A few years ago, Montclair writer Pam Satran visited Hot Springs, Arkansas, a spa town with a racetrack that her brother visited every year. The experience gave her an inspiration for a TV show called “Ho Springs” (the T in the neon sign is out) and she wrote a treatment — but it never sold.
Fast forward a few years to her success writing a blog How Not to Act Old, which was turned into a bestselling advice book. “I discovered how much I love writing on the web,” she says. She wondered if she could combine that somehow with her love of writing fiction, a process that is notorious for its epoch delays. Which gave her another inspiration: develop “Ho Springs” as a novel on the web, in a way that makes use of the web’s non-linear nature. And get instant feedback from readers.
Yesterday, Satran launched “Ho Springs” online, in blog format, with the most recent chapter on top, and sections for special characters (written by other local writers, including me) to give their read on events.
The story starts here with the protagonist, Cora, returning to her hometown of Hot Springs after years of living in Paris. Some of the secondary characters include Taryn Piper Forrest, a stripper and meth addict, whose little black book is written by Montclair novelist Benilde Little. Cora’s daughter Juliette, keeps a secret diary, written by creative writing student Danielle Miksza. Susan Sherrill Axelrod, a Montclair food writer, provides recipes and other behind-the-scenes notes from Cora’s Kitchen. And I am the town tarot reader, Jimmie Sue Fallon, who reads the cards here. Graphic designer Katie Mancine created the neon-sign design of the site.
Satran collected her contributors Tom Sawyer style; almost everybody she told wanted to help paint the fence. Contributors write their parts without much supervision so the story will develop “organically.” We’re just instructed to read the main story and add our own perspectives.
In other words, it’s a literary experiment. Or as the Happiness Project’s Gretchen Rubin tweeted yesterday, the “dawn of a new era for story.” If there’s any other multi-authored novel been written on the web right now, Satran doesn’t know about it.
Here’s a little more about the main character and the setting. Stay tuned. Writing, and reading, just turned a corner.
Ho Springs is the American story of people trying to escape their destiny, but finding no matter how far they run, they always end up back home.
It’s the story of a place as much as of the people who live there. Hot Springs, Arkansas is one of those small American cities that anyone with any brains and gumption has to leave, the way our heroine Cora McAdams did. But even if you manage to get out, you find you’ve taken Hot Springs with you, in your values, your attitude, your soul. And you may find the only way to be yourself is to return to the place you truly belong.
That’s what happened to Cora, the smartest girl in Hot Springs, who ran as fast and as far as she could, marrying a romantic Parisian, having a child and settling down in France. But nearly 20 years later, her husband’s betrayal and her mother’s death, her alcoholic father’s illness and her feckless brother’s loss of the family business bring her back to town, assertively French teenage daughter in tow.