I discover a lot of cool people and websites through Twitter, one such site being Deep South Magazine. They’re strictly a webzine and they’re a free read so you should check them out! They cover food, travel, culture and literature, all related to the southernmost USofA, of course.
In their recent issue, there’s a short interview with the very funny and extremely talented southern writer, Joshilyn Jackson. She has a new book out entitled “A Grown Up Kind Of Pretty” that I just today downloaded to my Kindle and I plan to start reading tonight. She also has a great blog I have bookmarked, Faster than Kudzu. I’ll post my thoughts on the book when I finish it, but I already know I love her voice, and the sample chapter I read online had me hooked from the first paragraph. Tomorrow I may be very tired.
In the interview she talks about two things that really struck a chord with me: the relationship you have with your book while you’re writing it, and the deeper, darker undercurrents in her stories.
I read something once where an author called her books her “babies”. My first thought when I read this was “ick”, my second was “not no, but hell no”. I’m not saying that you don’t have a relationship with that story as you write it because you do, and it’s a damn powerful one. But “babies”? Uh, would you sell your baby? Most people wouldn’t. If you would, you deserve to be punished, not published.
Joshilyn referred to her novels as boyfriends, which makes a lot more sense. You’re there for each other during the process, you have fights then you make up, and when you’re finished, you part as friends, or at least you hope to. This is a terrific analogy.
Writing a book is a partnership, a collaboration, an alliance that starts out between you, an idea, and a blank piece of paper or screen. Hopefully it ends up many pages later as something someone else would want to read and enjoy, something you, the writer, can be proud to put out there for consumption. The ideal end is the best seller list, or at the very least a nice review.
But, just like a lot of relationships, they don’t always end so well. There are fights, times when you give each other the silent treatment, and sadly, sometimes a bad break-up where you both go your separate ways, leaving things unsaid and incomplete. Here’s hoping when that happens you don’t have too much time and energy invested. They tend to hurt way more then. Not all of them have the happy ending. My laptop has a few of those buried inside it as well.
The other thing Joshilyn mentioned was the darker undercurrents to her books.
I always find it interesting how you could hand two people the same book to read and they’d each come away with it meaning something entirely different to them. Some people have more visceral reactions to stories whereas others walk away unscathed. I’m not going to begin to try and guess why that is, but a good book should leave some type of impression on us. As long as it accomplishes that, it was worth your time and money.
When I veer away from writing my naughty romance novels to write something completely different, (which always winds up being a short story), invariably the tone is always dark – death, revenge, abuse – and I find myself shying away from going there. That’s wrong, I know. They’re my own words and just because the subject matter is uncomfortable, I shouldn’t be afraid of it. So what does it say about me that I am? Am I scared of what I might discover about myself? Well, no. I mean it’s just me and the page. No one else will ever read it if I don’t want them to, right?
To grow as a writer you have to challenge yourself, push yourself to do better, write more, write different, BE better. You can’t learn if you don’t try. So, here’s my challenge to myself (and you too, if you’re in the same boat) — Write the stories that are difficult to write. Go to that place I resist like the dentist. Dig deep and see what I can dredge up. Maybe if I embrace it rather than shy away from it, the process won’t be as difficult as I imagine it to be.
Maybe we’ll end up as friends.