In "Undrawn", the imminent death of his tyrannical father Brandon forces frail, thirty-six-year-old painter Kyle to return to his boyhood home after a self-imposed exile. While there, the past catches up to the son, and he finds himself facing old family rifts, former girlfriends, crimes of passion, and, most of all, the overwhelming urge to be loved and accepted. Conchie Fernandez's debut novel shifts between the past and present as Kyle seeks absolution in a world where many factors are unknown.
The protagonist's struggles are witnessed by his sneering brother Stuart, who has secrets of his own, his affectionate brother Troy, and his selfless mother, Norma, who possesses more concern about Kyle's diabetes than about her own emotional well-being in the wake of Brandon's death. Also populating the story are Kyle's contacts in the art world, as well as past and present lovers, all with distinct traits.
As a former newspaper editor and present-day creative writing teacher, Fernandez eloquently captures the subtleties of human relationships. Readers clearly see the protagonist hurting because of his father's control, even as he holds out hope that Brandon will someday acknowledge his art.
Art isn't the only thing about Kyle that Brandon fails to accept; he does not believe that his son is truly ill. To hear Brandon accuse Kyle, a diabetic, of trying to manipulate his father's emotions by having an attack is truly horrifying. When juxtaposed against Norma and Troy's caring attitude toward the sickly Kyle, Brandon's indifference becomes all the more cruel. Kyle and Troy behave like real brothers. Beneath their profanity-laced dialogue brims love and protectiveness. In a novel loaded with machismo, it is refreshing to see Troy and Kyle hug, both in the past and the present.
"Undrawn" refreshes the trope of the tortured artist. Readers see how Kyle is haunted by his past while he suffers from occasional diabetic attacks. Kyle's physical and mental suffering is poignantly rendered, although occasionally his diabetic attacks seem like convenient plot devices. Fernandez masterfully immerses readers in the world of Kyle's canvas, so that they paint right along with the artist.
On the whole, "Undrawn" is a well-realized portrait of conflict and forgiveness. --****Jill Allen, Clarion ForeWord Review, Apr. 23, 2011 (Excerpt)
"Conchie Fernandez's Opera Prima, 'Undrawn'". When I finished reading "Undrawn", I felt the sort of thrill you get when you discover something important. The most recent of a line of Dominican novelists to publish their works in English has debuted with a novel which, in my opinion, firmly establishes her as a serious author with an excellent grip on the profound complexities of the human soul.
Conchie immigrated to the United States a few years ago and just published her first novel, "Undrawn", which spans 218 pages. I think she knew she was going to be a writer since she was very young, and her passion for literature made her a great reader. She was a creative writing teacher at Casa Chavon. Her links to art and artists is evident from the first pages of her work of fiction, which narrates the life of Kyle Reed, a tormented painter who returns to his paternal home after a self-imposed emotional exile when his father, an affluent and powerful Massachusetts senator, dies.
In a recent interview, Conchie states that "'Undrawn' is about self-forgiveness, about the love that surrounds us and that we often fail to recognize. Ultimately, it's about the intricate brushstrokes that make up familial ties and intimate relationships."
Conchie -a fan of John Irving- defines her novel as a "literary painting" that took her ten years to complete. "In my dealings with artists both as a collector and a student of Liberal Arts, I couldn't help but fall in awe and fascination with the intricacies of the lives and personalities of many painters and sculptors I met. I felt I had to tell the story of an artist, of the layers of thought, concept and vision that fill the minds of artists, the impact of their lives on their art and viceversa," she said. When asked what advice she would offer other budding authors, she said, "Don't give up. If you can't get into the top 6 publishing houses, don't despair. Technology and amazing resources (like self-publishing portals) give us tools, access and resources we couldn't have dreamed of 10 years ago. Write your fingers off, make sure you write your best book possible, and then shout it out to the world. Readers will come, but your first task as a writer is simply to put it down."
As it often happens, "Undrawn", a magnificent and convincing novel, was self-published by the author. -- Jose Baez Guerrero, "Opiniones", Hoy Newspaper, santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Apr. 15, 2011 (Translation)
From the Author
Hi! I'm really grateful that you're reading Kyle's story.
I wrote the first draft of "Undrawn" probably 20 years ago, and Kyle was originally called Drew Davidson. For some odd reason, years later when I wrote yet another draft, I felt the name "Drew" didn't fit him. I was a little restless while I looked for another name, and then one day as I was watching "Dune" (and read Frank Herbert's book, "Dune", if you haven't) I got it.
The main character in Dune was played by Kyle MacLachlan, whom I loved, and I knew that was my character's name. And so Drew became Kyle. I didn't care for "Kyle Davidson", I didn't feel the last name told me much about him. So I spent a couple more days wondering about the last name, and I chose the last name of someone who was very special to one of my best friends. I changed the spelling a little, and so his last name became Reed. I felt the word 'reed' described Kyle a little: tall, thin, strong, clinging fiercely to the water and land where he's rooted, but wanting to sway in the wind, dance, go with the flow, create a nice melody. That's my boy.
When I wasn't able to get a publisher for "Undrawn", I put the book to rest for a couple of years. Ten, exactly. Life went on, but I felt an emptiness and persistent grief that I couldn't do away with. Nothing made me feel fulfilled, and I felt like I had failed myself, failed the little girl I once was, who wanted nothing more than to be an author. But most importantly, I felt I failed Kyle, who had visited my mind many years before, and confided his story to me. And so one day in July 2009 I sat down to listen to him again, and this time his story was richer, fuller, tri-dimensional. He unveiled his childhood, which I hadn't seen or heard before. I understood him better this time around, because I knew where he came from, what his childhood and adolescence were like. What his struggles were, as a child who is different, like many of us are.
When I first wrote Kyle's story, my father was alive. I wrote about Kyle's feelings for his father (which are completely opposite to my feelings for my wonderful Dad) as best as I could imagine, as best as Kyle would recount. When I wrote the final draft of "Undrawn" - which you're reading now - I had already lost my Dad. I believe authors can imagine and write about things we might never really experience, and if we do a good job, you'll believe our words. Writing about loss and grief after losing my own dear father made all the difference in my final draft. Experience does add a great deal of depth and color to writing.
I added one new character to this final draft, and I can't really share much about this person; you'll discover this character as you read my book. And I added a lot more love, compassion and hope to this final version. As I grew and lived, I realized that I will always choose to write about change, evolution, groping for the light. We face enough challenges along the way and it's not my place to add pessimism or negativity to our beautiful planet. Life is wonderful. I've had a lot of love, light and open doors along the way. I can only hope to share a story that reminds us that no matter what happens, we should always walk toward a bright and open door.
Thank you for listening to Kyle's story. He's been with me a very long time; I give him to you with all my gratitude.