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placeholder January 9, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 1   •   Oakland, CA
Senior Living & Resources

Writing in the prime of life
Activist's real-life experience provides grist for novel

Anne Downey-Jerome

A.D. Jerome —Anne Downey-Jerome— is the East Bay author of" Half Life." An artist, as well as a writer, Jerome published her novel in 2005 — 25 years after she wrote it. She is working on a new project combining art and verse. From 2011 to 2014, she was the director of 40 Days for Life Hayward campaign.

Please tell us a little bit about "Half Life."

"Half Life" is loosely based on Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities," except that its two cities are Livermore and Berkeley, and the two protagonists are a nuclear physicist and a peace activist (Oakland Tribune reporter). Their beliefs and motivations mirror the "just war theory" of St. Augustine vs. the absolute pacifism of St. Francis of Assisi as set out in the 1983 NCCB Pastoral Letter on Peace, which is still relevant today.

"Half Life," your novel, is based on your activities of the 1980s. How did you return to that time? Did you keep a diary? Did you rely on your memory?

"Half Life" was written in 1989, after completing my bachelor of fine arts degree at California State University Hayward. I had more than a journal for reference: a closetful of news articles, scientific papers, personal citations from LLNL and the Nevada Test Site. As cited in my novel's introduction, I participated in an arraignment, which allowed court depositions by Daniel Ellsberg, Frank C. Newman (former California attorney general), and Professor Charles Schwartz (University of California, Berkeley).

"Half Life"
By A.D. Jerome

Available at Cathedral Shop at the Cathedral of Christ The Light in Oakland; San Damiano Retreat House in Danville; St. Gabriel's in Hayward; Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
What are the joys and pitfalls of writing about a time in one's life?

The joys of writing about the anti-nuclear movement, were, of course, the successes of the many groups: the Nuclear Freeze, Lenten Desert Experience, The Ribbon, etc. The profound peace and personal euphoria I experienced when "coincidences" brought disparate people together for a positive outcome was evidence of the Holy Spirit. That same elation allowed opportunities to witness to non-believers. A pitfall would be not acknowledging an antithetic world view, which has been and remains a reality since the beginning of time: man's innate desire to conquer and control. A Christian must necessarily acknowledge God's purpose and plan.

What has been the response to the novel from people who knew you at that time?

People who knew me at that time have been enthusiastic about my book. Pat Buchanan, a Secular Franciscan who traveled with me to the Nevada Test Site mentioned the hopeful attitude we had then. Father Louie Vitale, OFM, on the back cover of "Half Life" states, "I feel I know the characters personally from my decades outside the nuclear labs and with the Nevada Desert Experience."

How do you write? Do you set aside a certain time of the day or space?

As an artist, (BFA in printmaking; minor in writing) I know how to "line out" my sketch — establishing parameters and framework. In literature, a time frame is paramount—interspersing the addition of characters and circumstance to reify (to illustrate) the resultant plot. I write when my inspiration comes — in the quiet afternoon (or awaken and run to the tablet at 1 a.m.!) I use a clipboard (true activist!) and a No. 2 pencil with a good eraser, and employ plenty of scribbled "carrot" insertions. I always pray for inspiration and acknowledge God's timing.

Are you working on something new?

Because I'm driven to both draw and write, I'm working on a treatise on "God, The Inventor." After the first draft of "Half Life," I was inspired to invent and patent a Bible board game — "Nazarean Spin" — which reconciles Aquinas' and Calvin's beliefs on man's free will-predestination using a humorous race between sheep and goats with "Talent tour tickets" (parables of Mt. 25). I've spent 15 years with a ministry based on marketing this game. I've also done two pro-life cartoons for The Catholic Voice ("Huxley's Meats" 1989 and "Human Predation" 2013).

Any advice to those considering picking up paper and pen, or sitting down at the keyboard?

My advice is to work on more than one project at a time — deferring to God's will in the precedence of your work. In editing your drafts, be especially conscious of your verbs — their variety often sparks further actions.

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