|Meet Tillie Thornwhistle. one of the protagonists|
in Ron Shannon's newest novel, Gabriel's Wing.
I am Matilda (Tillie) Thornwhistle, also known as Snake Eyes, a handle my brother gave me, a reference to my unusual eyes. They are amber, the color of a traffic light and the result of my mother’s dark, cavernous brown, and my father’s emerald green.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Loneliness. Not the opportunity to be alone, or to spend time enjoying the world without the worry of intruding on another’s time, but the ultimate horror of having no one to call your friend, brother, sister, or parent. I am lucky. With all the challenges the world throws at a person with unusual color or heritage I have people who love me.
Where would you like to live?
My brother lives on a houseboat and there is an element of romance living on something as unstable as water. Water, by its very nature, is always moving, flowing, like life and I understand his attraction to it. I, on the other hand, would love to live inside the walls of an ancient castle. The walls would shelter me from the evil outside. I'd spend my days as the defiant member of the royal court.
What is your idea of earthly happiness?
I have lived my life as an outcast. I am accustomed to the kind of prejudice that results from the fear of someone unusual. Earthly happiness is fleeting, but comes with acceptance and love. Not necessarily romantic love complete with the act of physical love. But why not? Yes, happiness is love without fear.
The quality you most admire in a man?
Fearlessness. No, I am not talking about the silliness of a man facing battle, for instance, without the fear of dying. Such things are meaningless. I am talking about a man who is unafraid to face himself, for all of his frailties. A man who knows his faults and is not afraid of them.
The quality you most admire in a woman?
Women are faced with so many challenges, but a woman who stands up and fights for what she wants is truly someone to be admired. I am not talking about someone without the ability to be flexible and respect the rights of another. That’s just selfishness. I am referring to a woman who is unafraid to be different and travel her own path.
Your favorite virtue?
Kindness. So much more can be achieved through kindness than with anything related to force. Kindness is the closest thing I know to attaining moral greatness.
Your favorite occupation?
I am in a career that is not available to women. That’s not really true, because here I am and I know there are other women in this occupation. I had to sacrifice plenty to get here and keeping my job requires a small miracle to occur on a daily basis, but I wouldn't give it up for the world. I’d only risk it for someone I love.
Your most marked characteristic?
I know it’s my eyes. They are an unnatural color—amber, the color of a traffic light—and something that distinguishes me from anyone else I know. They are one of those features that would be part of my description if anyone ever wanted to keep a file on me. In my profession that is a definite possibility. It’s something that is considered whenever I am in the field.
What do you most value in your friends?
Friends are so important. I value understanding. I am not faultless and I make mistakes. A friend who is my friend in spite of these faults is a priceless treasure.
What is your principle defect?
I've always had trouble with love. Not the kind of love I have for my brother, my mother, and my father. My father once apologized for the plight he bestowed upon me. He is white and my mother is black. My brother and I share the same father, but we have different mothers. I have never regretted who I am, but I have often blamed my inability to love a man on my race. Then again, I know I am not being completely honest.
What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?
To be alone. I am lucky. I know, I've mentioned this before, but it’s true. I have people who love me. My family and a few very close friends, yet there are times when I stand and look out at the world and I feel so isolated. Then I tell myself I am only feeling sorry for myself and move on. That feeling, though, is something I can never forget. I wonder what it would be like to be totally alone, maybe with no place to go, no home to run back to, no place to hide in the comfort of the people dear to you. That thought brings me the closest to an utter despair I’d ever want to experience.
What would you like to be?
That’s easy. I want to be a successful part of the FBI. It’s an ambition I've known for a long time. I fought my way through school, I’ve passed the tests, and I've earned the position. However, I know I would risk it all for the people who mean the most to me.
Who are your heroes in real life?
When Bobby Kennedy died I think I cried for a week. I still have not fully recovered.
Who are your favorite heroines?
Eleanor Roosevelt is one of them. I have no idea why she comes to my mind first and for the life of me I can think of no others at this time. Funny, but we have nothing in common. There is nothing to make me feel any connection at all to her, except possibly the fact I am treading on ground not many women have traveled. That could be the connection. Most of my achievements have not made it to history books. Not yet anyway. That could be because the people in power do not want other people to know breakthroughs are happening everyday. What if women could have reached what I have done when Eleanor Roosevelt was living in the White House? Eleanor Roosevelt could’ve achieved more than we know. It seems very likely to me.
What is it you most dislike?
I guess it comes as no surprise. Bigotry. It always surprises me and it always baffles me. What is it based on?
What natural gift would you most like to possess?
Charisma. That unexplained talent to light up a room the moment you walk in. To be like John F. Kennedy, Mark Twain, or Marilyn Monroe, but that would mean I would also have everyone’s attention when I walked into a room. That is not necessarily a good thing, especially in my trade. Forget it. I was being whimsical. Something I tend to do on occasion.
How would you like to die?
Why ask such a thing? It will happen without any help from me. I’d rather not dwell on it.
What is your present state of mind?
Worried. I am in the worst kind of position. I had to make a choice and I know I made a mistake. I had all the right intentions, but you know what they say about good intentions. The losses are mounting and I must stop the momentum.
What is your motto?
I don’t know. I've been told what I wanted was impossible. I was told to give up. Find another goal. I didn't listen. I kept going. Maybe that’s it. Never give up.
About the book: It’s April 1969 and many of the flower children who left home to escape the old morality face disillusionment, extreme poverty, and death. They give up on their dreams and do whatever it takes to survive, even if it means submitting to unconscionable evil.
Stanton Clayburn, a young private investigator, has been hired to find a nineteen year-old lost flower child. He is determined to bring the boy home safely, but the journey takes him back to the world that nearly destroyed him.
Tillie Thornwhistle, the daughter of a white father and a black mother, knows the meaning of hardship and living as an outcast. Adversity makes her strong and gives her the determination to let nothing get in the way of her success. Then a series of misguided ventures changes everything. The trail to redemption includes a psychopath, an unexpected trip, and the mysterious Stanton Clayburn.
Stanton and Tillie meet under extraordinary circumstances. Fate and necessity pull them together. What follows is an adventure that could easily cost them their lives.
|Photo (c) Ron Shannon|
About the Author: Ron Shannon discovered a passion for storytelling at a very young age: while listening to his teacher read the Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol to the overly-excited members of his sixth grade class. Later, he went on to study at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey and graduated with the unlikely degree combinations of accounting and English. Recently he completed his Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Ron lives, daydreams, and writes at the New Jersey shore.
Gabriel’s Wing is Ron’s second novel. His first novel, The Hedgerows of June, is available at Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.
You can also meet the protagonist of The Hedgerows of June in another Proustian interview here.