Welcome our guest, novelist Phyllis Schieber!
Prescience (n)—knowledge of events before they take place; foreknowledge; second sight
The Manicurist is a story of redemption, but it also pays homage to the forces that are beyond our control. The characters ultimately accept those forces that defy explanation, which leads to deepen their relationships. They may not be like any people my readers necessarily know, but the characters and their struggles will not be unfamiliar. They are ordinary people with some unusual challenges, but ultimately, they all want the same thing—to be loved and understood.
Tessa and Walter Emanuel seem to be an ordinary couple, enjoying a typical marriage. And they seem the ideal parents for their somewhat rebellious teen-age daughter, Regina. Without warning their comfortable lives are thrown into turmoil when a disturbing customer, Fran, comes into the salon where Tessa works as a manicurist. Suddenly, Tessa’s world is turned upside down as revelations come to light about Ursula, the mentally ill mother Tessa thought had abandoned her in childhood, and the second sight that she so guardedly seeks to keep from others. Together, the family discovers what it means to accept the unexpected and to embrace change.
I am intrigued by the reality that nothing is ever what it seems to be. The most seemingly ordinary people in the world have stories that are likely to surprise us. Who would ever suspect Tessa to have survived the sort of childhood she experienced or to have the gift of prescience? Yet, Tessa not only has a mesmerizing story to tell, but she can also see what others cannot.
There are so many aspects that contribute to the impetus that led to the story that became The Manicurist—my interest in prescience, my understanding of how family dynamics shape our lives, my love of words, my fascination with unusual characters, and a determination to tell an surprising story about typical subjects—among them love, marriage, parenthood, loss, and growth. My characters and their stories are a conglomeration of all these interests. While my characters are mostly from my imagination, aspects of their personalities and quirks can be based on people I’ve known or on people I’ve observed. None of my characters are based on any one specific person. I would find that too distracting.
I never have a specific plan before I begin a novel other than the need to tell a story about something I want to explore in greater depth. In The Manicurist,I began with the idea of a manicurist who has prescience, and the story evolved from there. I have always been drawn to how second-sight manifests itself, simply because I believe that everyone is born with this ability. We simply don’t need to use it because technology has taken over for us, but the predisposition for it is present in all of us. Prescience, like any other skill, needs to be honed. Most of us have lost this skill because we never need to use it. I think that’s tragic. I remember that as a child, I used to practice what I believed were my extrasensory skills, including levitation. Mostly, I succeeded in giving myself a headache, but I was determined, and it was an interest that remained with me and continues to absorb me. There is always the potential for a great story when some degree of prescience is involved. I just followed that likelihood. More importantly, however, is how the story leads me. Once I am fully involved with the characters, I simply follow their lead. They always seem to know best anyway.
Have you ever had an experience that made you believe in prescience? If so, how did that experience influence the outcome of how you handled the situation? Do you agree that we are all born with some degree of prescience? Post a comment to put your name into my drawing for a copy ofTHE MANICURIST.
The Manicurist was a finalist in the 2011 Inaugural Indie Publishing Contest sponsored by the San Francisco Writer’s Conference.