At last, I have finished editing Chapter 10 of Red Flags. This chapter is 21,000-plus words long. If it were a separate work, it would be too long to qualify as a novella for some literary awards. I decided to keep it intact rather than breaking it up into several chapters. Despite the length, it works better as a whole.
Chapter 10 begins in the fall of 1986, almost three years after where Chapter 9 leaves off. Larissa is now sixteen years old and a veteran on the international figure skating scene. At that time in figure skating history, sixteen-year-olds didn’t win gold medals at the World Championships like Evgenia Medvedeva did earlier this year in Boston. Because of compulsory figures, which took years to master, young skaters were at a disadvantage. In the story, Larissa isn’t bad at compulsory figures, but her American and East German competitors are older and more experienced. It’s hard for her to move ahead of them.
This chapter includes some of the only material in the novel that could be considered autobiographical. For Larissa’s first competition in the United States, I sent her to Skate America and staged the event in Detroit, Michigan. Skate America actually did take place in Detroit several years later. I was there– as a spectator.
Detroit is also the home of Wayne State University, my alma mater. I started my freshman year there not long after Larissa competed at Skate America. Her perceptions of Detroit are her own. Having grown up in the Soviet Union, she is seeing the city through a completely different lens. But the places she visits are ones I remember from that same time period.
This is another one of those chapters with disturbing, violent scenes. (These events take place when Larissa returns to Moscow after competing in Detroit.) This is also the chapter where I introduce LGBT issues in the form of a same-sex relationship between Larissa and an older woman.
Next up… Chapter 11, which covers the 1987-88 skating season. The Rio Olympics ended in real life just as I am about to start editing my fictional version of the 1988 Winter Games. Perfect timing!