NH native Laura Fedolfi takes Greek myth series on epic road trip
By JULIA ANN WEEKES
NH Weekend Editor | March 08. 2017 1:41PM
“My teacher, Miss Palenius, really encouraged me. She submitted my story to a book contest and I got to attend the New England Young Authors Conference,” Fedolfi said. “I had written a gripping tale about a girl stuck out on a jetty as the tide came in. I titled it ‘Midnight on the Jetty.’
“I wouldn’t want to give too much away, but upon rereading it, I can see that I had been highly influenced by ‘Jaws,’” Fedolfi said, joking about the 1975 blockbuster that had millions of movie-goers too terrified to go back into the water.
But later, as a student at Phillips Exeter Academy, Fedolfi swam into the path of a different kind of muse.
“A Latin teacher offered an elective class on Greek mythology,” Fedolfi said. “He had us read Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses,’ an epic poem about myths, and had us chart all of the relationships between the characters in the stories. I ended up with this vast map of the Greek mythological characters and stories.”
That experience opened the door to a world of possibilities, and helped shape the self-effacing wit and inventive sense of adventure that propels her entertaining “Revealing Hannah” books, released through the micro-publishing house Illuminated Myth Publishing that Fedolfi helms with R.J. Farmer. Fedolfi will unveil details of her latest installment, “The Myth of Echo,” at a booksigning at 2 p.m. Saturday at Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord.
Each of Fedolfi’s three books in the series are based on a Greek myth and mesh literary lore with a pop-culture sensibility. Like 2015’s “The Myth of Cassandra” and 2016’s “The Myth of Arachne,” Fedolfi’s forthcoming “Echo” tale explores what happens when immortal Greek gods start rebranding themselves in today’s high-tech world. They hope to regain popularity and power, and their plans revolve around a descendent of Cassandra, the prophetic daughter of Priam, the King of Troy.
For a reader, it’s a bit like peeking into the confessional booth of a reality show, only Hannah Summers, the girl at the center of all the action, isn’t just venting about a roommate with bizarre house rules and a mother with nagging career advice. Hannah’s annoyed by both these things, but she’s also freaked out by her newfound “gift” for prophecy and all the ancient deities jockeying for control of the 21st century.
“I chose to base my series around the time when my main character, Hannah, is leaving the prescribed world of schooling, where each step is laid out for her, and looking to really start her own life,” said Fedolfi. “When I started writing, I focused on the Cassandra Myth — a woman with the ability to see the future but cursed to have no one listen.”
Fedofi (her married name is Marshall but she writes under her maiden name), brings a diverse field of study to her writing. After graduating from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1988, she earned dual undergraduate degrees in philosophy and English at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., in 1992, and a master’s degree in conflict analysis and resolution at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., in 1997. The result in the “Revealing Hannah” series is an intricate maze of thought and motivation that unexpectedly leads into snort-out-loud commentary and unfortunate situations.
“Each myth in the series has a larger meaning in our modern culture and a particular place in Hannah’s life,” said Fedolfi. “In the second novel, I explore the tension of competition and jealousy among friends, in particular women, with the ‘Myth of Arachne.’ I also get the fun of setting a book in Italy and having my characters tangle with gargantuan spiders. A win-win.”
Fedolfi gleefully searches the shifting middle ground between good and evil, with Hannah both self-aware and short-sighted when it comes to making decisions. In “The Myth of Echo,” she’s backsliding again, this time against the backdrop of an epic road trip in an Oldsmobile Delta 88 fueled by a mixed tape of ’80s rock.
“Something I take seriously about developing the character of Hannah is to embrace her flaws,” Fedolfi said. “That can be harder than you think, because as a writer, I love her, and I want the reader to love her too. But if I only wrote her admirable qualities, it would be a lie.
“I’m not interested in writing within a dichotomous framework of good or bad, smart or stupid, etc.,” she said. “I think the more compelling situations come from following what seems to be true in a character, and as they mess up or make disastrous choices, how do they cope? Can they shift gears? Can they change?”
Fedoli’s own sense of humor peppers the story line.
“I tend towards comedy, in part because I find my own mistakes funny and I have written that into Hannah’s story. Mistakes aren’t funny like ‘let-me-off-the-hook’ funny, but more ‘isn’t-it-ironic’ funny. Throw in a little slapstick, and you have Hannah.”
And someone who is more than a name on a page.
Take, for example, the outline she was developing of a man at the register in a book store.
“I knew what that scene had to accomplish, but when the ‘man’ got a name in the story — ‘Miller’ — he suddenly had aspects I hadn’t planned for — a hypochondriac obsessed with WEB MD, open to joining a swingers club, providing it was sanitary. The scene with him changed because he was real to me. Because they, all of the characters, seem real to me. I try to respect who they are, and not assume I know what they would do. I have to observe them carefully and consider each scene from their perspective.”
Hannah isn’t the only one trying to find her way. All the immortal Olympians are trying to fit in, including Hera, the Queen of the gods who has parlayed her sometimes-vengeful approach to family life into running Ladies’ Home and Hearth magazine.
The complex cast of strong-willed characters tends to follow Fedolfi home from work.
“This has lead to some funny conversations with my husband when I come back from a day of writing exclaiming, ‘You won’t believe what Hera said!’ Or “I didn’t know that Lee could do that!” My husband would frown, and ask cautiously, “You are writing the book, right? You decide these things, right?” I have to reassure him that yes, I am writing, and no, I am not crazy.”
Does she ever finds herself considering a real-life situation and wondering, “What would Hannah do?”
“The easy answer is (she’d) make a list,” Fedolfi, a fellow problem solver, joked. “She loves a good list.”