A couple of years ago I wrote a post called “I Don’t Need the Notoriety – My Protagonist Does.” Even then I understood that my greatest challenge in selling The Oak Lovers may be that it revolves around a real painter, but not one named Van Gogh or Degas. It’s tempting not to mention the book is based on a true story in queries. I can imagine an agent sitting there, perhaps intrigued by the story, but wondering how terrible it would be to suggest edits to its author, who is, after all, a descendant.
(For the record, Carl and Madonna Ahrens were both known to exaggerate or even outright lie for the sake of a compelling story. Trust me, they won’t mind!)
My great-grandfather has been rather inconveniently neglected by history, so I realize it falls to me to promote him as well as my novel. I’ve done this for years - through my website, speeches at art exhibitions, articles I’ve written, and through providing information on Carl to art historians for their own books. The effort is beginning to pay off.
Carl’s photo appeared in a recent PBS video on Elbert Hubbard and the Roycroft art colony. Ross King, a revered and widely published art historian, discussed Carl’s battle with the Group of Seven in the award winning documentary The West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson. I also have two more speaking invitations.
This month Carl is being celebrated, along with one other painter, in a feature article in Grand Magazine. The author, Nancy Silcox, told me the editor gave her an unprecedented eight pages, and there are many color photographs throughout. One of Carl’s most stunning paintings (shown here) graces an entire page. Since this is a Canadian publication, and the magazine is unavailable to many of our readers, I am including a link to the article in case anyone is curious.