LUMBERTON — Would you have known what to do to save the president?
Susan Sloate, an author who will be featured at this month’s Writer’s Rally in Robeson, has a theory. She even wrote a book about it.
“Forward to Camelot” is an alternate-history novel Sloate wrote with co-author Kevin Finn. In it, a woman from the year 2000 travels back in time to stop Lee Harvey Oswald in November of 1963. Sloate will talk about the book and her experience writing it at the Osterneck Auditorium on Thursday at 7 p.m.
The story was fed by Sloate’s appetite for learning about the historical event. She was 6 years old when she heard about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, sparking an interest in her that would start a long research project.
“I had a sense that things were changing that I couldn’t understand or control,” Sloate said.
After watching the Oliver Stone film “JFK” on a Sunday afternoon, the gears started turning. She imagined herself in the time period, and started thinking about what she could have done if she were there to stop the assassination.
“The wonderful thing about being a writer is that you can fix it if you want to,” Sloate said.
The challenge was to find information about Oswald and Kennedy to paint an accurate picture. Both were secretive men who showed different faces to different people, she said. Her research led her to read tons of biographies, and to attend assassination symposia, where people convene to discuss their theories about the assassination — like a Star Trek convention for conspiracy theorists.
“I ended up meeting my husband there,” Sloate said. “I was young and single and we were discussing blood and brains and I started thinking, ‘Oh, he’s cute.’”
After the research, Sloate and her co-author began the task of putting together the plot and writing the story. The difficult task of weaving a story into an already existing historical narrative was made more difficult by the 1,000-mile distance between the authors.
The work paid off with a work that was ranked No. 6 on the Amazon best-seller list and was optioned by a Hollywood film producer — a rare feat for a self-published book.
Sloate will discuss her work and her research with folks at the writer’s rally as well as discussing her sequel, where her time-traveling character returns to the present and deals with the consequences of the altered time line.
“One of the things that we as writers found out: Even if you try to restore a world you never really do,” Sloate said.