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By Megan Dooley
It's tough to find good clean fiction these days. Good and clean as in free of sex and profanity. Marian Thomas has tried. Booksellers give her strange looks. Even the Christian Literature section is peppered with some of it. So she's taken it upon herself to write some clean fiction of her own.
Thomas' latest book, "My Father's Colors," is the second in a series focused on the central character Naya Mona, a jazz singer heroine who was cooked up in Thomas' imagination back when she was a student at Oak Park and River Forest High School. It took another 20 years or so for the character to fully develop in Thomas' mind, until the author finally committed Mona's story to paper in 2009 for her first novel, "Color My Jazzmyne."
Now, some two decades after her departure from her childhood home in Oak Park to her current home in Atlanta, Taylor will return Friday night for a book signing of the second installment, "My Father's Colors," which was released earlier this year. The event will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Afri-Ware bookstore, 440 S. Ridgeland Ave.
Thomas' believes that every author must follow her own path, and she is still navigating hers. "When you're an author, you have a journey," she said.
The journey to produce this series, the third of which is currently in the works, was a long and drawn-out road. "Many, many years ago, I wrote the first rough manuscript," Thomas said. And though she still isn't able to pursue her writing full time, she feels that she's finally found her place in the literary world.
In addition to bringing her long-imagined heroine to life, Thomas is also on a quest to bring more material to the oft-neglected clean fiction genre. "It's just not something that people are familiar with," Thomas said. That's because it's so rare. Finding a book that doesn't add some sort of gratuitous material is increasingly difficult. "It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack," she said.
But Thomas knows there's a market for it, because many of her readers found her work as they sought out clean material. And since Thomas herself has never used profanity, and prefers to read literature without it, she's determined to forge ahead through the largely unoccupied genre of clean fiction. "That is definitely...my trademark," she said.
Thomas' other goal is to share her dream with young girls and women. Of several upcoming books that are still formulating in her imagination, one is a young female's guide to becoming a published author.
"So many of our youth today...don't really know where to start," Thomas said, when it comes to writing.
Thomas currently travels to hold workshops and lectures for a young female audience on the road to authorship. She wants to help them see that it really is possible to become published, if the drive and determination are there.
Thomas said that Friday's event is slated as a book signing only, though she'd love to do a book reading as well. And she encourages any guests that plan to attend to bring their daughters. "I would love to meet them, and answer any questions they might have about becoming an author," she said.
Her travels in Illinois will also take her to the third annual Book Clubs Unite luncheon, held at the Tinley Park Convention Center on Aug. 13. There, Thomas will have the opportunity to do a reading, to an audience that includes some 25 book clubs from across the Chicago area. "The more and more you can talk about your book, the more and more you can engage the reader," she said. The more interest she sparks, the more likely the audience will be to pick up copies of her books.
And that, in turn, might help to someday bring her journey full circle.
"I'm still on that journey, of becoming a full-time author," said Thomas.