Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Book I Never Heard of? That's Unpossible

So there was recently a post on Facebook that asked you to list ten books that have affected you in some way.  I started my list with Great Expectations and The House of Mirth, two books I adore, but didn’t read until I was in my 30s.  I had to add A Night to Remember by Walter Lord because that started my fascination (obsession) with the Titanic.  Gone with the Wind is there too because growing up in the south, every girl I knew read it and – it makes me a little sick to say this - we all wanted to be more like Scarlett. 

On Facebook you’d tag people and get to see their lists and they were fascinating (Gone with the Wind turned up on several lists, by the way).  I realized I’d forgotten A Wrinkle in Time and Charlotte’s Web.  Another book that appeared on several lists was Time and Again by Jack Finney.  What?  I’d never heard of Time and Again.  Jack Finney’s name sounded familiar (he wrote the novel, Invasion of the Body Snatchers) but people on Facebook kept going on about Time and Again (“Time and Again is one of the best time travel novels EVER.”).  So, duh, I had to get it.

How did I not read this book?  Once I started, I couldn’t put it down.  Seriously, it stuck to my fingers.  I told my family they were on their own until I was done reading.  (Well, not quite that bad, but almost.)  The plot - as part of a government program, Si Morley goes back in time to New York City in 1882.  Yeah, sounds good, right?

So how many other great books are out there in the world we’ve missed?  Someone needs to start a list. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Great Literary Blog Hop

A fellow writer (the fabulously talented Mark Perry) asked me if I’d be interested in doing a “blog hop.”  Sure, I said, not even sure what a blog hop meant.  But turns out it’s pretty simple.  I answer 4 questions and provide links to writers I know and admire.

1. What am I working on now? 

My first novel Expecting came out in July.  I was totally unprepared for how much work would be involved in promoting it – it’s almost as hard as writing the novel. 

No, not really.  But I’ve never been especially good at self-promotion.  Hey, look at me and look at my great book!  Buy it!  Buy it now, dammit!  I get shivers just typing that.  (Of course if you buy my book that would be amazing and thank you very much.)

Because I also work in TV, I’m in the process of getting ready to go out and try to sell two pilots.  One is a dark comedy spec I wrote in the spring and another based on a terrific book written by a good friend. 

In terms of fiction, I’m trying to decide what to do next.  I’ve got a rough first draft of a novel set in my hometown of Staunton, Virginia about a murder that happened in 1906 when the circus was in town.  Another part of the story is loosely based on my parents – how they met in the 1950s when my father moved from Pittsburgh to Staunton to work on the local paper and fell in love with the boss’s daughter.  Right after they were married, there was a horrible murder and my father covered the story.  He would talk about this when I was young and I always thought it would make a good book.  Sadly, he passed away years ago so I can’t pick his brain for details.  It’s more literary fiction than female fiction (like Expecting) and requires a great amount of research and that makes me tired just thinking about it. 

So I might write something else that's easier.  A woman with a talking cat?

2. How does my writing differ from others in its genre? 

I don’t like the phrase “chick lit” because it sounds condescending.  I like the terms female fiction or book club fiction better.  Or what’s wrong with literary female fiction? 

I love a mixture of humor and heart.  I’d like to think Expecting has both of those.  It’s the “pull the rug out from under you” effect.  You’re reading along and everything is great and you’re laughing out loud and then – wham – something totally wild happens and you’re knocked out by it.  You never know what’s coming next.  (A great example of that – read Hunger Point by Jillian Medoff.)

3. Why do you write what you do? 

I write about what I’m interested in (which is pretty much everything).  I was very lucky to be on the show thirtysomething at the time I had a miscarriage and I was able to write about the experience – that might sound sad, but it was liberating to take something so awful and explore it through writing.  Expecting came about from my experiences with infertility and pregnancy loss. 

I like to watch people.  Imagine their lives.  I’m intrigued with writing about my parents and about imagining their lives in the 1950s. 

4. How does your writing process work? 

I try to write every day, even though some days I write crap.  I usually have more than one thing going at a time – a TV pilot, a novel, a short story, a non-fiction piece.  That way it’s great when you say to yourself, “Wow, I hate that novel,” and you can move to the short story.  Another writer friend told me years ago that writing is a 9–5 job like any other.  You don’t wait for divine inspiration.  Some days you write swill.  Some days you’re surprised at how good your writing is.  (I enjoy days like that.)

I want to get words on paper as quickly as possible, even though they might be terrible.  The key to good writing is editing.  Just because you see something typed out doesn’t mean it’s done.  I love editing.  I could go back and edit Expecting right now.  Seriously.
The fabulous (yes, I used that word again) Mark Perry has written a wonderful book about old Hollywood called City of Whores.  If you like the film Sunset Boulevard, check out City of Whores.  Once you start it, you won’t be able to put it down.

I’ve known Barrie Miller Kirby since high school.  She’s written a lovely, gentle novel called No Such Thing as a Cherokee Princess.

Dan Pyne has been a successful TV and film writer and has written two novels – a third will be out soon.  Talk about writing about things that are unexpected... you won't know what hit you.