphanage and their lifelong friendship.

The Best Place – the story of two women who grew up in Marquette’s Holy Family Orphanage and their lifelong friendship.

“It’s pretty, Bel,” I says, “but I don’t like whipping cream, you know.”

“That’s okay. I’ll eat the top one—oh, I forgot the candle I bought to replace the sparkler.”

And then she grabs two giant birthday candles off the cupboard of the numbers “7” and “6.” They’re the same ones she used for my birthday cake last year.

“What’s that for?” I asks.

“It’s America’s birthday today,” she says. “It’s the Spirit of ’76. Don’t you remember that from history class?”

I remember birthday cakes have candles to represent a person’s age, not the year they were born, but I s’pose she couldn’t do the math to figure it out—two hundred and…and…twenty-nine it would be—2005 minus 1776.

“Let’s eat,” I says, but first I have to use the bathroom from drinking all that coffee while I waited.

I go in the bathroom and sit down, and can’t help laughing to myself about the pancakes covered in jam with “76” sticking out of them. That’d be one to take a picture of if my Kodak disc camera hadn’t broken. I haven’t bought a new one—those new digital things are just too expensive as far as I’m concerned. And I don’t have a computer to read them on.

Well, we have a nice breakfast. I eat far more pancakes than I normally would, but Bel says we need to eat extra to keep up our strength for walking to the parade. It’s on Washington Street, just two blocks from Snowberry, but whatever.

After breakfast, I wash up the dishes while she watches the rest of 1776. For the rest of the day, I’ll hear her humming that song about Jefferson playing the violin.

“We can watch Yankee Doodle Dandy tonight, Lyla,” she says.

“Great,” I think, but I just says, “Okay.” Maybe I’ll be lucky and fall asleep by then.

“While we wait for the fireworks,” she says.

I’d forgotten about the fireworks, but I can see them great where they shoot them off over the old ore dock right from my window. It’s one of the few advantages of living high up in a skyscraper—well, at least the closest thing to a skyscraper that Marquette’s got.

When it’s time for the parade, we put on suntan lotion at Bel’s insistence, and we get out our old lady straw hats, and then we take the elevator down to the lobby. We go out into the parking lot to Bel’s car where she’s got a couple fold-up lawn chairs in her trunk. Then we start up the hill to Washington Street, a bit before the crowd, so we can get a spot in the shade, usually in front of the buildings on the south side of the street between Fourth and Fifth.

We find a good shady spot, right next to a little tree and where we can see up Washington Street where the parade will come down. There aren’t any kids nearby to run in the street and grab candy and get on my nerves, so that’s a good sign, though it’s a good half hour before the parade will start down by Shopko, and probably another half hour after that before it’ll get to where we are downtown.

At least we’re in the shade so I don’t have to listen to Bel complaining about the heat, though it’s turning out to be a hot summer, which I can do without. No true Yooper likes hot weather—anything over seventy degrees and I start sweating, and when you spend your life walking back and forth to work and working on your feet all day, it doesn’t take much to get you sweating. I’m sweating just from the walk up the hill to here.

I guess a lot of other people must not like hot weather either considering all the guys walking around with their shirts off and the girls in their skimpy shorts and those tank top things that show off their cleavage—well, I’d like to think it was because they don’t like to sweat, but I know better. Bunch of tramps is what we would have called these girls in my day. And the guys, they look like babies mostly, they’re so young. I admit some of them might be good-looking, but they spoil their looks with all those God-awful tattoos. I can see maybe having one on your arm, but not on your back, chest, and especially on your neck. Just makes me want to puke. And then there are the young teenage boys riding around on their bikes, trying to attract the “chicks,” but mostly just making asses out of themselves—only the tramps they’ll attract are too stupid to know they’re asses. “Male sluts—that’s what they are,” I mutter to myself as a trio of them go by, trying to do wheelies for whatever girls might be in the crowd.

“What?” Bel asks.

“Oh, nothing. I just don’t understand the younger generation,” I says.

“Oh, Lyla, how could you? You never were young yourself.”

“What do you mean by that?” I asks.

“Here, have your Diet Coke before it gets too warm,” she says, pulling two drinks out of her gigantic purse.

I take the pop and crack the cap just enough to let the fizz out so it doesn’t explode. I’m not going to ask her again what she means by my never having been young. I was young until I was about ten, but I was never the age of those teenage boys on their bicycles. I never had the freedom to be young like that. I was milking cows at the orphanage and then taking care of two old ladies, and then taking care of a store, an old man, and a woman with a baby and a drunken husband all my teen years. By the time I turned eighteen, I was on my own again, and had my own apartment, but I was busy working constantly so I’d have enough to pay the rent. I had plenty of guys around my age who would try to hit on me when I walked around town, but I just ignored them, and I never went to the bars or anything—I saw what marriage did to people—my father abandoned my mother, or at least that’s what we all thought, and I’m sure her heartbreak over that contributed to her death, and then Bel married an alcoholic who beat her, not to mention she lost her child. Why would I want to go through that pain? And then there were the rich ladies I cleaned house for, always fussing over their rich husbands who brought home the bacon, and most of them were scared of their husbands too. What the hell did I want with that kind of a life?

Finally, we see the cop cars starting to come down the street—a sign that the parade is about to start.

———————————————————————

Find out what happens next in The Best Place, available at www.MarquetteFiction.com

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Christmas in July

December 8, 2013

Every year about this time I post a Christmas scene from one of my novels. My newest novel The Best Place takes place in the summer of 2005 so there are no Christmas scenes, so instead, I’m posting the Christmas in July scene from the novel. The book is told from the viewpoint of Lyla Hopewell and in this scene she spends time with her best friend Bel, who lives in Snowberry Heights with her. Enjoy!

Chapter 12

The Fourth of July weekend—Monday being the Fourth—St. Peter’s Cathedral decides to have a bake sale, even though a lot of people will be out of town because of the holiday. Somehow I got on the church bake sale calling list so, of course, I agree to bake, and while Bel is only one of those Christmas and Easter Catholics, she says she’ll help me. We decide to bake on Friday afternoon so the cookies and bars will be fresh for Saturday.

I’m thinking we’ll make some oatmeal cookies and some date bars, but Bel surprises me when she shows up with a bag full of frosting and sugar and a bag of candy to stick in the frosting.

TheBestPlace“I thought we were making date bars,” I says as she dumps all her stuff on my counter.

“Lyla, you know better. It’s July now.”

I know better than to trust the tone in her voice as she says it, and my fears are confirmed when she pulls out a plastic bag full of cookie cutters with shapes like angels, candy canes, and Santa Claus heads.

“It’s Christmas in July!” she exclaims.

“Oh, come on, Bel,” I says.

“Oh, don’t be a sourpuss, Lyla,” Bel says. “The kids will love it.”

Ever since we saw that Christmas in July movie with Dick Powell when we were in the orphanage, Bel has never gotten it out of her head. “It’s good luck to celebrate Christmas in July,” she always says, “and maybe we’ll win the Maxwell House Sweepstakes too.”

“It was Maxford,” I tell her, referring to the stupid contest in that movie, but she doesn’t listen.

Back in the old days, I would have thought Bel was nuts and I would have refused to do anything that would make me look crazy at church, but by now, everyone knows Bel is crazy, so what the hell? I’ll help her make her Christmas cookies today, and I can just make my date bars on Saturday morning.

I’d have been okay with the cookies, but it’s a boiling hot day and she’s also shown up with a video of White Christmas to get us in the mood while we bake, even though we’ve both seen that movie a zillion times. And even though I’ve told her that every time we watch it, I get ticked off at Rosemary Clooney all over again—I mean, that woman had it all, but then she went and let herself get fat—if I’d had her looks, I’d have done better than end my career doing Coronet paper towel commercials—gee whiz. Some people just don’t appreciate the chances they get in life—she was the same age as me too, and here she’s been dead for a few years now. I bet less people remember her now than know who that oily looking nephew of hers is. But at least watching White Christmas beats having to watch Meet Me in St. Louis again. Bel’s crazy about that one, but I can’t bear to watch it—especially not when Judy Garland starts singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Not that it ain’t a pretty song, and Lord knows Judy could sing, but it’s that line, “soon again we all will be together” that gets to me. It’s something I used to think about in the orphanage—that that kind of Christmas magic was possible, but it ain’t. I never could have Mama and Papa back, or Jessie either, I guess—though I keep hoping, but not doing anything about it when it comes to her. I did get back Papa, so I guess like what Bing Crosby sings to Rosemary, I should count my blessings before I sleep. But they sure don’t count their blessings in that Meet Me in St. Louis film; the whole family’s got this giant house and a maid and the biggest problem they’ve got that they all whine about is moving to New York where their dad’s going to make a lot more money. Silly. I bet Judy knew it was silly too—probably part of what drove her to drink and do all those drugs—she realized like I did long ago that life ain’t ever going to be like one of those MGM musicals.

So anyways, Bel puts in the movie while I start mixing up the cookie dough. She never is much help. She puts newspaper and wax paper all over the kitchen table, and she finds my giant cutting board and rolling pin, but I do all the rolling because every time Bing opens his mouth, she gets glued back to the television set. I never did figure out what the big deal was about him—he wasn’t much to look at. I’d have picked Danny Kaye over him.

Finally, when I have the dough all rolled out and I’m ready for her to start cutting out the cookies, she decides she has to go to the bathroom so she pauses the movie. And by the time she comes back, she’s started down Christmas movie memory lane.

“Lyla,” she says, forgetting to turn back on the movie as she sits down and picks up a cookie cutter, “do you remember that Christmas when we went to see Meet Me in St. Louis at the Delft Theater?”

It’s like I brought this conversation on myself by thinking about that movie. I swear, she practically knows how to read my mind after all these years.

“Yeah,” I says.

“That was like sixty years ago,” Bel starts rambling. “It must be because I remember it came out the last Christmas of the war. I remember how I bawled when Judy Garland sang to Margaret O’Brien. It still chokes me up. I like White Christmas, but I think I like Meet Me in St. Louis best. I wish I’d grown up in a family like that, with sisters and a handsome brother.”

“Yeah, me too,” I says. I wish I’d had their troubles too, including a father going to move us all to New York. Instead, my father was going to move us to Karelia and he went without us—those rich St. Louis people had nothing to worry about by comparison. The maid was the only character in that movie I really liked; she was a bit ornery, and I didn’t blame her when she had to put up with all those happy-go-lucky young people while she was trying to make dinner and deal with the pigheaded father for a boss.

“We saw it during the war,” Bel goes on, “the Christmas when you first moved in and the boys had gone away.”

I don’t need to ask who she means by the boys. One is obviously Charlie, and the other was his friend, Lon.

“Yeah,” I mutter.

“Lon was so sweet on you, Lyla. Remember those sweet letters he used to write to you,” she says.

“Yeah,” I says. For the first few weeks I lived with them, Bel and Charlie kept trying to fix me up with Lon, but I was never interested in him. I only saw him twice before he went off to war, but for whatever reason, he decided to write to me. I don’t know why. He didn’t even know me. He hadn’t even been in the orphanage with us. But Bel kept scheming to get him to marry me. He must have written me about a dozen letters—I think he thought he’d wear me down by flooding me with letters. I wrote him back the first time to be polite, but when the letters kept coming, I quit writing. I felt bad for him having to go fight in the war, but I wasn’t going to encourage him and have him come home thinking we’d get married. And then next I hear, he’s dead, killed some place I’d never heard of out in the Pacific, and I have to admit I felt a bit relieved because Bel just about had my and Lon’s wedding all planned for when he got home.

And boy did she get mad after she asked me whether I was going to wear mourning for him and I said, “No, it’s not like we were engaged or even dating.”

“You was in your hearts,” she said.

“Bel, I wouldn’t have married him if you paid me,” I said. “He had buck teeth.”

“Like you’re such a catch,” she had the nerve to say to me.

“Like Charlie’s such a catch,” I said back, and then she started crying and went in the bathroom and slammed the door. I knew she was worried about Charlie getting killed, so I shouldn’t have said that, but I thought, “What the hell do I want to get married for? I don’t want any babies, and I don’t want some man telling me what to do—I’ve had enough of people making decisions for me.”

Anyways, I haven’t thought of Lon in years, but now, suddenly Bel has him in her head again because of these damn Christmas movies.

“I still think about Lon, you know,” says Bel. “I often wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t died. I know you told me never to mention him again, Lyla, but that was sixty years ago, and I know you really liked him—it just hurt you too much to talk about it after he died. I often think he would have been the one for you, Lyla. Just think, if he’d lived and you’d married, you’d probably be a grandmother now.”

Where does she come up with these stupid ideas? I’m about to snap back, “Yeah, and if Charlie hadn’t been a drunk, maybe you’d be a grandmother too,” but I hold my tongue. She does still know how to push my buttons, but believe it or not, I have gotten better at holding my tongue over the years, so I just ignore her and keep frosting a snowman.

“Lyla,” she keeps at it, “sometimes I wonder if that’s why you never married—because Lon was always your one true love.”

“Jesus Christ!” I says, but then I catch myself and add, “I forgot to take the cookies out of the oven” and jump up from the table. I didn’t forget—but I did almost lose it after that comment. For God’s sake, I never once had a true love. Never really wanted one. Never saw a reason to after the way most of the men have behaved whom I’ve known over the years, beginning with her own husband.

An Interview about my new novel “The Best Place”

October 17, 2013

In case you missed it, I’m reposting the interview I had about my new novel The Best Place with Susan Violante of Reader Views:

Interview with Tyler R. Tichelaar for “The Best Place”

Today, Susan Violante of Reader Views is pleased to interview Tyler R. Tichelaar, who is here to talk about his new novel “The Best Place.”

tylerTyler R. Tichelaar, seventh generation Marquette resident, has a Ph.D. in Literature from Western Michigan University, and Bachelor and Master’s Degrees from Northern Michigan University. Tyler is President of the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association. He is the owner of Superior Book Promotions, a professional editing service. Tyler lives in Marquette, Michigan where the roar of Lake Superior, mountains of snow, and sandstone architecture inspire his writing. To date, he has written seven novels set in the Marquette area, including “The Marquette Trilogy,” and the non-fiction history book “My Marquette.” He is also the author of two volumes of literary criticism—“The Gothic Wanderer” and “King Arthur’s Children”—and an upcoming series about King Arthur and his descendants.

Susan: Welcome, Tyler. Wow, seven novels now and they’re all set in Marquette, Michigan. How do you find so much material in one town and how is this novel different from the others?

Tyler: Thanks, Susan. I’m surprised too, but when you consider Marquette was founded in 1849 and how many people have lived there over the course of all those years and my novels span different parts of the city’s history, there’s no end of possibilities for novels, and often, a minor character in a novel catches my attention, making me want to explore that character more and make him or her the main character in another book. That’s the case with “The Best Place.” The character Lyla, who previously had brief appearances in my novels “The Queen City: The Marquette Trilogy, Book Two” and “Narrow Lives” deserved her own novel.

Susan: So what about Lyla made you decide she deserved her own book?

Tyler: I didn’t decide it really. She insisted I tell her story. I set out to write a very different book that would have been more about the characters of Alan, Sybil, and Diana, but they all got pushed to the sidelines. Somehow, Lyla decided the next book would be about her even though her story didn’t have much to do with theirs at first, but she kept barging in, demanding I tell her story, until there wasn’t room for much of the other characters’ stories any longer. It took a long time to sort it out, trying to decide whether to write in third person or have multiple narrators, but I finally gave in and let Lyla tell the whole story because her story really is fascinating, beginning with her childhood and how she ends up growing up in Marquette’s Holy Family Orphanage.

Susan: And what was it like for her growing up in the orphanage?

Tyler: Well, it was a lot rougher than it was for Little Orphan Annie. Unlike Annie, no Daddy Warbucks comes to rescue Lyla from the orphanage. Oddly, I didn’t reference that comic strip in the book, but I’m sure Lyla would have just laughed at it. Lyla is pretty bitter as the result of her orphanage experience. Her father left the family when she was five years old. He was a Finnish American who decided to leave the U.S. during the Great Depression to go to Karelia, a Finnish province under Communist Russia’s control. It’s not a well-known part of history today, but many Finnish Americans left the United States to live in Karelia during the Great Depression, believing America had failed them and that Communism was better. Most of those people realized their mistake only when it was too late. Most families also migrated together, but Lyla’s father goes ahead of his family, planning to send for them later, only they never hear from him again for reasons they don’t know but can imagine are not pleasant. Then when Lyla is ten, her mother dies. Her only sister, Jessie, gets adopted by her piano teacher, Miss Bergmann, but for reasons Lyla never understands, Miss Bergmann doesn’t adopt Lyla. And even though Lyla was raised as a Finnish Lutheran, she’s placed in the Catholic orphanage and ultimately grows up to be Catholic, with mixed feelings about her religion as a result.

Susan: That’s really fascinating about Finnish Americans going to Russia, and you said that’s all historical, but what about the orphanage itself? What kind of historical detail did you need to include there?

TheBestPlaceTyler: I read a lot of newspaper articles and did research online about the Holy Family Orphanage in Marquette. There are still people alive who were raised in it. It opened its doors in 1915 and closed them in the 1960s. Today it’s an abandoned building and the city keeps threatening to tear it down. It’s also rumored to be haunted. Only a small part of the novel takes place at the orphanage, but I did enough research to get an idea of what it looked like inside, how it was laid out, what the daily regimen of the orphans would have been around 1938-1942, the years Lyla lived there, even to their helping to raise farm animals. Since Lyla goes there at age ten and the orphans all had to leave at age fourteen, the scenes there are limited, but the effects of being raised there and feeling unwanted haunt Lyla all her life. At fourteen, the orphans were sent out to work, so Lyla’s work career begins then when she goes to be housekeeper to two elderly ladies.

Susan: What do you think the orphanage means to the people of Marquette today?

Tyler: I think it was a very sad place for everyone. Various interviews I’ve read or people I’ve talked to vary in their reports of what life was like there. I’ve even read separate interviews by the same person that come off as positive and negative. It’s clear that the community supported the orphanage and the local businesses and community did a lot to help the orphans have nice Christmases, but that’s still not the same as being raised by loving parents. Also, in those days families often could not afford to support all their children so even if you had parents, you might end up there until the family could afford to feed you and take you back—Marquette also had a poor house, but this was more a poor house for children. As a result, some children grew up there from infancy, while others might only be there for a short time. The building itself—it’s on the front cover of the novel—is a large institutional, cold looking building. We all know how tough Catholic nuns supposedly were, but I think the important thing is not to make generalizations. Lyla is very unhappy at the orphanage. She has a negative attitude about most things, however, so it’s important to remember her opinion of the orphanage is solely her opinion. Lyla’s best friend, Bel, grew up with her at the orphanage, but she mostly has happy memories of living there. People simply have different perspectives, and it’s the same here today—many want the building saved, turned into an art school or condominium or something useful, while others think it’s an eyesore that should be torn down. Myself, I think the loss of any old building is sad, especially a place like the Holy Family Orphanage that served thousands of children. It deserves a happy ending. I should note, though, that it is not “the best place” of the book’s title. You’ll have to read the book to find out where “the best place” is.

Susan: So the book is then Lyla’s entire life story since you mention she becomes a housekeeper?

Tyler: Yes, it tells her story throughout her life, ending in the summer of 2005 when she’s seventy-seven and several events in her life come together, making her think back on her life and reassess her story and come to new realizations about it.

Susan: Why did you end the story in the year 2005 rather than some other year?

Tyler: I mentioned that Lyla’s father is Finnish, but you’ll notice her last name is Hopewell. Once her husband supposedly abandoned her, Lyla’s mother was ashamed that she had been married to a Communist, so she changed their name back to her maiden name. So Lyla grows up not knowing anything about her Finnish heritage. But every year Finn Fest is held somewhere in the United States, and in 2005 it was held in Marquette, so I decided it would be appropriate and fun for Lyla to attend the 2005 Finn Fest—a celebration of all things Finnish—as a way to get in touch with her past.

Susan: 2005 is pretty recent, so does that make the book a departure from your usual historical fiction?

Tyler: No, because Lyla keeps thinking back on her past, which includes living in the orphanage during the Great Depression, her life during World War II, etc. And even setting a novel in 2005 is writing historical fiction. I knew in 2005 that Finn Fest would be a great event to include in a novel so I kept all the articles and brochures from it at the time. Not being Finnish myself, I didn’t actually attend Finn Fest (now I wish I had), but the research I did was enough to create a believable scene around it in the novel. And this book was in my head from at least 2006, but it didn’t all get sorted out so that Lyla took over until a couple of years ago. Even so, I had to keep checking details, and trying to remember what Marquette was like in 2005. Since I was writing historical fiction, I decided to focus also on how Marquette has changed since then so I chose restaurants and other businesses that no longer are around to capture what Marquette was like in 2005—to create a kind of summer 2005 time capsule for Marquette in the novel’s pages. One of my favorite places I mentioned was The Pancake House, which was a short-lived restaurant in Marquette, but it was open all night and offered free cab rides there. My character, Sybil, who briefly appeared in my novel “Spirit of the North” ends up being a cab driver and taking Lyla and Bel out for pancakes at night.

Susan: You mentioned Lyla appeared in previous books and also Sybil. Why do you like to keep reintroducing your characters, and for those who’ve read your other books, are there any other characters in “The Best Place” that they may like meeting again?

Tyler: First, let me say that with the exception of the three books that make up The Marquette Trilogy, which should be read in order, all my novels can be read individually and in any order. People who haven’t read my previous novels won’t miss out on anything if they read “The Best Place” first, but if you’ve read my other novels, you’ll find many people reappearing, some of whom are well-known characters, others who barely appeared in more than one scene. For example, in this novel Mr. Newman is an elderly man. In my first novel, “Iron Pioneers,” he is part of the boating party when Madeleine Henning supposedly drowns in 1876. His name is Matthew in that book, and I didn’t give him a last name, but over the years, he’s developed in my mind until he appears in this novel with a last name. In fact, I’m toying with writing an entire novel about him down the road.

More familiar characters in this novel include the Whitman family who appeared in my trilogy, including Bill Whitman who turns out to be Lyla’s ex-boyfriend and his sister Eleanor, now ninety-three and still trying to get Bill and Lyla back together nineteen years after they broke up.

What turned out to be the most fun for me is to reintroduce John and Wendy who appear at the end of the trilogy. John is a character who is largely based on me in that novel, but in this novel, set six years after the trilogy ended, we can see him as a husband and father, something I’ve never been—I’m too married to writing and my books are my children—but I’ve had a lot of fun imagining what it would be like to be a husband and father through how I’ve depicted John. So in a way, those who read The Marquette Trilogy can see “The Best Place” as a bit of a follow-up to that series. Others who reappear are Bill’s son Alan, John’s college roommate Frank, and Scofield Blackmore, who appeared in my novel “Narrow Lives.”

Susan: The book is also very funny. Would you share with us a funny passage from it?

Tyler: I’d love to. One of my favorite passages is the first time Lyla and her best friend Bel go to eat at The Pancake House the first time in the novel. Here’s a bit of their conversation:

The Pancake House is our favorite restaurant and everyone there knows our names. It’s about the only place in Marquette to get breakfast other than Tommy’s since the Big Boy burnt down. I guess they’re going to rebuild the Big Boy, but they’re sure taking their sweet time about it.

After we place our order—pancakes for her, she always gets pancakes, while I usually get eggs and sausage—she says, “So, what are you doing tomorrow?”

“I don’t know,” I says. “Why?”

I hate the “So, what are you doing tomorrow?” question. It’s so unfair. I know it means that she wants something and isn’t just asking because she’s interested in what I’ll be doing. When she pulls that, I don’t know whether to tell her what I’m doing, or to admit I’m not doing nothing, or to come up with some fake things I’m doing just so I don’t have to do whatever it is she’s holding back on telling me she wants me to do, but I can’t tell her I’m doing such important things that I can’t cancel them without being caught in a lie if I do want to do what she wants me to do. I should probably just tell her to quit asking me that unfair question, but if I tried to explain to her what’s wrong with it, she wouldn’t get it anyways. Like I said, she’s got a bit of a screw loose sometimes.

“I was hoping,” she says, “that maybe you’d go to my doctor’s appointment with me.”

“Yeah, I can do that,” I says. See, why couldn’t she have saved the “What are you doing tomorrow question?” and just asked me if I’d go with her to her doctor’s appointment? I mean, I’ve gone to doctor’s appointments with her lots of times and never complained about it, so what’s the big deal?

“It’s at eight in the morning,” she says. “I hope that’s not too early. We can go out for breakfast after. It’ll only be an hour at most.”

“Eight a.m.?” I groan. There’s another morning where I won’t get my coffee. Not that I can’t get up to have coffee a little early. It’s just, I don’t feel right if I don’t have a bowel movement in the morning, and I can’t seem to have one unless I have two cups of coffee first, and I know my body isn’t going to be up to doing that before eight o’clock no matter how many cups of coffee I have.

She doesn’t reply to my moan. I guess she’s distracted thinking about her doctor’s appointment. I don’t ask her why she’s going. I’ll find out soon enough tomorrow when we get there. I focus on drinking my coffee. Then it hits me.

“Bel, you told me on Saturday that you had to go to the doctor on Wednesday.”

“I do,” she says.

“But tomorrow is Tuesday.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Yeah it is. It’s Memorial Day today.”

“Yeah, it’s Tuesday and tomorrow is Wednesday,” she says.

“Bel, Memorial Day is always on a Monday.”

“Oh, I forgot,” she says, looking kind of pale like she’s embarrassed. She’s done a lot of stupid things in her life but I never saw her look embarrassed like that before.

“So is your appointment Wednesday or Tuesday?”

“It’s Wednesday. I told you that before.”

If I hadn’t just had another cup of coffee, I’d be seeing red now. She’s so looney she’s starting to confuse me.

 

Susan: Lyla’s best friend Bel is a recovering alcoholic and there are references to the Twelve Steps and other recovery groups in the book. Is she inspired by anyone you know?

Tyler: No, Bel is completely fictional. It’s hard to remember how she evolved as a character. I will say that there’s a revelation about her character toward the end of the book that surprised me a great deal. I didn’t know that was going to happen. But Bel first appeared in a minor scene in “Narrow Lives” where she’s sitting in a bar with Lyla and kind of drunk. That led to my depicting her as an alcoholic. I also saw the film “The Lois Wilson Story” when it was on TV’s Hallmark Hall of Fame a few years ago, about the wife of the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. That made me interested in creating a woman’s group in the novel, sort of a support group. I don’t depict any AA meetings in the novel, though Bel says she goes to them, but by creating more of a general women’s support group, I was able to have her drag Lyla along, which results in some interesting turns of events in the novel. I also did research on and already knew a lot about Twelve Step programs from having edited so many self-help books, so I drew that into the story, although I did not model the women’s group in the novel after any specific program.

Susan: That brings me to wanting to bring up who you dedicated the book to, someone very special I understand?

Tyler: Yes, Susan, our former boss and colleague, Irene Watson, who founded Reader Views. A lot of what I know about codependency, dysfunction, etc. I learned from working with Irene. I had the privilege of editing her books “The Sitting Swing” and “Rewriting Life Scripts” and learning a lot about recovery from her. Irene was always blogging about self-help and recovery issues. She also was very supportive of self-published authors, having founded Reader Views as a book review service that grew into a publicity service because she couldn’t get reviews for her own book. Sadly, Irene lost her battle with cancer on November 3, 2012. But her positive energy and desire to help people be well and freed from the dysfunctional cycles they were caught in made me decide to dedicate the book to her. I’m sure she would have understood Lyla and cheered her on during her journey.

Susan: Why should readers care about Lyla’s story if they’re not senior citizens like her, or Finnish, or have never been an orphan?

Tyler: Like I said, I’m not Finnish, I’m not female, and I’m not seventy-seven years old, but I think some of Lyla is in all of us. The book is told in first person so we’re constantly in her thoughts, and she thinks things that I think many of us would like to say, and in a sarcastic manner that I personally think can be quite hilarious—and my readers so far have agreed with me—but I think most importantly, her desire just to be loved, her self-esteem issues, her desire for meaningful relationships, and her attempts to connect with her roots and make amends to those she’s hurt or been hurt by all are issues and parts of life we can all relate to. I think we all want to feel important, valued, and connected to others. It’s kind of like what Lyla comes to realize when she’s at Finn Fest: “Finally, when the ceremonies are all done, the crowd claps and cheers, and I get that same feeling I had the day before, that we’re all connected, we’re all one big happy Finnish family, even though some of us may be Catholic rather than Lutheran, or have English or French Canadian or German or Norwegian or Swedish blood mixed up in us.” In other words, we’re all human, and “The Best Place” is a very human story.

Susan: Well said, Tyler. Before we go will you tell us about your website and what additional information we can find there about “The Best Place” and your other novels?

Tyler: Sure. My website is www.MarquetteFiction.com and it’s full of information about my novels and Marquette’s history, including a timeline of Marquette history, some fun quizzes to help you determine which of my characters you’re most like, a page of my character’s family trees, and upcoming events I’ll be at. You’ll also find links there to other Upper Michigan authors’ websites, as well as to my other websites www.GothicWanderer.com and www.ChildrenofArthur.com. Stay tuned for my King Arthur book series coming soon, and thank you again, Susan, for the opportunity to talk about my new book.

Susan: You definitely have a very active website, Tyler. Thank you again for the interview. I wish you all the best with “The Best Place.”

 

U.P. Novel Explores Marquette Orphanage and 2005 Finn Fest

June 25, 2013

For Immediate Release – Press Release for The Best Place

U.P. Novel Explores Marquette Orphanage and 2005 Finn Fest

Amid a cast of unforgettable characters, and from the Great Depression to Finn Fest 2005, Lyla Hopewell, survives a childhood in an orphanage and seeks her identity and the love she’s always craved in Tyler R. Tichelaar’s new novel “The Best Place.”

Marquette, MI June 21, 2013—An irritating best friend gained during a childhood spent in a Catholic orphanage, a father who became a Communist and migrated to Russia in the 1930s, and 3:00 a.m. visits to The Pancake House. Such is the life of Lyla Hopewell. But things are about to change for her in Tyler R. Tichelaar’s new novel “The Best Place” (ISBN 9780979179075, Marquette Fiction, 2013).

My new novel - cover photo is a 1940 postcard of Holy Family Orphanage (courtesy of  Jack Deo, Superior View)

Tyler R. Tichelaar’s latest novel – cover photo is a 1940 postcard of Holy Family Orphanage (courtesy of Jack Deo, Superior View)

During the Great Depression, many American Finns migrated to Karelia, a Finnish province under Soviet control. Convinced the American Dream was a falsehood, they were ready to embrace Communism, and Lyla Hopewell’s father was among them. Planning to send for his wife and daughters once he was settled, he was never heard from again. Then Lyla’s mother died, her sister was adopted, and she was sent to a Catholic orphanage.

These inauspicious beginnings gave Lyla plenty of reason to be ornery, but they also made her tough. Now at age seventy-seven, Lyla will find her past intruding into her present. She’ll try to reconcile with her ex-boyfriend, be badgered by her best friend into joining a women’s recovery group, be harassed by a foul-mouthed teenager, and embrace her heritage at Finn Fest 2005.

Author Tyler R. Tichelaar’s novels are popular throughout Upper Michigan as well as far beyond. Canadian author Laura Fabiani describes his books as “Never predictable, sometimes heartbreaking, always hopeful.” Bethany Andrews of Book of the Moment (located in Maine) declares, “I am now and forever a huge Tyler Tichelaar fan. He’s a man with a wonderful gift for storytelling, and a knack for presenting historical facts in a way that can rival any great historical fiction author.” And Upper Michigan author Karl Bohnak states, “Tyler Tichelaar speaks from the heart about his love affair with the town of his birth.”

In “The Best Place,” Tichelaar has created a tour-de-force with memorable characters, many returning from his previous novels, who reflect the insecurities, fears, hopes, and dreams we all have. “The Best Place” is Tichelaar’s funniest, most heart-wrenching, and overall most cathartic novel to date. Lyla Hopewell’s story of survival and resilience amid personal mistakes, rejection, and life’s obstacles will inspire readers from all walks of life.

About the Author

Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. in Literature and current president of the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association, is a seventh generation resident of Marquette, Michigan, the city where his novels are set. In 2009, Tyler received the Best Historical Fiction Award in the Reader Views Literary Awards for his novel “Narrow Lives.” In 2011, he received the Barb H. Kelly Historic Preservation Award from the Marquette Beautification and Restoration Committee for his book “My Marquette,” and he received the Marquette County Arts Award that same year for an “Outstanding Writer.”

“The Best Place” (ISBN 9780979179075, Marquette Fiction, 2013) can be purchased through local and online bookstores. For more information, visit www.MarquetteFiction.com. Review copies available upon request.

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The Best Place – Tyler’s Newest Novel

June 20, 2013

On Sale Now!

My new novel - cover photo is a 1940 postcard of Holy Family Orphanage (courtesy of  Jack Deo, Superior View)

My new novel – cover photo is a 1940 postcard of Holy Family Orphanage (courtesy of Jack Deo, Superior View)

An irritating best friend gained during a childhood spent in a Catholic orphanage, a father who became a Communist and went to Russia in the 1930s, and 3:00 a.m. visits to The Pancake House. Such is the life of Lyla Hopewell. But in the summer of 2005, when her old boyfriend Bill has a heart attack, her best friend Bel really gets on her nerves, and Finn Fest comes to Marquette, things will change for Lyla.

Joined by a cast of Marquette’s most eccentric and endearing characters—the foul-mouthed fourteen-year-old Josie; ninety-three-year-old Eleanor, still trying to fix her little brother’s love life; ex-boyfriend and blunt womanizer, Bill; blind Mary Mitchell and her ornery sister Florence; the sweet but romantically confused cabdriver Sybil; and many, many more—Lyla recounts her life-story as she comes to terms with her past. After years of feeling unloved, neglected, frustrated, and unfulfilled, can Lyla finally find her own best place?

Available throughout Marquette, Michigan at Snowbound Books, Michigan Fair, Book World, Art U.P. Style, Marquette Regional History Center, and Marquette Maritime Museum. More U.P. Locations coming soon. Copies will also be on sale at Finn Fest this weekend (at the Scandinavia Gifts and Globe Printing booths), and it’s available online at MarquetteFiction.com and online bookstores.

“Stuck with a Bunch of Nuns” – Holy Family Orphanage

July 16, 2010

The following essay is an excerpt from my book My Marquette, coming Christmas 2010! For more information, visit MarquetteFiction.com

My Marquette - coming Christmas 2010!

HOLY FAMILY ORPHANAGE

She went and adopted Jessie, but she stuck me in the orphanage with a bunch of nuns…if the old woman didn’t want me, what right did she have to stick me in a Catholic orphanage? We were good Finnish Lutherans until she stuck her nose in our business.

Narrow Lives

            In The Queen City, Thelma Bergmann adopts Jessie Hopewell, but no one wants to adopt Jessie’s sister, Lyla. Consequently, Lyla is sent to the Holy Family Orphanage. Years later, as an adult, Lyla remains bitter over the situation as obvious from her complaint above.

            Whether or not Thelma Bergmann made the right decision in not adopting Lyla—based on Lyla’s personality readers are bound to differ in their opinions—Lyla does end up going to the orphanage. She does not view her experience there as very pleasant, but then, Lyla is not a very pleasant person from the way she is depicted in my novels. Nevertheless, as an author, my heart goes out to her and I have every intention of letting her tell her own full story in a future book.

            What was it like to be a child in the Holy Family Orphanage, or even one of the sisters who cared for the children? Whenever I drive past the abandoned building on Altamont and Fisher Streets, I can only wonder what stories it would tell if its walls could talk.

            Built in 1915, the Holy Family Orphanage was the dream of Bishop Frederick Eis of the Marquette Diocese. Bishop Eis wished to have a place that would provide a shelter to the children, as well as be a school to prepare them to enter the adult world. The cost to build the orphanage ranged between $90,000 to $120,000, an astronomical sum a century ago, but Bishop Eis knew the welfare and care of the children was priceless.

Holy Family Orphanage Today

           Doubtless, life in the orphanage was far from perfect, but it did provide a buffer between the children and life on the streets. The building was built to be sturdy, made of concrete and brick with sandstone arched porches for decoration. The Sisters of Saint Agnes came to instruct, feed, clothe, discipline, and love sometimes as many as 200 children at a time.

            The orphanage would stay open for more than fifty years. Its final inhabitants were a group of Cuban children, refugees from Fidel Castro’s Revolution. Imagine the thoughts of those boys, fleeing their warm native tropical land to experience their first winter in Marquette.

            No one can speak for all the children who passed through the orphanage’s doors. Many of them probably felt bitter, abandoned by their parents, or grieving over parents’ deaths. Others may have longed to be adopted, or simply longed for the day they could leave to be on their own. The orphanage was far from a life on Park Avenue, but it was a home, an in-between place, for many children, doubtless a place that gave hope to go out and find a better life when they were old enough.

            Today, the orphanage is in a dilapidated and abandoned state. It remains, looming on the hill as people drive by on US 41, scarcely noticing it is there. It should be noticed. It was the home to thousands over the course of its lifetime. A million dreams were dreamt by its children. Today, perhaps the orphanage has its own dreams for a brighter future. It has passed through about a dozen owners’ hands in the last twenty years, awaiting development or destruction. After providing a home to thousands, it is now itself an abandoned orphan.

            The Holy Family Orphanage’s future is less important than the story of all those who passed through it. These are the real life stories which are greater than fiction, the stories that bear remembering, the truth about what life was like in Marquette nearly a century ago. Who can count how many people’s lives today would be different if they, their parents, or grandparents had not found at the Holy Family Orphanage a family when they had none?