They say writers should always be writing, coming up with ideas for the next one…and while we don’t jump ship and start right away on the next one (before finishing the current WIP), it’s okay–encouraged even–to jot down a few lines, ideas, or whatever and keep it on hand. In that case, here’s a little something that “the boys in the basement” are working on while I pound out the first draft of NEXT DOOR.
“I will tell you how I read a book: First, I smooth my hands over the cover, seductively feeling for raised lettering, foil-lined font, the stretchy quality of matte finish, or the smooth luster of gloss. It’s always a better experience if the book is hardback with a jacket. Then I pinch the jacket between my thumb and forefinger, gingerly lifting the paper spine so I can glimpse the real cover, the bare bones that piece the individual pages together, often tied with the tiniest red and white flossing ribbon, or perhaps the binding of rubberized glue. In my mind, this is the cheap way to go, and often a slight disappointment if it is indeed how the book is manufactured.
I then thumb through the pages, taking notice of whether they are deckle-edged or straight-edged, mottled, gilded, organic, newsprint, slick. I fan the pages with my thumb, creating a rush of air unearthing the pleasant melding of ink and paper in an orgasmic release. I bury my nose in the spine and inhale.
Yet, sometimes, the book in question smells yeasty, musty, tart as if it has been stored on a shelf in the archives of a library for far too long. Perhaps, it’s been packed away in a cardboard box tucked into the storeroom at the bottom of the basement stairs of a grandmother’s home. The book is happy that it has found itself in my hands, delicately holding it, ready to fold back its cover, turn the pages, ready to be given new life.
I may begin with the first line. That’s nothing unusual, it is after all what most people do. Some read ferociously from cover to cover, barely looking up to engage in the world around. They forget to dress, to eat, to answer the phone. They forget who they are in the presence of. The characters take over, the story moves them into a new plane.
Others read for awhile, get bored, and place the book on a nightstand, coffee table, or cluttered kitchen counter. The book collects dust and stains from glasses left dripping condensation. If it’s a library book, the patron forgets to return it on time and incurs a fine. The book never gets read.
I read. Really read. After the first thirty pages, or so I flip to the acknowledgements section. I want to know whom the author wishes to thank; who was instrumental in the process of writing, and perhaps a little about who the author is will shine through. Authors almost always thank their literary agent, someone who helped with research, and their family. You can tell who has a spouse, a dog who shares the writing space, or a family. Reading the acknowledgements section is a must.
Still yet, I take special care not to read the last few pages of the story. There will be others who beg to differ. I once heard of someone who read the last line of every book she ever received straight away. That way, if she died before finishing, she’d know how it ended. I beg to differ. If an author does his or her job well, reading the last line won’t really give you all of the insight intended; it’s just a line. A book is made to be read in its entirety. Still, I refrain from reading it.
At this junction, I may choose to read the “about the author” blurb. It’s fascinating to learn if the author is local, or at least in the same state you are living. Maybe you share something in common: a middle initial, number of children, vacation destinations, or a hobby like knitting. Anne Author lives in Chicagoland with her black lab and husband. She enjoys vacationing in Cape Cod and practices yoga daily.
Right then, I know we have something in common. Not only am I reading Anne Author’s personal preferences of pets and hobbies, but I am reading each and every letter she pounded out on a keyboard, it doesn’t get much more intimate than that.”