The now-dilapidated Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is a real place that was once home to hundreds of women clawing in anguish at the stone walls, victims of cruel husbands and a fictitious disease called hysteria. In The New People, it is the epicenter of a mysterious new disorder called “Nostalgic Psychosis”.
The story begins in a historical amusement park…a dark and absurd version of Colonial Williamsburg created by racehorse heiress Elizabeth Rendare. She has hired historical actors, including her childhood best friend and high school sweetheart Rhett Stevens (the narrator), to reenact the year 1890: beginning with a cryptic “farmhouse wedding” between Rhett and his new girlfriend Josephine. At first glib about the amateur method actors he calls ‘terps’, the narrator unwittingly enters their world—and the bizarre, cultish psychology which dictates their behavior around visitors and one another.
Convinced that Josephine is losing her grip on reality, he hatches a plan to force her to break character, by staging what was an authentic 19th-century alternative to divorce: banishment of an unwanted wife to an insane asylum. Together with Christopher Morton, a psychology professor hoping to be immortalized with a novel entry into the DSM, Rhett stages an elaborate “kidnapping”—daring Josephine the entire time to escape by simply admitting who she really is.
Over the last 10 years I have immersed myself in the world of living history, researching my novel while teaching horse-drawn carriage driving and farming to aspiring interpreters at Howell Living History Farm.
I am currently seeking representation. For more information or a full manuscript, please contact me here.