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Blythe Paperback – June 20, 2017
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From the Author
1) What is your novel Blythe about?
Blythe is a story of two lovers separated after an act of betrayal. Blythe is drawn into a dark, despotic and threatening world where the depth of her love and her morals are tested, as her life hangs in the balance. With a crafty turn of phrase, however, readers are suddenly confronted with what the novel Blythe is really about. It is that deeper and surprising allegorical meaning that gives Blythe its punch.
2) What is the genre of Blythe?
As one reader describes it, Blythe "shatters the conventional boundaries of genres." I think that's a good description. At its core, the quality of its writing and its timeless, universal themes lend themselves to literary fiction, but it borrows from other genres including mystery, science fiction, detective novels, and even philosophy and public policy.
3) Readers can't tell for certain when Blythe takes place. Why did you write the novel in that way?
Blythe is purposefully told as a timeless tale--meaning that you can't tell definitively when this story unfolds--because its themes of faith, freedom and forgiveness, along with the conflict between tyranny and self-determination--are themselves timeless. As such, I wrote Blythe so readers can experience it in such a way that it seems it could take place today, or perhaps 500 years ago--both would be equally accurate ways of reading this novel.
4) Tell us about your characters. What inspired them?
Each character sprang organically from this story; none of them, with the exception of Mab, was based on any real-world person. It all started with Henry, whose impact is seen throughout the story, but who is never seen in the flesh. Henry was the first character I created, and all the other characters flowed from him. Next was Blythe, who would be drawn into Henry's world, followed by Notté, who would be Henry's agent to draw in Blythe. He was followed by Aaron, Blythe's love, who would fight to free her. And the rest of the characters organically grew from those three more tangible characters--Blythe, Notté and Aaron.
5) What makes the character Blythe so special?
Blythe's appeal lies in her transformation. When you first meet her, she makes for poor company--although she is beautiful, she is completely self-absorbed. By the time the tale is told, she is transformed by circumstances that break her until she has nowhere to go but up--to improve. From that place, she learns to forgive, starting with forgiving herself, and she learns to forgive others from there.
6) A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain to write this book?
I think the core of what comprises every villain is a desire to think for others--to take away their self-determination, and to dictate to them their destiny. Notté does that throughout Blythe. He decides other characters' fates, sometimes for what he sees as a necessity, but often, he does so merely for pleasure, out of spite, and for the sport of it. He sometimes does what he does out of boredom, which might be the worst reason of all. Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" contains the line, "I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die." Cash wrote that line because it was the pettiest reason he could conceive of to kill another man. Notté is a vindictive and sadistic predator, and he also has a terrible boredom within him that leads him to make those around him suffer as a result.
7) Do any of your characters represent something deeper or broader than just the characters themselves?
Absolutely. I won't get too deep into the details with this or other characters, but the character Lucre, for example, represents the marketplace. Though vilified in the novel by others, it is Lucre who amasses his resources through the voluntary exchange of goods and services and then employs them to try to solve the dilemma faced by the entire valley where he lives. By and large I think that's what the private sector does every single day: take on struggles faced by humanity and tilt the balance toward a better life for men and women around the globe. I have many friends who have survived cancer and other diseases and who enjoy a high quality of life as a result of the work of individuals pursuing this kind of work. Are they and the companies they work for perfect? Certainly not. But we should recognize the good that they do.
8) Why did you decide to become a writer?
I really didn't have a choice. Once that seed of this story was planted in my mind, I had no choice but to cultivate it until it was ready for others to experience as this novel. I've been possessed by this work for more than a decade and a half, and I couldn't let it go until it was as perfect as I could make it.
9) What makes Blythe stand out from the crowd?
The single most-striking discovery is how Blythe has been so well received by individuals across all walks of life--conservatives and liberals and libertarians, people of faith and those guided by reason, gay and straight individuals, each have found something in Blythe that hits home for them in a deep and true way. In an era when we're bombarded by others who demand we focus on our divisions, Blythe reminds readers across social divides that we can and should unite to elevate humanity and work together to a better, more caring and nobler destiny for us all.
From the Back Cover
"John Kramer has created a world. Actually, he has created a universe well worth traveling to and through for the sheer pleasure of the people the reader will meet and the events in their lives the reader will experience, vividly and viscerally."
Tony Award winning, Oscar nominated author of
Children of a Lesser God
"Blythe is a splendid allegory of faith and freedom, whose very title is a clever pun about how easily we can lose the things we claim to care about the most."
"This book touches on the great themes of the human condition: love, loss, suffering, and redemption. John Kramer has crafted a world whose differences help give us a better lens with which to discern our own. Blythe is a compelling narrative that will change the way you live and love."
Rev. Robert A. Sirico
President, Acton Institute
"With a refreshing use of language, Kramer creates a timeless tale that could have taken place hundreds of years ago or today. Using the demons that haunt humanity, this exploration uncovers the resilience and deep hunger of the human spirit to do 'good' and care for one another."
Reverend Stephen Haddan
Tolt Congregational United Church of Christ
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Top customer reviews
John Kramer’s “Blythe” refreshingly shatters such misconceptions. And it does it within a story that unfolds with mystery, allegory and suspense. While many novels simply entertain, this one does so much more. It intertwines critical values with an intriguing plot that works its way to an uplifting conclusion. You end up feeling good about some things your heart always told you were right, even if you sometimes strayed in other directions.
Among my favorite lines in “Blythe” are some that ought to be etched in stone in the public square: “One of mankind’s greatest sins is inaction in the face of injustice.” “A full heart has more room than an empty one.” “Take liberties you shouldn’t and you’ll find your liberties are taken from you.” “The smallest act of compassion can save a soul, perhaps your own.” “Someone can speak with all the sincerity in the world, but with no truth.” “Man must be free or he will not survive.” “Humanity is not that difficult to understand; it is inhumanity that I cannot decipher.”
A work of fiction can certainly succeed if its only purpose is to occupy and delight. “Blythe” takes the reader to the next level. It succeeds because it affirms what all of us know but don’t talk about enough, namely, that character—the stuff that defines our individuality and our relationship to things both ephemeral and eternal—makes all the difference in the world. Thank you, John Kramer!
The setting segues from an “every town” to a dystopian kingdom that is the now. It is today’s dystopia. The one in which we all live, every day. It’s today and tomorrow, and yesterday.
Within a gripping love story, Kramer distills our society to an in-depth look at how our choices impact our morals, faith, and ability to love, as well as how our morals, faith and ability to love impact our choices. More importantly, the story explores whether we can find redemption and how that might be achieved.
I found myself unable to stop thinking about the symbolism and themes which permeate the novel. Even days later, I find myself pondering the statement this story makes about our society and my own life and choices.
Read it, and be prepared to become engrossed in the journeys each character faces based on his/her own choices. The is a book you will remember long after you have finished reading it.
Blythe, the eponymous protagonist, is beautiful, winsome and an accomplished artist. Beneath this facade, however, is an inexplicable, gnawing emptiness she suppresses through painting, nightly parties and the affection she receives from others, particularly her handsome beau, Aaron.
When troubles begin to afflict some of the less-than-savory inhabitants of the village, few take notice. After all, these are outcasts, people who, presumably, are reaping what they’ve sown. Like the inhabitants of Vanity Fair, Blythe and her companions are so absorbed in pleasure-seeking they fail to see what’s lurking in the shadows.
But when these ghastly, life-altering circumstances begin to directly impact the beautiful and well-regarded in the community, there is a dawning realization that complacency and self-righteousness brought them to this fate.
The folly of apathy and the sin of omission are recurring themes in Blythe. In a mini-preface to the book, author John Kramer posits that "One of mankind's greatest sins is inaction in the face of injustice." Over the course of Blythe’s pilgrimage she discovers that simple acts of human kindness and engagement can transform lives — and undermine the forces of darkness.
A priest who slowly comes to the same realization rebukes a smug parishioner who is content to see sinners suffer the consequences of their sins. “Human action is God’s will, not blind indifference in the face of suffering,” the priest proclaims. “This is no different than any other struggle in the history of mankind. It is a fight between good and evil, between freedom and captivity, between life and death, and I will not stand idly by when I can help.”
That said, Kramer is no advocate of coercive measures to accomplish good things. The importance of individual liberty, of pursuing goodness over greatness, permeates the book. A teacher who befriends Blythe explains, “I always stressed to my students the importance of thinking for themselves, of not being led solely by a book, or a teacher, or a ruler, but rather to take in all of these and more to make your own decisions. Every manmade disaster begins when one man thinks for another. However benevolent they begin, the ultimate outcome is tyranny.”
It is no small feat to convey profound and provocative truths in a novel without becoming preachy, manipulative or overbearing. Yet Kramer manages to weave in timeless insights again and again in ways that will cause a thoughtful reader to pause and reflect.
So consider yourself forewarned. Blythe is a compelling story that will challenge your suppositions about life and how you live it.
Most recent customer reviews
the future. Good versus evil will continue forever.
Like a good movie that ends before you are ready. Reading electronically is madening, I had no idea I was getting to the end until...Read more