Best-selling Hilton author writes another book

2008-02-01 00:00

WHEN I arrange to meet Hilton resident Gloria Keverne in a coffee shop in the small town to talk about her book, The Divine Dawning, I ask how I will recognise her. “I'm short,” she says and asks how she'll know me. So I tell her I'll be the one carrying a copy of her book.

And that immediately leads to my first question. Back in the eighties when her first novel, A Man Cannot Cry, was published and went on to become an international bestseller, it appeared under the name of Gloria Keverne - the author's maiden name. But on the cover of the new book is the name Glory Keverne. So why the change?

“It was supposed to be Glory on the first book,” she says. “My father called me Glory and I decided that was what I would use for this one. Also, it's a departure from the usual mainstream fiction - it tells a story, but also has a spiritual dimension. It's a book for spiritual seekers.”

Trilogy

The Divine Dawning is the first part of a projected trilogy, set in colonial Africa - the Northern Rhodesia of Keverne's own childhood - in the forties. An American hunter, raised by Native Americans and having absorbed many of their values, is employed by an elderly American missionary to travel with him to Africa to look for the grave of his long lost twin brother. He is also a missionary, but the two brothers had quarrelled and the missing twin had trekked away, never to be heard of again.

The hunter's quest takes him to the heart of a mysterious range of mountains and to an unexpected discovery. This is where the spiritual element of the book comes in.

Another obvious question to ask Keverne is why it has taken 22 years for her second novel to appear.

She laughs: “When people are incredulous, I sometimes feel embarrassed that I have taken so long, but then I remember the dogged research and the endless writing and hours of polishing and feel grateful that I've had the tenacity to keep on keeping on,” she says.

“It should be remembered that in the last two decades I've written the equivalent of three books comprising over a million words, so my pace is improving. But, yes, generally I am a slow little person.”

A Man Cannot Cry also took Keverne two decades to write. She says her books “evolve”. She has a plot outline in her head when she starts, but things change as she goes along - she tells her story as it unfolds to her. And while she calls herself a disciplined writer, shutting herself off from the world while she works, the research and the writing is a long, slow process.

“I sit and figure things out, see what should happen here. Some things surprise me.”

During the writing process, Keverne is reluctant to show her work to anyone. When she was writing A Man Cannot Cry, it was nine years into the process before her sister and editor, Brenda George, asked her if she could have a look and only then did they work together to wrap it up quickly.

“So for the next 11 years, we wrapped it up quickly,” says Keverne. She describes herself as a spiritual person who asks for help from God while she works. And, she says, it is always given to her.

Something of a surprise

In a way, this is something of a surprise. The Divine Dawning is critical of formal religion, particularly of the American missionaries who live and work on her fictional mission station.

“Some missionaries are wonderful,” says

Keverne. “But there are also some who are unthinkingly destructive.”

And, as she points out, a story has to have conflict; heroes and villains. But the criticism of formal religion is carried by the lead character in The Divine Dawning and Keverne admits that she believes that religion has failed - although later in the trilogy, says Keverne, the lead character's attitude changes to some degree.

“Religion has done wonderful things and there are wonderful people involved in religion. But when it started, the priest was the connection between man and God, but now he separates them, stands between them.”

On the back cover of The Divine Dawning, Keverne cites the influence of books such as The Celestine Prophecy, The Alchemist, The Da Vinci Code and the film The Passion of the Christ.

She is by no means uncritical of them, but says that what thrills her is the breakthrough they have made in stultified religious thinking.

Keverne expects some people to be upset by the way she writes about the missionaries and their faith and describes the prospect as “a bit nerve-racking”.

As she puts it, she is just getting out of her 22-year “hibernation” and finds the prospect of the limelight - and potential criticism - daunting. But it is still “a huge relief” to have finished the book.

All three parts were written as a whole, but Keverne decided that it was too long to appear as a single book, so the second part will be published in a year and the third a year after that.

Unlike A Man Cannot Cry, The Divine Dawning is self-published. After her experiences with the earlier book, Keverne decided that having complete creative control over her story was very important and that there was a danger that a publisher could insist on changes.

She admits that the spiritual dimension could have scared off mainstream publishing houses. And so she has taken the self-publishing route.

“It's not just about the money,” she says, although she agrees it would be good to make some, particularly for her husband who has believed in her and supported the lengthy process, which has involved them both in some hard times.

But that is behind them and The Divine Dawning is finished and available to her reading public.

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