by Lynn Carter
GENRE: Women’s (speculative) commercial fiction
Their seesaw love affair started when she was five, even though they didn’t meet until she was eighteen. It started the day she heard Daddy slur, “She ain’t mine. You had the nerve to name her Dawn. Look at her! You shudda named her Midnight!” Then Daddy left . . . for good. And the loving music that had filled Dawn’s life went silent.
That was the day that a “Midnight” Duckling invaded the mirror, took up residence in her chest, and controlled her ability to breathe. That was the day she learned to recognize “leaving time” . . . her superpower.
Couched in speculation, Jus Breathe is the tale of a young Black woman’s struggle to defy her inner “Duckling” and embrace her true self. Set in New York City during the turbulent sixties, it’s an improbable love story with precarious impulses, secret pasts, and inner demons.
Dawn, a survivor, flees her stepfather’s violent home. While struggling to attend college, she perfects sofa-surfing and hones her superpower, her ability to leave a situation in an instant.
But in the mist of the chaotic uprising that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, serendipity spins Dawn into beautiful Danny’s rollercoaster world.
Toxically in love, no longer a “leaver,” Dawn realizes that in order to survive, she must break free of Danny’s dominance. But that Duckling, who has allied with Danny, threatens to squeeze the life-breath from her if she dares to leave . . . that ugly, midnight-black Duckling, she has to kill.
There was pain. It shot up from my jaw to my brain and back down again. Ghostly figures were, moving fast, a blur of white overalls, the smell of wall paint, shuffling feet, a scuffle.
That voice was rolling through my brain—one word, an echo from far away.
“Attack . . .”
It’s summer. It’s always summer when I slip into those childhood days. The boys have hijacked my Spalding ball, again. I chase them. I sic Sigfried on them. She does her most ferocious growl and a playful tug of war on their shoestrings as I yell, “Attack!! Attack!!”
A voice was shrieking that word. It occurred to me that it was my own voice, gradually returning me to the stark reality of the situation; back to ‘moving-in day,’ to what just happened, to the moment that my mother’s new husband’s fist impacted my face; back to Sigfreid lunging at his neck, taking him down, to the painters trying to free him from her grip, trying to get me to call her off.
Dazed, I remained in my head, lingered in the fantasy that my big-boned shepherd could take a man down like that, fascinated that she even had it in her. I think I did call her off or maybe she relented of her own accord. That’s when “that thing” took possession of my lungs, again. Gasping for air, I think maybe all of them, the painters . . . my mother’s husband, were franticly yelling.
About the Author:
Born and raised in the Bronx, NYC, B. Lynn Carter graduated The City College of New York with a degree in creative writing. She’s also studied at the Writing Institute of Sarah Lawrence College.
Her short story "One Wild Ride," published in Aaduna magazine, was nominated for the Pushcart Award in 2014. She’s had short stories and poetry published in the Blue Lake Review, Drunk Monkeys, Ascent Aspirations, Enhance Magazine, The Story Shack and the Bronx Memoir Project, among others. Besides “Jus Breathe,” Ms. Carter has written two additional full-length novels. She is also listed in Poets & Writers directory of writers.
Q&A With the Author
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I had intended to write a straightforward story, loosely based on my college experiences. I had attended CCNY, as part of the SEEK program (a program designed to help low income and minority students get into college) That was in the late 60’s.
I should have known that ‘straightforward tales’ are not my thing. I’d heard other authors say that their characters dictate the direction of the work. I never took that literally.
At first I was concerned, conflicted. There was a battle being waged between me and my characters, (or for those of you who have trouble suspending disbelief)) between my creative and my intellectual mind.
It wasn’t until I was able to relax and go with the speculative nature of the tale, that I really began to enjoy the journey. I can only compare it to an athlete being in ‘the zone.’
Do you have any other books you are working on that you can tell us about?
Although I am in “thinking mode” for my next project. I have written two other, full-length novels. I’m planning to start promoting the book entitled “The Eyes Have It.” The first twenty pages of the book just won first place in the fiction category of the Black Writer’s Workshop’s “Chapter One” competition.
Here’s the synopsis:
Eighteen-year-old Ari Dejerian, who grew up in a South Bronx ‘hood,’ is trapped in his comatose body and time’s running out. With the help of Zula, a gypsy occultist, he time-travels back through his life. As a ’virtual entity,’ he connects with, and actually becomes the narrator for, his younger self in order to recover memories that have been lost in his comatose haze. Ari must alter the events that put him in that hospital bed. He must set things right. Failing this, he knows, he’ll never wake up. But his world is turned inside out when he finds himself embroiled in wrath and embracing white supremacy.
Seventeen-year-old Grace Foster who, since the age of five, has lived a privileged life as the adopted daughter of an affluent Black family, is left with no choice but to return to the ‘hood,’ and live with her birthmother, a recovering addict. There, in the viscous silence that gels between she and her mother, Grace has the gnawing feeling that something is missing, that someone is gone, is gone for good, and somehow she is to blame.
Ari is white. Grace is Black. Even before they meet in the hood, they have things in common. Aside from, the coincidence of unique, identical ‘multicolored’ eyes, they both have deeply suppressed memories, and secrets. Acknowledging their respective secrets is inevitable, sharing them, may be perilous.
The serendipity that brings them together could prove fatal . . . for both of them.
Can you tell us about what you have planned for the future?
I plan to try and put my other two books out into the world. I plan to pursue the first sentence of my next book. I can never get going with a book until the first sentence reveals itself to me.
How long have you been writing?
I have an undergrad degree in creative writing that I earned at CCNY, in 1972. In 2010, I started getting serious about my writing. In between was life, and ‘thinking mode.’ So, yeah I’ve been writing for a while.
Anything more you would like to say to your readers and fans?
For a long time I carefully hid my age from potential agents and publishers. But now I think that young people can look at me and know it is never too late to go after their dreams.
This, and I’d also like to reveal a little fear that lives in the back of my mind, (because it’s so easy to express on the page.) I worry that ageism might taint readers opinion of my work. So, there’s that.
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B. Lynn Carter will be awarding $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
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