To read the interview, check it out in its entirety HERE.
Today I’d like to welcome bestselling author Karen White, who is sharing some thoughts about writing.
One of her previously released books, Falling Home, will soon be released again—in November 2010.
Here are some of Ms. White’s thoughts. And please check back on October 6, at Dames of Dialogue, when I’ll be posting an interview with this exciting author.
The Hungry Writer
Have you ever gone shopping in a grocery store when you’re really, really hungry? Don’t. Because what you’ll end up bringing home is a lot of Hostess Twinkies and a party-sized tub of whipping cream among other things that should probably never be seen outside a fraternity house on a Friday night.
I’m currently in my fourth year of writing two full-length novels per year. Yes, two. I don’t know what possessed me to say, “Sure, that sounds like fun!” but I’d like to find out whatever it was and open a can of whoop-a** on it. Having so many books on the shelves has brought me a lot of new readers for all of my books, and for that it’s worth it. But I really, really miss my sleep.
So when the rights to one of my out-of-print books, Falling Home, reverted back to me, I immediately sold them to my current publisher for a re-release. This was the book of my heart back when I wrote it in 2000. I sold it to a small New York publisher with hopes that it would be my “break out novel”, but I was disappointed with its small print run and how quickly it became out of print. Soon, desperate fans were paying really ridiculous amounts to get a used copy of it, and I was answering lots of emails asking me how readers could find a copy.
When my current publisher suggested publishing it in November of this year, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I already had a book out in 2010 (On Folly Beach) so this way I would STILL have two books out, but I wouldn’t have to do any extra work! Oh, the plans of mice and men…
Since “biting off more than I can chew” has become my new mantra in the last few years, instead of saying, “Hey, it’s good to go—publish as is,” I hesitated. I had written ten other books since I’d first written Falling Home. Hadn’t my writing become stronger? My ability to tell a story tighter and more meaningful?
Just as a hungry girl walks into the grocery store, I told my editor that I wanted to revise the book. I loved what my readers loved about the book—the story and the characters. It’s a “Steel Magnolias” story set in the fictional small town of Walton, Georgia and is about two estranged sisters who reunite to fight a common enemy. My hope is to create a lot of laughs and a few tears as readers fall in love with the citizens of Walton—and especially Sam Parker, the town doctor.
What I wanted to change was the writing and the emotional impact of the book. So I opted to rewrite it, despite that fact that I had another looming deadline for the next book.
So, did I do the right thing? Yes, I feel pretty confident that I did. The book is better, and I’m so glad that new readers will have the chance to read it for the first time and I believe that readers of the older version will enjoy revisiting favorite characters.
Of course, now I’m so far behind on my next deadline that I’m desperately searching the Internet for somewhere to buy a clone. So far no luck, but I’ll keep you posted.
Hope you’ll stop by on October 6 for Karen White’s interview with the Dames!
This compelling new novel from Jennifer Egan paints visual images for the reader, scanning the lives of musicians and assistants, from the past to the present; she also gives us glimpses of the future as we follow along in the moments.
Bennie Salazar and Sasha are the centerpiece characters in this tale. Their lives in the music business carry them from San Francisco, to Naples, and to New York; the time period shifts from the 1970s to the present day or possibly some time in the future. At the conclusion, the actual time period seems unclear.
We see how the lives of these artists can spin out of control, as exemplified by one Scotty, who is talented and gifted and, in the end, has almost completely slipped off the grid. He is totally a member of the “goon squad.”
Throughout A Visit from the Goon Squad, I felt a kind of disorientation…the constant shifting of perspectives was disconcerting at times. First person narrative, third person point of view; it took constant alertness and readjusting of my own perspective to stay attuned to what was happening.
Sometimes I would think…now who is this person? And then it would slowly become clear. Like the character Alex, in a moment when he is remembering bits and pieces of past events, expressed in this way:
“Alex looked up at the building, sooty against the lavender sky, and experienced a hot-cold flash of recognition, a shiver of déjà vu, as if he were returning to a place that no longer existed….”
This book made me think of real-life connections, and how our lives intersect with many people in this journey; sometimes, just when we’ve forgotten them, something will recall them for us.
It was sometimes difficult to read this book, which was compelling and haunting and a bit disturbing. There was one section in the book that was filled with word diagrams instead of regular prose…several pages of them. I found this style to be disruptive, and because of this aspect of the book, I am deducting one star.
Nevertheless, a four star read is a book that I recommend, especially for fans of Egan.
A mysterious and elusive woman, Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Perennial Modern Classics), is the subject of this portrait by Charles J. Shields.
A former English teacher, Shields set for himself the task of writing Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, this compelling biography based on hundreds of interviews, piecing together a picture of this Southern woman who began life in Monroeville, Alabama, the child of an attorney, whose mother suffered from a condition most likened to a bipolar disorder. Growing up, she was known to family and friends as “Nelle.” Lee enjoyed a tomboyish existence in the neighborhood, where she first met and became friends with Truman Capote. Their relationship lasted many years, although in later years, a strain hovered over this friendship—perhaps due to her success and his envy.
In her early years in NY, while she attempted to write her book and live the writer’s life, she became a part of a small community of like-minded friends that included her agent, Maurice Crain, and others of similar interests. Throughout her life, they would be her support system and conduit to the literary world.
At about the time her book was completed and just before its publication, Lee accompanied Truman Capote to Kansas as his assistant, to gather information on the killings of the Clutter family in Holcomb. Some say that her contribution to the eventual book, In Cold Blood, was huge (yet unacknowledged).
After the several years it took to complete To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Perennial Modern Classics), when it finally came out, Lee allegedly remarked that she hoped that some people would like it. She was definitely unprepared for its huge success, which included bestseller status almost immediately; a Pulitzer Prize; and, of course, the movie.
Throughout this compelling portrayal of a fascinating writer, I could not help but long for something more about her life. More rich details of how she lives day-to-day. From all accounts, however, she blends almost seamlessly into the life of her small community. Occasional trips to NY became less frequent. For a woman who attained a great degree of fame and wealth, she certainly reportedly lives like an ordinary person—maybe less so, since she apparently strove diligently to maintain privacy and anonymity.
And yet, in this biographical sketch, there were occasional accounts of interactions with people that might suggest a more sociable side lying just below the surface.
For the most part, however, she seems to stay connected primarily with her family, her church friends, and others in the community. I liked reading descriptions of how she would be seen sitting alone at a table in a local restaurant, eating dinner, and enjoying her own company—or how her modest home is filled with books in every room. These tidbits reveal a contented person, despite what one might conclude. I especially enjoyed reading a comment she made to someone who asked her why she didn’t write another book: “I had every intention of writing many novels,” she reportedly said, “but I could never have imagined the success To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) would enjoy. I became overwhelmed.” And in another instance, she was reported to have said something like…when you’ve reached the top, there’s only one way to go.
How intimidating this degree of success must have been for a woman with no pretensions, who had hoped to achieve her dream of writing a book (or several), and then, in one fell swoop, achieves the totally unexpected feat of becoming the creator of the most widely read American novel ever. To reach this level of success and then to live with it afterwards had to be the greatest accomplishment of all. In another quote from Lee that occurred a little more than a year after her book was published, she said: “People who have made peace with themselves are the people I most admire in the world.”
She seems to belong in that company of admirable people.