Stephen Clegg will read from his novel, Maria’s Papers, 12:45 – 1:45 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19 in S-29/30. The reading is free and open to the public. Copies of the novel are available for pre-sale and review in the English Department office, P-146.
SF English Professor Steve Robitaille has written the screenplay adaptation of the novel and will be introducing the reading. To learn about the novel and screenplay visit www.mariaspapers.com. For more information, contact Steve Robitaille at ext. 352-395-5304.
Stephen Clegg and Maria’s Papers: Where Fact and Fiction Meet, A Novel Is Born
His family estate lost to a swindle, his Great, Great Aunt Maria forced into a pauper lunatic asylum for “delusions of exaltation,” and revealing letters locked away in an attic for nearly a century! What more could an aspiring first time author need to arouse his muses and help him surmount the odds of getting a first novel into print?
For Stephen Clegg, the 1965 discovery of this long lost family secret began another adventure in a life filled with wanderlust and risk-taking. During his life, and tenure as a policeman, he has “single-handedly confronted gangs of men stealing from shops, fighting in pubs, and on one occasion even raping a girl.”
In his recently published first novel, Maria’s Papers, he was able to draw from his exposure to the dark side of human behavior in crafting his brutal antagonists, Abraham and Caleb Johnson.
Many dramatic scenes in the novel seem to have been inspired by daredevil moments in Clegg’s picturesque life, such as the author edging along a floorless castle tower “with a fifty foot drop to certain death below, to help a guy who had been frozen by fear there.” Just another adrenalin pumping moment for a man who has twice circumnavigated the world by sea, started several businesses, and raised two kids with his wife Jay.
Perhaps no adventure has been as personal, as consuming and creatively challenging, as the writing of Maria’s Papers. Clegg, now 65, credits the existence of the novel on a tenacity that dates back to 19th century when Maria, and her father, Thomas Clegg, “did everything in their power to discover the truth about the true ownership” of Whitewall, their family estate.
In 1965, upon his insistence, Clegg’s father recovered the papers, and his cousins, John Clegg and Alan Finegan, carefully researched, catalogued, and preserved them for posterity.
From an early age Clegg got hooked on adventure by reading about characters such as Peter Pan and his arch-enemy, the nefarious villain, Captain Hook, which inspired him to execute late night forays out of his bedroom window into deep woods a mile away from his home, (unbeknownst to his sleeping parents, of course) to “experience the lateness of night in a dark and forbidding place.”
He also enjoyed “the crazy world of Lewis Carroll,” R D Blackmore’s Lorna Doone, the imagination that went into the Rupert Bear adventures, and the writings of many other authors including Coleridge, Scott, Poe, and Shakespeare, to name but a few.
“From an early age I wrote profusely,” Clegg recalled, “and in my teenage years I loved experimenting with poetical styles, but nearly everything I wrote told a mysterious tale.”
In Maria’s Papers, he drew upon all of these literary influences, but soon learned that his first draft didn’t meet the exacting expectations of prospective publishers, so he took six months reviewing their feedback, and re-wrote the whole novel again.
He credits his “relentless resolve” for finally securing a home for the manuscript at Austin and Macauley, who published Maria’s Papers on the 28th May, 2012, which would have been the exact occasion of his late father’s one hundredth birthday.
With continued tenacity, Clegg hopes to keep his literary enterprise going. He has sent the sequel, The Matthew Chance Legacy, to his publishers who plan to release it in 2013, and he is currently at work on the third novel of the series.
While Maria’s Papers is enjoying good sales on his side of the pond, the author and his publisher hope to create interest in the U.S., as a number of scenes in the novel take place in Florida.
Further enhancing the Florida tie-in was Clegg’s chance meeting with Florida-based, and four-time Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, Steve Robitaille, whilst on holiday in Italy. Robitaille expressed an interest in reading an early draft of the manuscript and was so impressed by it that he signed an agreement with Clegg to write the screenplay.
During his November 2012 swing through Florida, Clegg hopes to schedule a series of readings at independent bookstores and book clubs.
Securing an option on the screenplay and one day seeing his villainous characters on the screen would be like turning the pages of his life back to Peter Pan and Captain Hook, and bringing his own great adventure full circle.
For more information about the author and novel go to: www.mariaspapers.com