Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Quest for Character

Novelist Stephen Bly has an intriguing idea for a campaign: The award-winning author of 100 books has so gotten into his newest character's life, that he’s caught up in the search to find Juanita, the girl of rodeo cowboy Hap Bowman's dreams. "An idiot obsession," Hap's roping partner, Laramie, chides. But Hap and Steve keep looking anyway.

And so does Bly’s family, friends and fans—he's listed her description on the home page of www.OneStepOvertheBorder.com: raven dark hair, dark eyes, has a petite birthmark the shape of a horse's head under her right ear. She lived in sight of the Rio Grande and spent time with 12-year-old Hap Bowman in Central Wyoming, summer of 1988 and is 31 years old now.

Bly's hoping to see "Have you seen my Juanita?" signs pop up everywhere—on websites and message boards, in waiting rooms and bulletin boards, on car bumpers and t-shirts, at rest stops and stuck to magnetic surfaces. "Maybe we really will find her," Bly says, "If so, she’ll be featured on our website for sure.'

One Step Over the Border is a romp, a road adventure. It's CowboyLit that has inspired a blog by Hap Bowman, a Juanita Sightings page, and an audio poetry reading. Bly's three sons are working on a video for the site and they've gotten the whole family involved in the production.

There's even a free "Have You Seen My Juanita?" Search Kit ready to send to those who email cowboy Hap at HapBowman@yahoo.com with their snailmail address.

Bly's no stranger to getting involved in his characters. In Paperback Writer, a distracted detective rides along with his author, serving as alter ego and companion in troubles on the road. "Life imitates art, they say," Bly muses. "I care so much for my characters I find it hard to let them go. But also my desire is for the reader to find their own real-life discoveries, to be encouraged in their own struggles, by the vicarious 'entering into' the quests of my fictional characters."

The story of Hap’s search to find his Juanita, in the book One Step Over the Border, releases June 2007, by Center Street/Hachette Book Group, USA. Pre-orders are now available through www.blybooks.com and soon will be via www.amazon.com or your favorite online bookstore.
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