by Autumn Bippert
“Passe-Partout” tells the tale of two lives, two narratives centuries apart, as they unravel the mystery of a hidden magic of writing.
“Passe-Partout,” written by Stephen M. Sanders, assistant professor of English at South Plains College, tells a narrative of two characters, Paul and Cyprus, in another dimension.
The Levelland campus Library hosted a book signing for Sanders on Oct. 2. He had copies of the book for sale, which were sold out at the event.
Sanders also read passages from his book at the signing.
The fantasy narrative is divided into two “books.” “Book One” follows Paul, who is in vaguely modern day, while “Book Two” follows Cyprus, who is living at some time in the Middle Ages.
Sanders said he kept details of time periods vague on purpose in order to avoid having to make sure he didn’t have to spend a lot of time on details and live up to research of past time periods.
The protagonist in each “book” is trying to solve the mystery of the death of their father figure. Through the “book,” each character discovers that these deaths are far bigger than he thinks.
“Passe-Partout” took about eight years to write, according to Sanders. He began writing his book before his son Stellan was born, and then took a break to help take care of him.
“After he (Sanders’ son) was a little more self sufficient, I decided to get back into writing my book,” Sanders explained. “I had so many ideas of what I thought I could do better than everybody else, as if it was that easy. And it’s not that easy.”
Sanders said that he is a poet by training, and he has only written poetry most of his life. He wanted to see if he was able to write something other than what he has been used to.
“It’s been received decently, which is encouragement to keep on,” Sanders said of his book.
Sanders said that he wanted to express in his book his own teetering relationship with faith.
“How can I talk about that into a murder mystery/fantasy (book), and how can I talk about things I don’t see other places,” Sanders said. “So this book is like a squished together compendium of everything I was thinking about and everything that I am.”
Sanders explained that he wanted to write a book with characters he hadn’t seen well represented before. His book features main characters who are LGBTQ, women and people of color.
“Being an English major, you see a lot of cliches, and tropes you should avoid,” explained Sanders, “which I think makes you harder on yourself. I wanted to make sure I had characters of color, characters that are LGBTQ, as major characters and protagonists. I wanted them displayed as just people.”
He said he wanted to present people from all different types of life as just people in his book and not as “others,” because in this part of the country, you don’t see people represented well.
“I was always paranoid of treating characters that aren’t white, cisgender male with respect and dinginty,” Sanders explained. “I had one reviewer say, ‘Why don’t you point that out on the back of your book, that you have these minority characters?’ I said, because they’re just characters in my book. They’re normal people. I’m not going to take advantage of someone’s minority, or who they are, to sell a book.”
Sanders said he was scared to show his book to his parents. He said the book is written by a person who comes from a place of an ultra-strict form of Christianity. He said that people who come from that place in their lives might find this book challenging.
“I hope you get ticked off when you read it (the book), because that means that you’re thinking about it,” Sanders said. “I wanted to make something moving, something that would move me when I read it.”
Sanders explained that he has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which made writing his book difficult at times. He said that he would find himself writing the same sentence in his book 10 to 15 times.
He said once he read the book over, he noticed that his character would exhibit some of his same Obsessive Compulsive Disorder tendencies.
“I didn’t realize I was transferring some of my angst to this character,” Sanders said.
Sanders explained that the book cover was designed by one of his former students, Delany Price Jackson. Jackson is a graduate of the Graphic Arts program at SPC and currently is an adjunct instructor at the college.
“She did really good work,” Sanders said. “It was a process of several months of work. She was amazing at narrowing down on what I wanted for the book.”