Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Saturday, January 23, 2016
Saturday, January 9, 2016
Before I became a writer, I was a reader. All writers are readers; it’s a prerequisite. I received my first training from the wall of YA books at our town library, and my hours of enjoyment only barely exceeded what I learned. The stories I chose were always about a strong female protagonist trying to figure out her place in the world. As I grew up, I never lost my love for reading. That love eventually led to my writing a novel myself, and all my books feature a resilient heroine on a path of self-discovery.
But when I started writing my first novel, I couldn’t shut up my inner-critic. “You can’t do this,” I’d tell myself. “You’re going to make a fool of yourself by trying.” It was a constant diatribe in my mind, until finally I got fed up. “Look,” I told myself. “You can spend a lot of time and energy trying to convince yourself that you can’t write a novel, or you can just write one.”
I chose option two.
I made a commitment to write 500 words a day. I stuck to that, and after a few months, I had my first draft. Yes, it needed a lot of revision, but it had potential. My first book, Following My Toes, eventually won the Indie Excellence Award for Chick Lit in 2008. It also got more than 20,000 paid downloads on Amazon.
Then, three and a half years ago, I got jury duty. This was two full-length novels and one novella after Following My Toes, and I’d become a writing/publishing junkie. As soon as I got on that jury, I started thinking about how I could use the experience for my next project. I also enjoyed watching the TV show Survivor, so I came up with the idea of a young woman who is embarrassed by her performance on a reality TV show, and gets jury duty when she comes home.
I fell in love with my main character, Robin, and after The Holdout was finished, I couldn’t just stop writing about her. So I wrote The Next Breath – and I used my years of theater training as inspiration, along with a lot of research about cystic fibrosis. But Robin’s story still didn’t feel finished, so I wrote The Standout . During that time I really enjoyed reading books like Gone Girl and Girl on a Train, so I decided to try my hand at writing a thriller. The joy in self-publishing is the freedom to experiment. If I read something that I really like, I can take a crack at writing something in the same genre. Of course, the story and the themes have to be my own; I wouldn’t have it any other way! But like I said, the most valuable writing lessons I’ve ever received have been from reading. When I read something that REALLY WORKS, I examine it, and then I use what I’ve learned in my own writing.
And learning has never been more fun!
Sunday, January 3, 2016
I had never read anything by David Mitchell before The Bone Clocks and I picked it because Audible had it on sale and I thought it sounded interesting. The story is about Holly Sykes, and when the book begins she is a teenager in 1980s England. She runs away from home after a fight with her mother, and soon encounters all sorts of craziness. It turns out that Holly is a "singular" sort of young lady, meaning that she has psychic abilities and she's attracted forces of both good and evil.
Then her younger brother Jacko goes missing, which is really the inciting incident of the whole story, for Jacko's disappearance sets a much broader battle into motion, although it will take years for this battle to come to fruition.
The first chapter is from Holly's POV, which I liked quite a bit. Mitchell did a good job of writing in a teen girl's voice, and Holly is tough, no-nonsense, yet very likable. The other chapters are all from other character's POVs, until the end, when it switches back to a 74-year-old Holly living in a post apocalypse Ireland. Although it's not always clear at the beginning of each chapter, eventually the reader understands what the new narrator's connection is with Holly, and how their interactions with her seems to bring out the best of their personalites.
There is also always a bigger theme, about life and death, and the meaning of our daily actions and interactions. We are all "bone clocks" - ticking time bombs, waiting to die. But at what price comes immortality? As Holly discovers, it is our love and generosity, and our willingness to sacrifice for others, that gives life meaning, and that's something that all the characters must contemplate at some point in this epic novel.
I really liked The Bone Clocks. David Mitchell has defied genre by making it part fantasy, part drama, and part social commentary. His characters are not always likable (although Cripsin Hershey really grew on me) but they are always redeemable. While I started out listening to it on audio, eventually I switched to reading it, and I'm glad I did. There were many passages I read over and over, because they left me with a lot to think about. I saw one book review headline, that The Bone Clocks is mostly empty calories, but I couldn't disagree more. It's not difficult reading, but after you ingest it, you're full for a long time.