Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Remembering Laura Andersen: Pre-Publication

When I planted my stake in "second tuesdays" here at the cabinet, I didn't realize I'd have the honor of posting on Laura's Book Birthday, as we call them around here. This is a great day to be a Curiosity and the perfect time to reminisce.

If you read nothing else of my post, read this:

You'll be so glad you did.  

And in thinking of Laura, I'm remembering back way too many years to the very first writing class I ever took, which was online, and somewhat scary for some reason. As I posted an introduction to me, which was really just sort of a silly bluff of an intro, there was Laura, laughing at my jokes, being kind, accepting my weirdness, and writing suddenly wasn't as frightening. 

I remember the first time Laura posted a chapter for critique. It was astounding, beautifully written, way beyond anything anyone else was posting. I quickly became a ruthless, eagle-eye critiquer just to have something to offer this woman. The truth his, her characters were already vivid. Her plots, twisty and surprising. Her language gorgeous, fluid and effortless to read. It was amazing she hadn't been published already. Of course, she hadn't submitted anything yet. I always felt from day one it was a privilege to read her beginnings. It was a given that I would be honored to write something like this someday.

I remember the struggles when Laura thought she might not be meant to be writing. What writer hasn't walked the edge of that particular cliff? I reacted, embarrassingly, with anger. Didn't she realize she already was a writer? It's just who she was. She couldn't give up. "Laura not writing" just didn't compute in my world. Not very nice of me, since it is after all, Laura's world not mine. But I am to this day very glad she stuck it out, novel after novel after beautiful novel, in a life that hasn't been full of peaceful gazebos and gobs of free time. Laura claims to be a plucky writer and even without my silly tantrums, she would never have given up.

I remember Laura reading a chapter of mine for the first time at a critique group. In a spontaneous, English accent. "I don't think I can read any other way!" she says. At any rate, she made my chapter sound fabulous. I can't wait to hear her read tomorrow at her book launch party.

And I remember when I first read The Boleyn King and I thought, THIS is it. This is the one. This cannot NOT be a published book. And Laura felt it was The One as well. And after a couple more novels, suddenly, it is. And Laura is taking the published world by storm as we all knew she would in that first class. 

God bless, Laura. Thank you for being you, through it all, everywhere, and for sharing yourself with all of us and the world. We are very lucky to have you. 

<3 Your Cabinet

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Juxtaposition--or in other words, making your book contrary

I've been reading a lot lately.  I'm calling it market research, but everybody really knows it's my way of distracting my subconscious from querying so it can produce ideas for my next book.  I have to dangle the shiny stories in front of it so it doesn't notice the big scary hairy monster of rejection looming.  But, that's another story!

What I've noticed as I've read is how much I love books with inherent tension.  Books that take a preposterous premise, abounding with contradiction, and make it work.  A tiny tot of a baby taking out a dark lord.  The smallest and most unheroic of middle earth's races carrying out the terrible task that no one else could do.  A spider weaving words into webs to save the life of her pig friend.  Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and Charlotte's Web.

The books I'm reading lately abound in these apparent contradictions.

In The Six Crowns--Trundle's Quest, there's a small and insignificant hedgehog thrust into a heroic adventure to save their world, which happens to be six seperate islands of rock spinning gently in space after the world was blown to bits.



In Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos a young girl is ignored and overlooked by even her father, the curator of the museum, while she stands firm against the bad guys and attempts to cleanse the museum's artifacts of evil magic.

And in the Roman Mysteries series...well, the truth is, at first I had a harder time finding my contradiction or inherent tension.  This puzzled me, 'cause I've really enjoyed this series and have read through book 7, with the next few on my shelf.  Maybe I was just enjoying the delightful inisights into Roman history?  Maybe historicals, or mysteries, don't need the same contradiction?  With a mystery there's already danger and possibly murder on the line.  Then I realized that a big draw of these books has been the evolving young characters overcoming the life challenges they face.  A beggar boy who's tongue was cut out learning to forgive and choose joy over bitterness.  A young jewish lad who barely escaped the sacking of Jereusalem making peace with the Emperor who destroyed his homeland.  A newly-freed slave finding her way in a strange country and thriving where she's been planted.  And a Roman girl-child of middling birth who faces down each new mystery and solves them while navigating natural disasters and devastating loss.  The contradictions are there, in the character's lives, and perhaps resonate that much more because they're personal in nature.

In NinChicks I stumbled on my contradiction--ninja chickens--but I'm thinking for the next book I'll keep prodding the subconscious til it spits out something really preposterious.  Themes of the underdog, the little guy going up against a Goliath foe, those are fairly easy to come up with.  Making it personal and an apparent impossibility that still perfectly fits the character--that's going to take a bit more thinking and a lot more reading.  Lucky for me, the library's not going anywhere!