"I didn't do anything and people want me dead. It's wrong. Why do people do the wrong thing?"
In 1852 Charles Dickens wrote about his scorn for "the coxcombical [ conceited, foolish dandyism, pretentious foppery ] idea of writing down to the popular intelligence". He respected the public and noted the working class often knew more about Shakespeare and Milton than gentlemen. Seven years later he wrote A Tale of Two Cities.
In today's parlance Dickens might say he wouldn't be politically correct to make himself popular. A Tale of Two Cities insulted everybody. The only character who was heroic and effective was the drunken lawyer Sydney Carton who went to the guillotine in another man's place. Dickens told the truth as he saw it.
Neither was I politically correct with Empress Theresa, although my story is full of admirable people. Some people don't like that.
A websearch on the keywords 'empress theresa norman boutin' yielded twenty-eight websites trashing Empress Theresa. It must be a new world record.
What group of people would do this and why? Consider it as you read about Theresa's personality below.
A bad book is ignored. Why are those people there?
Every claim I make about Empress Theresa on this website or anywhere else can be confirmed by the book itself!
“It is easier to write a book with footnotes than the same book written so that children can understand it.” --- Bishop Fulton J. Sheen
Let's see if we can find out what Empress Theresa is about.
Theresa Elizabeth Sullivan Hartley
Cynics have said Walt Disney's movies and theme parks portray an America that no longer exists. I would agree with them if the America portrayed ever existed!
What was Disney trying to do?
When Cindrella was being put together, Disney made a telling remark. He said, "I will never equal Snow White".
Snow White was an innocent child. The seven dwarfs were also more like children than adults. Disney was saying that there is innocence of childhood in the world and it is precious.
Theresa is also a child at heart. Father Donoughty says, "Theresa is a very bright girl but she has a simple personality. She knows there is evil in the world. It doesn't affect her." In ways too many to list here, Theresa refuses to grow up. She remains young at heart to the end. The main question in the story is how does she remain that way?
What drives Theresa, and what is also one of the main themes of Empress Theresa, is that most valuable of possessions, the conscience.
The conscience gives man a personality.
"Conscience enables one to assume responsibility for the acts performed." --Universal Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1782
The conscience is what makes man free.
"Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions."
--Universal Catechism of the Catholic Church, para 1782
The book uses the word “conscience” seven times and each time approaches the word differently.
Theresa: “It’s rough in the big leagues! I didn’t do anything and people want me dead. It’s wrong. Why do people do the wrong thing?”
Prime Minister Blair: “People who have no conscience think everybody lacks one. They fear you.”
Theresa: “’Those who ignore the conscience will kill it.’ One of my teachers said that.”
But the leader of the opposition wouldn’t let it rest. He stood up and was recognized.
“Is the Prime Minister aware it may come to pass Mrs. Hartley acting alone can do anything she wants no matter how outrageous and the whole world can’t stop her?”
The PM jumped back up.
“Who will trust a committee? We know Theresa well enough. The only thing that can stop Theresa is her own conscience and it will.”
The opposition leader kept at it.
“Does the Prime Minister agree a person with good conscience in ordinary circumstances can be overwhelmed in the extraordinary and be changed for the worse?”
“Does the Prime Minister agree a person with conscience should not be a physician if he has not been so trained, or one in a position of power without adequate education and experience?”
“My honorable friend points to jobs requiring skills. But Theresa does not set out to manipulate organs or people. Theresa’s job only requires cleverness and a good heart.”
I was shocked into immobility. I had never imagined there could be such a society among human beings. It was the devil’s playground.
What could I do? Should I do anything?
As always, my conscience prodded me to do something if I could.
There had already been dozens of false stories about me, the price of maintaining a dignified silence. If people hadn’t figured me out by now they never would. I just followed my conscience. What’s to explain about that?
Theresa doesn't demonstrate one iota of falsehood, guile, or deceptive manipulation. She simply tells the truth.
Respect for, and living in, the truth is the foundation for all moral life and human existence. Personal activity even when non-verbal is a statement about what is right or wrong. All actions are either true or false depending on how they correspond to the divine plan.
"Since God is “true,” the members of his people are called to live in the truth."
-- Universal Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2465
"God is where truth is known" -- rephrasing of a comment by St. Augustine
By simply respecting the truth and living by it, Theresa is immune from serious personal failure.
"Theresa is a genius" says President Stinson. "Everybody knows that." While the government abductors watching her don't suspect a thing, Theresa cleverly prepares to keep her body afloat in the South Atlantic. She conceives the "theory of HAL" on the flimsiest of evidence. She designs a complicated code for controlling HAL while making sure "all the intelligence agencies in the world couldn't crack the code". She comes up with a defense against the North Korean missile attack with only four minutes to think about it. In South Korea she thinks up a new plan in a minute for invading North Korea when the first one proves no good. She does experiments getting HAL to manipulate atoms one at a time which opens the door to amazing medical procedures. She quickly and accurately assesses people for what they are, seeing instantly that Steve was a potentially great companion.
Empress Theresa is all about intellect. Theresa solves problems, does the best she can with the abilities she's given, helps people even at the risk of her life, and follows her conscience in hopes of transcending this world.
Through conscience we choose what to do, our intellect plans how to do it, but it's our courage that gets us to do it. "...courage....is the true supreme power..." says The Illiad, Book IX. "The Father is greater than I" said the Son, because it takes courage to start something that might go wrong.
As a believer Theresa is sure she's immortal. Early in the story she faces what she thinks is certain death without panic. Later, she stares down millions of North Koreans ordered to kill her.
Prime Minister Blair points out there is another kind of courage, the courage to take on responsibility. He asks her if she will try to get control of HAL? "Sure. It's only the most impossible, burdensome, insane task ever imposed on a human being."
Theresa has a good disposition, as she points out on page one, but she never goes through the early teenager stages of obsession with boys, diets and hairstyles. Merger with HAL at age ten makes her serious and thoughtful. She has what literature sometimes calls "self-command". People notice she's different but don't know why. One of the reasons high schools boys don't ask her out is that she seems so much more mature than her peers. Steve will later tell a Senate committee, "She became an adult before she became a woman." This does not mean she controls her emotions under all circumstances. She "loses it" to use her expression when all looks hopeless. She cries when the law firm files a suit against her, when OPEC blackmails her, when the oil tanker crew is killed, when she flies over Manhattan Island, when the North Korean leaders tell the people to attack unarmed, and when an assassin injures her with a car. But she recovers quickly.
On the first page she describes herself as a ten year old girl. "...when this story began I was a little girl who didn’t have much of a clue about anything. My job as a kid was to figure out what the heck was going on and what to do about it. It’s not easy when you’re young and everything is brand new."
Near the end of the story she is about to lead a South Korean army into the North and thinks, "How did I come so far?"
"Everything in the last nine years pushed me in this direction. HAL made me serious minded at ten. The kids called me the world’s champion tomboy because I soon lost interest in girl things, and there was playing baseball on the boys’ team. I think I even detected some worry in mom’s face. Was I getting weird?
No, I was developing confidence to do anything. The intellectual potential test, good family support, the attention I got from Jan Struthers’ watchers, being careful to keep myself out of trouble when so many kids around me were ruining their lives, the steady dating with Jeff Winslow, my quick early acceptance to BC, and Steve, all combined to build my psyche to where I could step up as Empress Theresa."
Theresa is a believer. She doesn't think she is already "saved" as some believers do. She doesn't preach. She acts, following the words of John Kennedy, "Here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own". When opportunity arises she does good because she can and feels she must. These can be the only reasons for her mysterious invasion of North Korea. "God has to let evil men do what they want. I don't."
Since reason and the true faith are both from God, there can be no opposition between them. Theresa has absolute certainty about her beliefs.
Humility is realization of one's place in the order of things, no more, no less. Theresa knows her power and importance, but except in emergencies she doesn't act on it. Early in the story, she thinks, "If I wanted to lead the world I would wait until people asked me to", but she never follows through on this idea. She doesn't set up a new world order. She leaves everybody alone.
On page one she describes herself as being “cute as heck as a ten year old”. Later, she reminisces about her only high school boy friend Jeff Winslow, a geeky kid with glasses, a fun to be with kid who took her to all the high school activities, “the only high school boy who ever had the nerve to ask me out. Jeff would probably marry an average girl, but for the rest of his life he would remember he had once dated a drop dead gorgeous woman.” At Boston College, Steve Hartley is immediately captivated by her, but while he wastes time admiring her in the cafeteria his friend Jack Koster quickly moves to introduce himself to Theresa. Part of her beauty is the magnificently thick mane of hair she develops after her merger with HAL at age ten. Conscious of its effect on admirers, she lets it grow to her lower back.
-- consolidated summary of Theresa's character
I have been accused of writing a "Mary Sue" character, a girl who is perfect in everything she does and is perfect in herself, but Theresa is not perfect. She cries. She gets angry ( even at God !!! See chapter 22. She gets discouraged and wants to forget everything and go home. Steve has to tell her, "You can't do that". She will be the first to admit she couldn't have gotten through the 'impossible problems' without the help of her husband Steve who comes up with some ingenious solutions. This is not a perfect human being and no "Mary Sue".
I have been accused of writing an allegorical story like Pilgrim's Progress or Everyman. In an allegory, the main character, named something like Christian in the first story or Everyman in the second, represents all humanity.
Theresa is not an allegorical character. She is a good girl, but there are many kinds of good people.
Some are smart, some aren't. Theresa is smart.
Some are full of religious fervor, some not. Theresa is.
Some are courageous, strong-willed and generous, some not. Theresa is.
Some have attractive personalities, some don't. Theresa does.
Some believe in God, some don't. Theresa does.
Some achieve and some don't. Theresa achieves.
Some go out of their way to do good, some don't. Theresa does.
Some never give up, some do. Theresa doesn't.
Some are proud, some aren't. Theresa isn't.
Some are loved, some aren't. Theresa is.
Some have confidence and esteem, some don't. Theresa does.
And then there are people who aren't so good, who cheat on spouses, who are promiscuous, who are troubled by drugs, alcohol, bad companions, mental illness, petty crime, or violent crime. None of these things apply to Theresa.
Putting all the above together, it's clear that Theresa represents only a tiny fraction of the population's individuals. You're lucky if you know five of them.
Empress Theresa is not an allegory.
What Theresa does have in common with everybody is having the need to figure out how to get herself through this world. Everybody has to do that. But what Theresa does is unique to her.
WHAT MAKES THERESA REPRESENTATIVE OF OTHERS IS THAT SHE REPRESENTS WHAT GOD INTENDED FOR EVERYBODY TO BE !!!!!
Theresa being what she is supposed to be is what makes Empress Theresa special.
Of course, one of the most important questions of the story, and a sufficient reason all to itself for writing the book, is the question: how did Theresa become and remain who she is?
Theresa says: "Steve and I were perfect for each other." Nearly everything that can be said of Theresa also applies to Steve.
They marry, and he helps her get through the ordeal of dealing with the 'impossible problems'.
He thought he'd married a very bright and attractive girl but expected to be married to a high school teacher. He ends up married to a girl with global power, the 'World Empress', 'Empress Theresa', the 'right hand of God'.
He remains loyal to her throughout and never asks for any credit for his critical contributions.
Theresa's 'impossible problems' are so unusual, it would seem impossible to find solutions, but as Theresa says....."Steve came up with the weirdest ideas in the world. If he had something to fix this problem I didn’t want to disturb him. I went back to bed. If he came up with something he’d tell me all about it in the morning.".
He does find solutions which Theresa implements.
British Prime Minister Peter Blair
--saves Theresa’s life:
In a desparate attempt to find Theresa, Blair sends ships on the impossible mission. Read chapter six on this website.
Blair allows Theresa to try to get control of HAL alone because he fears a committee taking over as Theresa suggests. If he had turned out wrong about Theresa's intentions he's be a disgraced historical figure.
--defense of Theresa:
Blair appears in a session of Questions to the Prime Minister to defend his decision to let Theresa alone get control of HAL, but is he also defending Theresa's name, and is he also defending the world's people from panic and despair?
Arthur feels it is his responsibility to take careful care of Theresa because as he tells her, "Your time is the world's treasure". It's clear that he is proud of his role, and proud of Theresa who is like a daughter to him.
--always present helper:
Arthur is always ready to do errands for the young American couple. He enjoys going into London to meet the Prime Minister.
During the North Korean missile incident he helps Therase remain calm and successively resolve the problem.
When the Hartleys leave to return to the United States, Theresa gives Arthur ten million dollars.
--- Theresa's maturation
--- her intellect, disposition, attitude, self-esteem
--- her wants and what she doesn't want
--- what motivates her?
--- how can she do the "impossible"?
--- why and how can Prime Minister Blair trust her right from the start?
--- how important was Steve to Theresa's success?
--- why does she care what happens to Israel?
--- why does she go to North Korea?
From President John Kennedy's inaugural address:
With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.
In chapter 4, just before she jumps out of the jet fighter to what she thinks will be certain death, Theresa says a prayer: "Father, forgive me for all my sins. Take me in your house forever."
She acknowledges the Father in Heaven.
Later she saves everybody's lives and makes the world a better place. She does the work of the Son.
In doing her work, she is sometimes stumped by an "impossible problem" that seems to have no solution. It's Steve with his "weirdest ideas in the world" that comes up with brilliant solutions. He is the silent partner on this team. He gives Theresa counsel, knowledge and wisdom like the Holy Spirit.
Like the Son and Holy Spirit, Theresa and Steve are a team on a mission.
People have asked questions and made criticisms about Empress Theresa. I consider this positive. Worse would be The Big Silence.
I will summarize and reproduce the questions here.
Q ( comment? ): "I read the Amazon LOOK INSIDE! sample pages. The characters are two dimensional and uninteresting."
A: Chapter one shows Theresa at age ten. The short chapter two shows 16 year old Theresa getting an update from Jan Struthers, and later in the year finding out Jan has disappeared, the British government knows about her, and President Martin seems to be up to something. In chapter three Theresa meets Steve whom she will marry. In chapter four all hell breaks loose!
The Amazon LOOK INSIDE! cuts off halfway through chapter three just before Theresa and Steve get together. You still haven't seen Theresa in action. You still haven't met Steve Hartley, British Prime Minister Peter Blair, Edmund Parker, Arthur Bemming, and President Veronica Stinson.
Many writers put a murder, explosion, or something like that in the opening pages to grab the reader's attention. This is not what the great writers did, and I won't either.
What I do is have Theresa give much information about herself on page one. By the time you turn to page two she is already a familiar character. I did this because the book is about character, not events, although the events are more than enough to hold your interest even if you don’t care about character.
Q: Nobody is perfect. You can't write a story about a perfect person.
A: Theresa is not perfect. She cries. She loses her temper. She gets confused about what to do next. Sometimes she gets discouraged and just wants to go home. But she recovers.
When her boyfriend Jack Koster turns out to have another girlfriend, Theresa goes back to her dorm room to wait for his explanation. She wears a revealing "little black nothing" dress" to show him what he'll be missing. A perfect girl wouldn't do this.
Q: Isn't it more interesting to show a protaganist making mistakes and recovering from them?
A: Usually, but Theresa's responsibilities are so great, any failure on her part would be a disaster for the whole world. We are in new territory here.
A interesting corollary to this question, and to the following question too, would be: "Wouldn't it be more dramatic to see Theresa start out a bad girl and end up good after doing all her good works?"
I can think of only one classic work where a bad person turned good. Scrooge in Dickens's Christmas Carol radically changes for the better. ( Dickens actually thought he was writing a comedic piece [!!] but everybody took it seriously. ) I'm not aware of anybody else using the idea. What's wrong with the idea?
It sends the wrong message. Do events create the person? I don't think so. This would seem to negate the concept of free will. If a person's character depends on his experiences then "who can be saved?" as it says in the story of the rich man who turned away saddened because he had much. Apparently whether you end up good or bad is a matter of chance.
This is not the message I wanted to give.
Theresa starts out good before the story's events begin. She doesn't change. She has free will and chooses to be as she is.
In the last of Dickens' so-called 'Christmas stories', The Haunted Man ( 1848 ), a ghost appears to Renlaw and offers to make him forget all past failures and wrongs. Renlaw agrees. Afterwards he becomes a bitter man when things go wrong. Another character tells him: "It is important to remember past sorrows and wrongs so that you can then forgive those responsible and, in doing so, unburden your soul and mature as a human being." The meaning is our failures and wrongs help us to grow into better human beings if we respond correctly.
Well, maybe, but Theresa is a good person from the beginning. There are such people. There's no reason not to write about one!
In chapter 4 which is found on this website site, Theresa thinks she is going to die in a few minutes and says a silent prayer: "Father, forgive me for all my sins. Take me into your house forever." But she dies not die. Her troubles are only beginning. The issue now is, can she remain the good person she is? Why and how? This is a good theme for a novel.
The question of Theresa changing or not changing is brought up in the story. When Theresa comes out on the world scene, British Prime Minister Peter Blair assures the House of Commons Theresa is no threat to the old order:
“I understand your fears. What shall we do if a child leads us? And make no mistake, Theresa is younger than many of the children and grandchildren of the members of this House. Who are we dealing with? Will she change?
"I say, Theresa’s interests and endeavors may change, but not her heart. It is too well-considered. It is written ‘worse than death is the life of a fool’, but we saw in my talk with her Theresa is no fool. ‘Woe to thee when your king is a child’ says the Good Book, but Theresa shows lack of response to recent ill events. ‘Brutus is at war with Brutus’ said Brutus in Julius Caesar. There is no war in Theresa. She knows what to do and does not struggle with her conscience. A woman who puts her trust in a higher power will be unchanged. Theresa will remain Theresa.”Soon after, her priest Father Donoughty tells reporters. "Someone who wants to do the will of God has an unconquerable ally. Theresa can't be defeated."
Theresa's constancy and stability throughout many trials is what makes her fascinating.
Q: A protaganist with flaws would be more interesting.
A: A major theme of the story is that good people do good in the world. Giving her a drug problem or sexual promisuity would add nothing to the theme and distract from it.
In the story, Theresa makes a comment to PM Blair, "Yeah, well, people with problems don't change the world." At this point Theresa is not yet aware of the great demands that will be made on her, but Blair immediately understands the importance of her comment. Someone who will be as powerful as Theresa may become better be an exceptional person or else "...we are all lost."
The story could only be written once and then the story goes on the shelf forever.
I didn't want a million women coming at me saying, "Thanks a lot! There'll only be one Empress Theresa and you gave us a drug addict and slut. You couldn't give us a better hero than that? You couldn't give us a better model for our daughters?"
Q: You call your story a Young Adult novel, but isn't it science fiction?
A: Science fiction talks about impossibilities such as time travel, or some future or alien world.
I explain what HAL is and how he operates. While HAL's existence is highly unlikely, nobody can say he's absolutely impossible.
Some writers write about paranormal beings and forces without explaining how they are possible. Readers seem to get beyond that.
If the reader can get beyond the unlikelihood of HAL, the rest of the book focuses on Theresa's personality and her interactions with the human beings of the present world.
When the 142,000 word first draft was finished on Jan 3, 2010, it was narrated by the 'omniscient narrator'. I contained much background material Theresa could not know. After reading the Hunger Games books in 2012, I realized that Empress Theresa should be narrated by Theresa herself. At first I called it a Young Adult novel. Later, I realized it didn't deal with the problems of adolescents. Theresa deals with global problems affecting all humanity. That's not a Young Adult novel.
The final version is 'only' 106,000 words long. Some of the jettisoned material was interesting such as discussions between a President and an Air Force Major about the possibility of aliens visiting Earth, they agree it's impossible, but such matters took the focus away from Theresa. It won't be missed.
( The President and Air Force Major agree HAL could be a robotic device, but why did it come to Earth in the present day instead of thousands of years ago? Theresa gives the answer in chapter 7: "He could have been here [ since ] before the dinosaurs". That is, HAL merged with animals all that time. The New World has had human beings only recently in Earth's history and very few of them until the last 500 years. )
Q: Theresa is not a colorful character. She doesn't even have a job.
A: Originally, I was going to make Theresa a cashier or waitress but some readers couldn't relate to somebody like that, and it would be pandering to cashiers and waitresses.
I made Theresa more universal. When the action begins she has one year of college behind her. ( Almost anybody could survive the first year of college. ) She's not anybody yet. She has potential. That's universal.
After Theresa addresses the House of Commons, a British television news commentator says,
“Did you see her talk with the Prime Minister? Did she sound like an actor or television personality? No! I dare say no actress could play her. She is a real person with no attempts to convince, fool, impress, charm, or ingratiate herself with people. She is your neighbor’s daughter, exceptionally gifted as we have seen, but otherwise a very ordinary girl.”
If Theresa lacks color it's in the sense that she hasn't specialized herself into a particular line of work. She's not an opera star, or real estate tycoon, or billionaire socialite.
She's young and open to anything, and in Empress Theresa she has to deal with the whole world and everybody in it.
Having the peculiarities of a real estate mogul or opera star, characters such as you see in romance novels, would make Theresa weaker. The whole point of making her a teenage character is to emphasize the strength in the flexibility of youth. The future is in the hands of the young. Theresa changes the world.
But Theresa is far from being a robot. She cries, she gets angry, and she gets discouraged. What she doesn't do is lose control of herself for a large amount of time. She doesn't angonize and grit her teeth all the time like a soap opera actress. She has the cool head she needs to be effective in her difficult challenges.
Is James Bond a colorful character? He's fascinating to watch, but I don't think anybody would call him colorful. After Sean Connery's run Roger Moore tried to make Bond more human. He quipped jokes all the time, something Connery rarely did. Siskel and Ebert didn't like Roger Moore in the role. It wasn't James Bond anymore.
Theresa shows signs of human frailty once in a while, but because of her great responsibilities she keeps her thoughts as clear as possible. She is in control most of the time. This is not the hysterical performance of an actress in some melodramatic work, but it is interesting.
Sometimes what a character does even more important than what he is and his command of the story's stage lies in his achievements rather than personallity. In Tale of Two Cities by Dickens, Sydney Carton seems to be the least interesting character. Through most of the book he is a drunken lawyer who does as little as he can. Near the end of the story he suddenly shows up in Paris when all seems to be lost, having done things behind the scene that would do credit to James Bond, and arranges to go to the guillotine in place of Charles Darnay who's married to the girl Sydney Carton loves. Carton is thus the most important character in the story after all!
Theresa is both attractive and interesting from page one, and a doer of great deeds worth remembering for a million years.