By ANDRE TURNER
On Wed., Oct. 24, author and retired UMW Professor James F. Gaines held a book signing and discussion for his latest novel at the bookstore in Lee Hall.
Writing has always been a passion of Gaines’. His first science fiction short story was published in a high school editorial. As time passed, he continued to write and publish short stories, poetry and essays. By the time he graduated college and became a French professor, Gaines had written and published seven scholarly books about French literature.
Inspired by his admiration for science fiction, Gaines co-wrote the series “The Forlani Saga” with his son, who graduated from UMW in 2006. The series includes “Life Sentence” and “Spy Station.”
Gaine’s latest novel, “Beyond the Covenant and Other Stories,” marks the first time he has ventured out on a solo fictional project. Many of the stories in this novel refer to characters developed from historical figures or real-life experiences. One of the first short stories which appear in this collection is called “For More Than Their Souls”. This story was set in the Caribbean in the 1700s, and it involves a priest who is known for his poor treatment of slaves.
“It has an element of truth to it because the evil priest Père Labat really existed, and he wrote several books in the eighteenth century about the Caribbean,” Gaines said. “I found out that even today if mothers want their children to behave, they say ‘you better be good or Père Labat’s going to come get you.’”
Other stories were inspired by Gaines’ personal experiences. His story “The Witches of Okemos” comes from his cross-country travels with witches, and “War Games” is inspired by figurative war games that Gaines played as a child.
“This goes back to my childhood in Massachusetts, where we had these sort of kid gangs and we’d play war games against each other. Particularly one character who is based on a real person was sort of the leader of the enemy gang, I thought of her, what an interesting kid,” said Gaines.
The author explained that although this is a fictional novel, a lot of research went into the book as well.
“There are a lot of different themes in it, and a lot of them attach in one way or another to courses that I have taught, or seminars and dealing with literature you come across so many fascinating things, you find these holes of information,” said Gaines.
Kate White, a 1973 UMW alumna, attended the book signing in part because of her personal connection to the school. She likes to visit her old dorm and walk around campus to see how much it has changed over the years. She said events like these make her feel she’s still a part of the UMW student community.
“One of my classmates wrote a book called “Locked and Loaded,” and you guys had a book signing for her in June,” White said. “I come back to the bookstore every so often, to check out the events, it’s a trip down memory lane.”
The University posted the event on its calendar, as well as provided promotion through signage in the walkway of the UMW Bookstore.
“I saw the event on Twitter,” said Barbara Quann, who works at the Office of Eagle One. “I read a review for the book and it seemed interesting, so I thought it would be cool to get it signed.”
Going forward, James and John Gaines are working on adding three new books in the “Forlani Saga”. The upcoming book will be entitled “Earth Regained”. John Gaines is working on a spinoff series based on robot characters in the ‘Forlani Saga’, while his father is working on an autobiographical short story that he wants to shape into a novel soon.
Gaines voiced appreciation for everyone who attended the book signing.
“It’s fun to grow your audience and it’s really exciting when you have people who you didn’t imagine would be your audience and some of the people who become interested in your work, you wouldn’t expect them to be at first and it’s kind of fun to find out how people react to the book, that’s the fun of it, you never really have a special audience,” said Gaines.