Tag Archives: Karen Brown

Write On, Wednesay: Special New Series (1/5)–Defining HOME featuring Caroline Leavitt

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By Leslie Lindsay  (image source: www.alphabetart.com 9.4.13)

I have a giant grin on my face today.  Other than the fact that I have the house to myself, a laptop, brain (let’s hope), and basset hound at my feet, I have a new series to share on Wednesdays!  It’s all about the concept of HOME. 

Ever notice how nearly every book you read has some element of home buried deep within the words on the page?  Your reading material may have something to do with big green monsters eating every chocolate chip cookie and then running off to school, but I would wager that those monsters began at say…home?!  The book I just finished reading (Tanya Chernov’s A REAL EMOTIONAL GIRL) had almost everything to do with home (but was largely masked by her grief over her late father).  The next book I picked up, BRAIN ON FIRE (Susannah Cahalan)  might really be about her lost month of insanity, but delve into the pages, and you see an underlying theme of home…her junky New York studio, her childhood home, it all makes an appearance. 

So, I’ve gathered up a handful of great wordsmiths to tell me, in their own words, what defines “home.” 

Each week, I will share a new passage on home.  So, gather ’round, make yourself comfortable and get ready for Caroline Leavitt, Amy Sue Nathan, Karen Brown, Tanya Chernov, and Matt Wertz to tell us their ideas of home…

Today’s featured author…Caroline Leavitt!!  Caroline is a New York Times bestselling author of ten red shirt gardennovels, her most recent IS THIS TOMORROW?  (Which revolves mostly around the concept of ‘home,’ in 1950’s suburbia).  She hosts a robust blog in which she features many authors and their books.  And now…take it away, Caroline!

“For many years, the word home to me meant my parent’s house. Stuck in Suburbia. The rooms coldly silent or torn apart by arguments. I couldn’t wait to leave, to live a life as different as I could imagine. I rented a tiny shoebox apartment in Manhattan, with a slanted floor and barely a kitchen, and when friends gamely said, ‘You could do something with this to make it homey,’ I laughed, because I had no desire to be domestic. As long as my dwelling looked nothing like my family’s, I knew I was safe.

Ah, but then I fell in love. Jeff was the kind of person who took one look at my fridge, with its one carton of yogurt and one loaf of bread, and made a date of shopping, assuring me that it could be fun. Falling in love was a surprise, but suddenly, my tiny apartment wasn’t big enough for us, the rents in Manhattan were too high for the three bedroom we wanted, and we began to look elsewhere. I wanted to look for apartments in Brooklyn or Hoboken, but In the early 90s, you could buy a whole brownstone in Hoboken for 200,000. You could buy a three story 1865 brick row house for $125,000, one with fireplaces in every room, with rosettes on the ceiling.

Houses. I knew what that meant. My parents’ life had unraveled in a house.ITTUSE

I was terrified to move in. I thought that we’d start to argue, that I’d be tied down and domesticated.

Instead, something else happened. Jeff filled the kitchen with food, the rooms with furniture, and my life with love. I began to like having people for dinner, having a kitchen big enough for two to laugh and cook in it. And slowly, I began to realize something. That I didn’t have to turn out to be my mother. That family is not always genetic. And that love can make the house you were most afraid of into the home you love.”

For more information on Caroline and her writing, please see her website:  http://www.carolineleavitt.com/home.htm

[Special thanks to Caroline Leavitt for providing this piece, photos, and her literary enthusiam.  This is an original work by the author and not to be taken as your own.]

Write on, Wednesday: Author Interview & Book Give-a-Way–Karen Brown!!

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By Leslie Lindsay

Write on, Wednesday:  Decontrusting a Novel

I am super-excited to welcome Karen Brown to Write On, Wednesday.  Ms. Brown is the debut novelist of THE LONGINGS OF WAYWARD GIRLS (Washington Square Press, July 2013).  She has written several books of short stories in the past and teaches creative writing & literature at the University of South Florida. Without further adieu…

Leslie Lindsay: As a first time novelist, how did the writing process differ from writing compilations of short stories?  In what ways were you particularly surprised or challenged by the creative process at hand?

Karen Brown: “The short story is all about compression—how much of a world can you create in as few words as possible. You have to reveal a conflict and have something happen to a believable character in a scant twenty pages or less. I’d gotten used to this form, adopting a particular lyrical style—and I enjoyed hinting at things, letting the reader guess or intuit the characters’ motivations. The novel is so very different. I still feel I’m struggling to make the transition, and I have to prod myself to tell more, to show more, to expand scenes. I feel I’ve had to abandon the style that depended on the reader—this worked for a handful of pages, but what reader will spend three hundred pages trying to muddle her way through prose that only hints at things? I’ve found that readers want characters they can identify with intimately, and sometimes this means showing parts of their lives that would be a waste of words in a short story. It’s as if I’d set up my own rules, and now I have to break them!”  

Leslie Lindsay:  THE LONGINGS (of Wayward Girls) is a complex story teetering between the past (1979) and the present (2003) of Sadie Watkins-Stahl’s life.  Sandwiched between the past and present is the disappearance of a young girl who has yet to be found, twenty years later.  As the story unfolds, Sadie recounts various summertime moments that trigger a certain sense of nostalgia.  How many of those summer memories were uniquely yours?  What advice would you give writers so they don’t clog their manuscripts with too many personal asides?

Karen Brown: “The neighborhood of Sadie’s childhood is my own—we did create a “Haunted Woods” and charge admission, and a friend and I did once trick a younger girl by writing a letter from a “farmer boy” and leaving it under a stone. I’ve taken these events and amplified them. Our “Haunted Woods” wasn’t nearly as elaborate, and of course the neighborhood girl never went missing. I used the Haunted Woods in the book because it was an odd, eerie event, and it created a certain tone—one of manipulation and fear. As a child I did write a play, “The Memory of the Fleetfoot Sisters,” and attempted to put it on. I remember being very invested in the show, and when everyone quit I got my first sense of real disappointment—though with what exactly I wasn’t sure. I gave this part of my past to Sadie because she is struggling to keep the creative side of her childhood, and yet knows she is moving past it. So, while I drew on details of my own childhood summertime activities for the novel, I knew I had to pick and choose those that did the job I needed them to.”

Leslie Lindsay: In reading THE LONGINGS, I was particularly struck by the ease and accessibility of Sadie’s affair with Ray.  Without giving too much away, what is it about those old loves that have us wanting to relive the past? 

Karen Brown: “In Sadie’s case, Ray represents a particular summer in her past—one in which things changed irrevocably for her. But I think she latches onto who she was before things went awry. Ray seems unchanged, and she wants to reinvent herself as the person she might have become. It’s as if she is able to re-do her life with him. There was no real relationship between them in the past—there was only what she imagined. Ultimately, they both use each other for their own selfish purposes.”

Leslie Lindsay: Are you a pantser, or a plotter?  What advice would you give a panster who doesn’t like to plot, and a plotter who must have things “just so” before even taking pen to paper?

Karen Brown: “I’m not sure how anyone could keep things straight without writing something down, but I’m a firm believer in letting the story unfold naturally. It’s so much more fun! If I’d known everything that would happen beforehand it would seem tiresome to write it out. I guess for me the writing is a form of discovery. That said, once I knew where I might want to head I did keep notes for myself. “Sadie finds Bea’s love letters” for example. I have a file called “Notes” for each project, and I write things down as reminders. I think a happy mix of notes and fearlessness is necessary.”

Leslie Lindsay: A hot topic—even in fiction—has to do with a writer’s platform.  Can you describe what a platform is, and why it’s so important, anyway?

Image of Karen BrownKaren Brown: “I knew that I needed to have social media in place if I wanted to publish a book, so the basics—Facebook and a website—have been a part of being a writer for me for a while. I added a few other things—Twitter, for example, the summer my book was on submission. I’ve also published stories in magazines, and won a few awards, which gave me something to stand on. It’s always been difficult for me to be an outgoing social media participant. Writing is work I do alone, and I’m not always eager to share anything related to it. But as a teacher I’m trained to be supportive, so I like to think I am a supporter of other writers and of work that I find admirable. Occasionally I will sneak in something about my own process, but rarely about my personal life. In this sense a writer’s platform is a sticky subject for me. Some do it so well—their personalities are open and engaging, and they feel comfortable sharing themselves. Or, their newest project has a basis in a topic that’s historical or cultural, and they use this as a way to project themselves. I do believe publishers want writers who have established some connection with the world—even if it’s just one part of it.”

Leslie LIndsay:  What are you currently working on? 

Karen Brown: “I’ve been revising a novel draft I’d set aside a few years ago. Part of it was set in the Caribbean, and while I’d never been there before I wrote it, I did travel there this spring. I decided to read the draft again, and I discovered I had captured that world pretty well! I also found I still liked the draft—so I thought I’d continue work on it.”

Leslie Lindsay: What are you currently reading?

Karen Brown: “I used to read one book at a time—I wouldn’t even consider reading another before I finished it. But lately I find I’m reading a few books at once—partly due to the variety of ways I’m reading things now. As an ebook, Submergence by J. M. Ledgard, in print, Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead, and online I’m reading Clairvoyance by C.W. Leadbeater.”

Leslie Lindsay: Can you share your social media and other ways to reach you? 

Karen Brown: “Certainly!

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Karen!  Very insightful and inspirational!

The Teacher is Talking:  Saying Bye Bye to Binky

And now….give-a-way details:  Karen has graciously agreed to provide one lucky winner a signed copy of THE LONGINGS OF WAYWARD GIRLS.  Here’s what you have to do:  Comment on the blog or send me an email leslie_lindsay(at) hotmail.com about one of your favorite summer activities as a child.  That’s it.  It can be as long or as short as you’d like.  Winner will be drawn at random next Wednesday, August 21st.  Open to U.S. residents only.  Please check your junk mail as winner’s will be notified via email.  Thanks and good luck!! 

Up next: Karen, along with authors Caroline Leavitt, Amy Sue Nathan and singer/songwriter Matt Wertz will be joining us later this August to share their ideas of “home.” a common, yet complex theme in many literary subtexts.

Write on, Wednesday: The Benefit of Book Trailers

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By Leslie LindsayWrite On, Wednesday:  Creating a World So Believable Your Critique Partners Think You're Having an Affair

No doubt you’ve heard of a movie trailer, right?  The commericial-style blurb about an upcoming or already-showing movie–a sneak-peak of the funniest/most romantic/endearing/action-packed segments that leave you eager for more.  But a book trailer?!?  What the heck is that?!

Simply put, a book trailer is another means of bringing attention to a book and/or the author.  We live in a media age–from iPhones to streaming videos and music from our laptops, reading is now becoming a little well–mainstream.  Not that I agree with the novelty of it, but I do agree that there is something to say for the efficiency of electronic devices.  Again, it’s still a concept I struggle with. 

If you’re into book trailers, then great!  It’s yet another avenue to reach potential readers.  Here’s a list of “fantastic book trailers and why they are so fantastic:” http://therumpus.net/2013/06/fantastic-book-trailers-and-the-reasons-theyre-so-good/ 

One of my favorites is from Deb Caletti’s HE’S GONE (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sz-n4-TSDGA Wow–this one starts out almost exactly like the book (see Deb’s interview from last week’s post).  Yet, it’s different–I “saw” Dani differently in my mind’s eye and seeing her in the book trailer through off my perspective and shook my imagination.  While the HE’S GONE trailer had me wanting more, I know, from past experience that movies are hardly ever as good as the book. 

If multimedia platform development speaks to you, consider yourself lucky.  Writers and authors today are expected to do the lion’s share of marketing and promotion of their work–even with agents and publicists on board.  Making connections, reaching out to (potential) readers, and being personable is all an added value to the busy author. 

Are  you a luddite when it comes to technology?  Would you rather just hole up and write your All-American novel while someone else markets your book?  (Son’t worry–I’m right there with ya). Try this writerly assignment instead: 

  • If your book were to be a movie, who would direct it? 
  • What about cinematogrpahy?  Would you have it documentary style?  Close panning of the camera?  Wide-shots? 
  • What soundtrack might you give your “movie”/book?  (a favorite on-going excercise for me to to download songs from iTunes which I think are inspirational for my story &/or character)
  • Who would play the part of your antagonist and protagonist?  What character traits (in movies or TV) do they embody?  Perhaps they are a conglomeration of several characters?  (My “Steve” is Dr. Gregory House mixed with Jerry Seinfeld; my “Joe” is Pierce Brosnan, “Beth” is Claire Danes).
  • Create a collage of your book.  Pull from magazines, catalogs, even on-line images.  Print ’em off develop a “story board” collage.  Images often help create flow.  (I’m actually planning to make “character cards” with an image I think resembles my character along with vital data and goals, fears, etc.  I may even laminate them so I can carry along when I work remotely). 

For more ideas on book marketing and promotion–and making you own book trailer, see:

Coming up Next Week:  Interview with debut novelist Karen Brown on THE LONGINGS OF WAYWARD GIRLS.

Coming up!

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By Leslie Lindsay Write on, Wednesday:  Decontrusting a Novel

I love “coming up” posts!  It means I am excited about something–and life is unfolding in a really nice fashion. 

So, thought I’d share a few upcoming posts I have lined up:

  • Author Deb Caletti pops over to talk about her newest book, HE’S GONE (July 31st), a suspense thriller for adults (she has quite a following for YA, this is a bit of a genre shift).  Have you ever wondered….”What if?”  Seems that’s the basis for this book.  What if he just never came home?  What if you just won a million bucks?  Those what if questions  often spin themselves into great fiction.  By the way, Ms. Caletti’s book has a great trailer.  Ever heard of a book trailer?  We’ll talk a bit about that in the following weeks, too (think August).
  • Another author, Karen Brown will be with us later in August.  THE LONGINGS OF WAYWARD GIRLS is her first novel, but Ms. Brown has published anthologies of short stories in the past.  Reading the book now and I find the language lyrical, the dilemma’s authentic, and the descriptions of summer’s past alluring.  Keep your eyeballs peeled for a mid-August interview with Karen.
  • More tips and ideas from singer/songwriter Matt Wertz
  • Symbolism, theme, and setting for your novel. 

As always, if you have ideas or suggestions for posts, or would like to submit a guest piece, give me a holler at leslie_lindsay(at)hotmail.com

Look forward to hearing from you!!

Fiction Friday: What are YOU Reading this Summer?!

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By Leslie Lindsay

Instead of throwing out another excerpt of what I am writing today, thought I’d share a few of my must-read summer selections.  Whether you’re going away to a tropical location or just sitting comfortably in an air conditioned library, I am sure you, too have a love for reading. 

Here goes!

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan.  Who doesn’t love J. Courtney Sullivan and her epic stories of girlfriends in college (Commencement), East Coast Irish-Catholic families (Maine) and now her lastest, THE ENGAGEMENTS?  This one is a slice of American–and Product DetailsFrench–marriage.  Cascading through time, going back as far as 1947 and ending with “present-day” 2012, we meet a host of characters, from Frances a single woman in the 1940s-50’s who coined the phrase, “A diamond is forever” to 1972 and the scandal of divorce, moving right along to 1987 and the world of paramedics and a family struggling financially…to 2003 where we delve into a world of music and all things French and finally wrapping things up with a gay wedding of 2012. 

Caroline Leavitt’s IS THIS TOMORROW also hits my Summer reading list.  Loved this portrayal of a single Jewish mother raising a son in the 1950’s suburbs of Boston.  When one of the son’s friends goes missing, the entire community is baffled.  Part history, part suspence, part women’s fiction, we are thrust into a world of secrets, lies and Product Detailsdisillusionment.  The books transcends time and culture with the advent of a male nursing assistant in 1963, as well as single–and dating–Jewish mothers of the 1950’s.  According to Ms. Leavitt, “I was an only Jewish kid growing up in the Christian suburbs and I wanted to write about that.” 

HE’S GONE by  Deb Caletti truly resonated with me.  Wow.  This book was packed with wonderful description and imagery, gritty and compelling language, and with a Product Detailstwist I didn’t really see coming.  Well, parts of it I did.  What would happen if you woke up one morning and your spouse was just gone?  This is what Dani Keller experiences one Sunday…a day turns into two and then a week.  Where is her husband?!  This one reminded me a lot of last summer’s GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn (which, is another must-read). 

THE LONGINGS OF WAYWARD GIRLS by debut novelist Angela Brown.  While this author has published short stories (and poetry, I believe), she now has her first novel coming onto the scene July 2nd.  This one is also set in New England summer suburbia  where the days are long and the longings are…well, it’s all about the split between adolesence and childhood.  Looks captivating. 

SISTERLAND.  A new book from author Curtis Sittenfeld.  A to-be-released any day book, this one is definitely on my to-read list.  Twin sisters just happen to be psychic.  One of them is named Kate (my daughter’s name) and it takes place in the St. Louis area (my hometown)

 To See what the Editors of Writer’s Digest of Reading this Summer, Click here: 

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/what-are-you-reading-this-summer?et_mid=623617&rid=233613076