New York Times best-selling author Kylie Scott has made a name for herself writing about the scintillating love lives of her (sadly fictional) rock band, Stage Dive. Deep, out now, is the final book in the series. In this guest post, Scott tells us about what drew her to rockers, her decision to feature a pregnant heroine and her thoughts on closing out the series.
Rock stars are funny things. Ever since prime-time TV deemed Elvis’ hip-shaking antics too raunchy to show on air, we’ve been fascinated with their lives, both on stage and off. Rock stars push boundaries and live life on the edge. They stand up beneath the spotlight in front of thousands and both enthrall and entertain. And right from the get go, more than any other topic, they were singing about sex, love and relationships. Take Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-a-Ling” or Little Richard’s “Good Golly, Miss Molly.” Sex, sex and more sex. How about Carole King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” or The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses”? All of the longing and heartbreak you could ask for and then some.
For me, writing the Stage Dive series meant finally putting all the hours I spent in my youth sitting in front of music video shows, or with my ear glued to the radio hoping to catch a certain song, to good use. In the first book, Lick, there was lead guitar/song writer David. He was the tortured artist, emo-type dude. Next came manic, life-of-the-party drummer Mal, because filters . . . why would you even? Then came lead singer Jimmy, the messed-up, moody-ass show pony with addiction issues (He’s my favorite. I can’t help it. I love an asshole.) And finally, bass player Ben: big, bearded and simple in his ways. The man just wants to make music. So of course I screwed with him big time and had him accidentally knock up his best friend’s kid-sister. Angsty complications—I love them.
But why a pregnant heroine? Good question. You see, as we all know, in real life, sex has consequences. Sometimes those consequences are as simple as losing a bra down the back of the headboard or doing the walk of shame. Other times, they’re unexpected pregnancies that throw your whole life for a loop.
Now, despite the rather loud voices in my head, I know Deep is just a book. As much as I’d love to have a beer with Lena, it ain’t gonna happen. But romance novels are an opportunity for us to explore all those nitty-gritty relationship and female-orientated issues. Hold your horses! I’m not saying men can’t or don’t write romance, or that pregnancy doesn’t affect the other partner. What I am saying is, that in this book, written from the heroine’s perspective, we have a chance to dig deep into the mind of a young woman in this situation. It means we can bring unrequited love (*swoon*) out to play whilst also taking a peek at the biological, emotional and mental changes a woman undergoes when she’s knocked-up—both the funny and the frightening. Another reason I gave Liz a bun in the oven? I hadn’t written about a pregnant heroine before, and I like to mix things up, set myself a challenge. Also, pregnant women can, and do, have sex. We don’t suddenly lose all personality and become solely a breeding machine when sperm meets egg.
I’m going to miss the Stage Dive crew. They taught me a lot over the course of four books and I’m grateful for the experience. Will I ever write another story about them? Honestly, I don’t know. Right now, it’s time for something new. In the future though? There is that god-awful Martha woman still hanging around making side-eyes at Sam . . .
Best-selling author Robyn Carr is celebrating the release of One Wish, the latest novel in her Thunder Point series. In this blog post, Carr writes about what women's fiction and romance mean to her. If you thought romance novels were just about the steamy scenes, Carr is here to set you straight!
When my son was in Iraq, we Skyped almost every day. We had more long and meaningful discussions while he was in a war zone than we had when he lived under my roof. And there were times it could get a little awkward, like when I was on a writing roll, in the story zone, and his first question is, “Do you know David Baldacci?”
“Not personally,” I said. “Why?”
“Someone gave me one of his books and told me to read it; I might like it.”
“I don’t have one,” he said.
“Stand by,” I said.
So I emailed him a book. It was with great satisfaction that I heard him say, “Hey. This is good.”
The more interesting thing happened later. First, he found that many of his female co-workers had known about me for a long time and were fans. That really jazzed him up; finally made his mother somebody. He did some mild raving about the book, and I offered him the next one in the series.
“No offense, Mom, but it’s a chick book.”
Yes, it’s a chick book, something I’m rather proud of. But what I do is write romance and women’s fiction, which is about women, for women and written largely by women. My books, the chick books of this century, celebrate women. And because of the digital age, the response is immediate! Any writer of fiction for women who doesn’t know what their readers most enjoy, what brings the greatest reader satisfaction, is asleep at the switch. They tell us every day: Dear Ms. Carr, I know just how Mel felt because I lost my husband at a very young age. Dear Ms. Carr, I escaped from an abusive relationship and you really nailed it—thank you. Dear Ms. Carr, My son was bullied in high school and I’m so glad to see one of my favorite romance writers address that subject.
I have a lot of male readers, too—I hear from them regularly. One of them surprised and thrilled me. I lost my leg in Afghanistan and it was after reading your book about a soldier in an almost identical situation, I’ve decided I really need counseling. I don’t know how my wife has lived with me this long!
I realize that what I really do when I write romance is less about love and sex and more about hope.
I write about the things that are part of a woman’s world: the family drama, community cohesiveness, neighbors helping neighbors. My readers visit my books daily for the chance to relate to the characters who share their burdens and joys, to use strong characters as role models, to be entertained while they struggle to find their own happy endings. Sometimes, they come to me at their most vulnerable and entrust me to take them on a meaningful journey. By the time I’m on the home stretch of a new book, I realize that what I really do when I write romance is less about love and sex and more about hope.
My son has been home from Iraq for quite a while now, safe and sound, and I’m meeting the most interesting people in Thunder Point. In One Wish, I met a former figure skating champion who craves a quieter life and Mr. Hottie High School teacher, Troy Headly, who is on hand to prove to her that it doesn’t have to be all that quiet. And in A New Hope, which will be out in June, Ginger Dysart chooses Thunder Point as the town in which she’ll reclaim her life. Who would have guessed she’d find it in the arms of a handsome Basque farmer? And there’s more—join me for Wildest Dreams at the end of summer when a world famous triathlete mixes it up with a local nurse, and together, they dare to dream the wildest dreams.
Join me in Thunder Point—the place where wishes are made, hopes are finally realized and dreams come true.
The second novel in Andrea Kane's popular Forensic Instincts series goes on sale today. Called The Line Between Here and Gone, the story is about a woman searching for the man who has a cure for her child's rare immune deficiency. She believes this man—the father of her child—to be dead, but clues start turning up that suggest otherwise. Lucky for her, the Forensics Instincts team is up to the challenge of finding him. This team is a group of geniuses—a retired FBI agent, a former SEAL . . . a human scent evidence dog.
If you're a fan of Kane's novels, you know this isn't the first time she's written an animal into a novel. In a guest post, Kane tells us why animal characters are so important to her.
My canine obsession
guest post by Andrea Kane
One of my most frequently asked questions is: Why do you write animals into all your books? I’ve written everything from a white owl to a squirrel to a cat who likes to drink whiskey. And then, of course, there are the dogs. They run the gamut from mixed breeds to dachshunds to an FBI-trained human scent evidence dog—Hero the bloodhound—who’s an integral part of my current Forensic Instincts team.
I’ll start with the obvious. I’m a huge animal lover. My own “baby” is a white Pomeranian, who might be part of the toy family, but who runs the house and rules the roost. I’m firmly convinced that he’s smarter than all of us. And, believe me, I should know. He’s in my office with me every single day, and we have an ongoing disagreement over whether or not I should be allowed to work. I feel that it’s essential for me to dedicate hours of time to my writing. He feels I was put on this planet to serve him and indulge his every need. As creative as I am, he’s more creative. He knows how to bark loud and long enough to distract me. He knows how to climb over me and onto my laptop, where he drapes his tail across the keyboard so I can’t type. He knows how to throw enough toys on my keyboard so a whole new language appears on my screen, and most of my day’s work is annihilated. He even knows how to press the “off” button, when all else fails. Most frustrating of all, he knows how to look at me with that adorable face, that slightly cocked head, and that heart-melting look that makes me abandon what I’m doing and go romp or cuddle with him.
So, yes, I admit it. I’m a slave to a 10-pound canine. That’s quite an admission. However, on the flip side, he brings a unique kind of love and joy to my life and to my family. That makes it all worthwhile.
Which brings me back to why I write animals into my novels. I love them. But besides loving them, I also believe that they bring out the softer side of my characters. Whether it’s a protagonist who’s seemingly strong and independent or an antagonist who’s seemingly heartless, animals are a safe haven for them to let down their guard, to express their emotion—to be human. And that humanness adds up to a three-dimensional character with unique and interesting shades of gray.
I know that many of you feel the same way I do. Hero, the Forensic Instincts’ bloodhound, gets tons of reader fan mail. He’s a really special dog, and I love writing him. Expect to see a lot more of him. After all, he certainly played a big part in solving the crimes in both The Girl Who Disappeared Twice and The Line Between Here and Gone.
Bottom line? I’ll always write animals into my books. And I hope you’ll always love them the way that I do!
We chatted with Andrea in person at the Romance Writers of America conference in the summer of 2011. Watch that conversation here:
guest post by Henry L. Carrigan Jr.
It is somehow fitting that Harry Crews and Earl Scruggs died on the same day, March 28, 2012. While the pugnacious and audacious Southern novelist and the lightning-fast and inventive banjo player lived worlds apart, each had a deep affinity for looking at the world with all its blemishes, seeing through the masks behind which most people hide, and using humor, however sarcastic, to reveal the truth beneath the lies we tell ourselves. We'll miss each of these great artists, but Harry Crews' death brings almost to a standstill the Southern Gothic tradition that started gathering steam when the Dixie Limited, William Faulkner, started rolling down the tracks, picking up Flannery O'Connor, Carson McCullers, Larry Brown, James Dickey, Barry Hannah and Cormac McCarthy along the way. Crews was one of the last of a tradition. Thankfully, there has been some talk of reprinting his novels and publishing the memoir on which he was working before he died.
Flannery O’Connor once wrote that when you have to assume your audience does not know what you’re talking about, “then you have to make your vision apparent by shock—to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind, you draw large and startling figures.” Crews, the pugilist whose many novels feature characters trying to make their way in a South much changed from O’Connor’s, follows O’Connor’s dictum. He depicts freakishly grotesque men and women caught in a world where old values have been replaced by new ones, country replaced by city, and where the struggle to know and to hold onto the truth is a violent one. Midgets, deformed individuals and scarred men and women stand at the center of Crews' novels not only because Crews himself bore the scars of an early bout with polio, burns over two-thirds of his body after being scalded from falling into a vat of boiling water at age six, and broken bones from his many bouts in the boxing ring, but also because, as he wrote in his novel Scar Lover, "a scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with."
Pick up any of Crews' novels, from his first, the widely acclaimed The Gospel Singer, to his later novels, such as his less widely praised Celebration, and you'll find a writer baring his soul and trying to get readers to search their own hearts. He once said that if he had done his job right when he was writing, he would "really get you turned back on yourself, and on your own code of ethics or morality or vision of the world or sense of self or whatever. If I get you turned back on yourself, then I done my job. I've done what I set out to do."
Crews always declared that no matter how hard writing was for him—writing 500 words a day was a successful day for him, he once wrote—it was a way of understanding himself. In his most famous piece of advice to writers, Crews delivered advice borne out of his own practice and declared, "If you're gonna write, for God in heaven's sake, try to get naked. Try to write the truth. Try to get underneath all the sham, all the excuses, all the lies that you've been told."
Crews wrote to understand himself and the world, and he had little patience for the business of publishing. In a remark that all book publishers should have framed on their doorposts, he once announced, "If the shoe business were handled like the publishing business, we'd all be barefoot."
Harry Crews' novels might sometimes be hard to read because they're filled with violence, blood sport and grotesque characters, but they shout out, "Pick me up and read me," for they drive us to confront our often grotesque sense of self, the lies we tell ourselves to protect ourselves from harsh truths and the destruction of our society and the world around us under the banner of illusory values. And, man, do we need Harry Crews and his novels more now than ever.
Henry L. Carrigan Jr. is a regular reviewer for BookPage.
Finding Our Way Home is the latest book in Charlene Ann Baumbich's Snowglobe Connections series—and it's on sale today!
This heartwarming story is about Sasha Davis, a ballerina who returns to her small hometown in Michigan after an injury ends her dance career. There, she strikes up an unlikely friendship with 19-year-old Evelyn, who works as Sasha's personal assistant.
This is a book about second chances, dealing with tough circumstances and the bonds that help us through the hard times. In a guest blog post, Baumbich, who had no special insight into the world of dance when she started on this novel, tells us how Sasha came into her mind—and how the author made some unlikely connections of her own to get Sasha's story right.
guest post by Charlene Ann Baumbich
The mystery of the creative process is mind-boggling to me, never more so than with Finding Our Way Home.
An injured professional ballet dancer showed up from "somewhere" and began to murmur in my ear. I didn't know a thing about her world. No matter how fervently I tried to make her shadowy character go away, she would not.
I began to research the world of dance. The more memoirs and articles I read—the more YouTube videos and live performances I watched—the more convinced I became that I was not the one to tell Sasha's (she'd whispered her name) story. Still, she insisted.
When she finally revealed herself in a shawl-laden, rocking chair "vision," I quit fighting and set my fingers to the keyboard. Oh, well.
Within the first few pages, Evelyn showed up. Who's that? I wondered, as I "watched" her hands pick up broken shards of glass. By the end of the first chapter, I knew that the heart of the book was about Evelyn and Sasha's uncommon friendship. The story was now talking to me. Chapters began to roll.
Still, I worried. What if I had the whole mental game of an injured dancer wrong? I revealed my insecurity to a longtime neighbor. Turns out she used to groom a dancer's dog. She gave me his number. (The dancer, not the dog.)
Whoa! It was Kenneth von Heidecke, the world renowned dancer and choreographer who lived through an injury that ended his onstage career. He assured me that Sasha had steered me in the right direction.
First draft finished, midway through a book tour for Divine Appointments, I pulled off the highway to get gasoline. I ended up toodling around the square of Knoxville, Iowa, and locals pointed me to a book store, The Next Chapter. Turns out the store owner, Tresa Mott, was a retired dancer who also ran a dance studio. When I asked if she might be willing to vet the manuscript for dance accuracies, she said yes.
Both she and Mr. von Heidecke heartily endorsed the book. Sasha—my unruly dancer of a character—laughed at the glory of it all.
Thank you, Charlene! Readers: Do creative ideas ever pop into your head—and you just can't get them to go away?
Mary Anna Evans is the author of the Faye Longchamp series, which stars an archaeologist who also solves mysteries. Plunders, the latest installment, comes out today. It takes place near the mouth of the Mississippi River, where Faye and her husband have been hired to survey archaeological sites—a task made complicated by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Added to the mess is a murder, an inheritance battle and even pirates . . .
In a guest post for BookPage, Evans writes about the moment when her characters started to take on a life of their own.
Readers: When do you experience this kind of book magic? Are characters always real to you from the very beginning, or does it take them a while to grow on you?
guest post by Mary Anna Evans
I love the act of writing. Magic creeps up behind me, and it always happens when I’m not looking.
Ordinary professional satisfaction comes when I think about the hard work that went into the book I’m holding in my hand. But the magic . . . there’s no predicting when it will wrap its arms around me.
When I wrote my first book, Artifacts, I thought of it as a story contained in itself—the story of an amateur archaeologist trapped in decades-old intrigue. While seeking justice for a murdered girl, Faye Longchamp uncovered centuries of her own family history, scraping away layer after layer of secrets, and she began building the friendship of a lifetime with Joe Wolf Mantooth. I first felt the magic then, as Faye’s personality grew under my hands and as Joe said things that even I didn’t know he was going to say.
I found that the characters I created for Artifacts had more stories to tell. The seventh in the Faye Longchamp series, Plunder, is out today, and Faye and Joe still surprise me. They’ve found their own way to navigate the tricky waters of marriage and parenthood, while struggling to keep their archaeological business afloat. What is more, they’re able to find even more love to give a brilliant but troubled teenager whose life flies apart when the grandmother who raised her is murdered.
Young Amande is one of those characters who came from nowhere and begged me to tell her story. How could Faye and Joe not help her find her place in a world that is often unwelcoming?
As Faye and Joe build a family, I remember a question I was asked after Floodgates (Faye Longchamp #4) ended with Faye and Joe making wedding plans. I can be oblivious sometimes, so I’ll admit that I didn’t expect the question I got, time and again:
“Is the series over?”
“Of course not,” I answered. “Life doesn’t end when you fall in love. If you’re lucky, that’s when the magic begins.”
Thanks, Mary Anna! Learn more about the Faye Longchamp series on Evans' website.
Manning Marable, the African-American author and historian whom the New York Times called "a leading scholar of black history," passed away two weeks ago on April 1, at age 60. His last book, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, was published three days later, on April 4. In this guest post, BookPage contributor Ron Wynn reviews the book, which occupied Marable for more than a decade and is now an integral part of his legacy.
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
By Manning Marable
Viking, April 4, 2011
Noted historian and scholar Dr. Manning Marable spent much of his professional career examining the impact and extraordinary life of Malcolm X. Marable, who helped create Columbia University's Black Studies program in 1993, spent two decades compiling the material in his extensive (592 pages) new book Malcolm X: A Life Of Reinvention. The book is proving as controversial as its subject, especially given the amount of new information not included in any prior Malcolm X biography.
Bombshell allegations include the contention that much of esteemed author Alex Haley's The Autobiography of Malcolm X is at best erroneous and at worse bogus. He characterizes Malcolm's marriage to Betty Shabazz as troubled from the start, more an arrangement than a romantic union. Marable also disputes prevailing notions about Malcolm X's supposed transformation following a pilgrimage to Mecca. While acknowledging he abandoned the separatist rhetoric he'd previously championed as a member of the Nation of Islam, Manning contends Malcolm remained a political and social radical rather than the benevolent voice of brotherhood and understanding that's been his post-Mecca image.
The section generating the most public attention covers Malcolm's assassination. Marable maintains that the original investigation was seriously flawed, and the guilty parties have not been caught. Indeed, the book names 72-year-old Al-Mustafa Shabazz (formerly known as William Bradley) of Newark as one of the killers. Shabazz has denied any involvement and threatened legal action against the publishers. Marable even gets current Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan to speak on the record regarding whether he had any involvement in the assassination (Farrakhan vigorously denies it).
While Marable's book has its critics (most notably Betty Shabazz's two daughters as well as some other Malcolm X biographers) his research seems solid. Sadly, he died two weeks ago at 60, three days before Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention was released. Hopefully the book will stimulate not only plenty of discussion, but also ample re-investigation and scrutiny into Malcolm X’s murder.
Linda Leaming's memoir Married to Bhutan, published today by Hay House, is a story about following your dreams and finding true happiness. In Leaming's case, that journey led her to the remote mountain kingdom of Bhutan. In a guest post, Leaming writes about what Bhutan is doing right, and the magnificent creatures who call the country home.
Living in a magical mountain kingdom
guest post by Linda Leaming
So many of us educated, plugged-in Americans are trying to be socially responsible and responsive. So we immerse ourselves daily in news of wars, natural disasters, and celebrity recidivism—it’s an endless stream on our Twitter, Facebook, and TV. It’s the way of the world. But every once in a while I have to switch off. I have to have some good news. And it has to be more than a cuddly kitten video on YouTube, although I do love those.
I live for part of the year in, and write about, a small corner of the world that isn’t particularly tragic or mired in problems. Bhutan is a happy, magical little place whose king would rather have Gross National Happiness than Gross National Product for his people. It's 200 miles from east to west and 100 miles from north to south, deep in the Himalayas between India and Tibet, a dot on the map. Yet it has every known climate zone, from snow-covered glaciers in the north to rainforests in the south, and hundreds, maybe thousands of endangered species of plants and animals.
The Bhutanese people do a lot of things right. They’re Buddhist and they’re not mad at anybody. They live close to the earth and they eat seasonally. They honor their traditions. They are aware that they have something very special, and as the world encroaches, they try to keep a balance between modern and traditional. They take their time, and they believe if it doesn’t get done in this life, then they can do it in the next. The Bhutanese environmental policy is the envy of the world; they are good stewards of the earth, and they’ve made a law that says the country must remain sixty percent forest-covered in perpetuity.
Bhutan and the Bhutanese escape the notice of the rest of the world. That’s good for Bhutan, because it can carry on and keep going. But it’s bad for the rest of the world. The world should know a place like Bhutan exists.
Bengal tigers that have historically inhabited the Duar plains of India to the south are shifting their habitats to Bhutan. They’ve never lived above 3,000 feet. But now they’re migrating to escape poachers, crowded preserves, and farmers who use slash-and-burn agriculture on their habitats. There are now fewer than 3,500 of them in the wild. A meditating lama that I know who lives in the mountains in a hermitage about 15 miles from Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital, says he’s seen tigers in the forest near his hut. The tigers have found a safe haven in Bhutan.
And so have I. And when the world gets to be too much, I think of the tigers and how Bhutan is buying them some time. I am so grateful and thankful that I have been able to have an association with this marvelous country for so long. I believe with all my heart that not just the tigers, but the rest of the world could use some of what Bhutan has.
[Thanks, Linda! Readers can find out more at MarriedToBhutan.com.]
I blogged about Alan Paul's memoir Big in China exactly two months ago, when I was writing BookPage's March world travel roundup. This story is about an American guy who moves to China for his wife’s job—three kids in tow—and ends up writing an award-winning expat column and fronting a popular blues band called Woodie Alan. Paul happened upon my blog post and commented that he read the audio book himself. Intrigued, I asked him to write about the experience, and he kindly agreed!
A remarkable experience: Recording my own audio book
Guest post by Alan Paul
If you want to get to know your book, read it out loud. This is a simple lesson I learned recording the audio book of Big In China, My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues and Becoming a Star in Beijing.
Shortly after my editor at HarperCollins accepted my manuscript for Big in China, I began bugging her to let me read the audio book. No one else could capture my inflections and my intentions in this first-person memoir, the very personal tale of my family’s adventures and experiences during three and half years living in Beijing. The book explores my relationship with my wife Rebecca and our three kids. It deals with my struggles dealing with my father’s cancer from half a world away. It details my unlikely climb from stay-at-home dad and freelance writer to Chinese rock star and the deep relationships I developed with my Chinese bandmates as we barnstormed across the country.
After spending a year writing the book, poring over every sentence, pondering the implication of every turn of phrase, I was amazed to discover a new rhythm and new levels of meaning in my own work.
My excitement was tempered by a slight edge of panic. I had lobbied hard for this opportunity; now I would have to deliver.
I was paired with Paul Fowlie, a veteran audio book producer, who worked with me to pick a studio close to my home where I would feel comfortable. I settled onto a stool behind curtains hung from the ceiling of my friend’s basement home studio to mimic an isolation booth, a bottle of water and a cup of hot ginger/lemon water by my side, and I began reading the 500-page script.
It was a remarkable experience. After spending a year writing the book, poring over every sentence, pondering the implication of every turn of phrase, I was amazed to discover a new rhythm and new levels of meaning in my own work. It felt as if I were reading it for the first time.
I often read lines out loud while revising my work, because structural or flow problems that remain blind to the eye are immediately obvious to the ear. But I had never read the entire book, from beginning to end, like this and it was an exhilarating experience. There were a few lines I wished I could rewrite. I tinkered with some lines that read wrong—one of the advantages of an author recording his own book. I drank more water than I ever have in my life. And I finished the entire book in two days rather than the allotted three—the same as the actor they would have hired instead of me.
I was sad to be done and looking forward to the couple of hours the following week when we would reconvene to re-record the prologue (they always do that, since everyone gets better as they go along) and clean up any flaws found in the recording. I began working with Paul on incorporating music from my band’s CD, Beijing Blues. As I began to get ready for the next step—the book’s launch and the readings and appearances that would follow—I did so with a renewed confidence in Big in China and a much deeper understanding of just what the book was and exactly what it meant to me.
[Thanks, Alan! Listen to an excerpt from Alan reading from Big in China on the author's website, where you can also watch videos of his band, Woodie Alan. Want more recommendations of great travel memoirs? Check out BookPage's March world travel roundup.]
Just yesterday, BookPage contributor Stephenie Harrison interviewed Nicole Krauss for our October print edition. Steph enjoyed the conversation—and its subject, the forthcoming Great House—so much that we begged her to give us a preview in a guest blog post. She kindly agreed!
Great House by Nicole Krauss
W.W. Norton • $24.95 • October 12, 2010
This reviewer called "dibs" on a copy literally seconds after BookPage received news that galleys were heading their way (just ask my editor; she'll confirm it!), and I dug in with a vigor and single-mindedness that I’m sure made the rest of my teetering tower of TBR books envious.
Rather than a single story, Great House shares the tales of four individuals who are linked in a variety of ways, some subtle, some less so. Initially, a rather imposing desk which has held a prominent place in all of their lives—an ark for all their sublimated frustrations and desires—forms the point of intersection. Through a lens that shifts across time and space, readers will dip into the lives of writers, parents and lovers, slowly furrowing deep into their very cores, where universal fears and the crux of identity are laid bare, serving as the true foundation that unites this colorful cast of memorable characters. Of course, characters and plot are but one portion of any successful novel; perhaps Krauss' great genius is her ability to populate novels of ideas with such vivid people, all cloaked in the most exquisite language. Here one of the characters, reeling from the removal of the desk from her life, finds herself questioning her skills as a writer:
The next day I did not go out to look for a new desk, or the day after that. When I sat down to work, not only was I unable to muster the necessary concentration, but when I looked over the pages I’d already written I found them to be superfluous words lacking life and authenticity, with no compelling reason behind them. What I hoped had been the sophisticated artifice that the best fiction employs, now I saw was only a garden-variety artifice, artifice used to draw attention away from what is ultimately shallow rather than reveal the shattering depths below the surface of everything. What I thought was simpler, purer prose, more searing for being stripped of all distracting ornament, was actually a dull and lumbering mass, void of tension or energy, standing in opposition to nothing, toppling nothing, shouting nothing.
What are you reading today?