Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I didn’t really turn my story into a novel. I was inspired by my own escapades as a southern innkeeper, but the story itself is fiction.
Good question and a fair assumption at least at first glance. The whole experience of inn-keeping from a southerner’s perspective is rich for storytelling. The dichotomies between the two regions are quite colorful. When my time in Vermont had run its course and I was safely back on Southern soil, I knew I had a story to tell. There was so much about Vermont that I loved but I also knew that I was better off in the South. It’s too cold for me in Vermont! But I digress. Leelee Satterfield does have a couple of the same experiences that I had, yet she is a different person than me. One of the most important things I found about creating Leelee was that she needed to have a wide character arc. She starts out as naïve and somewhat spoiled but by the end of the book, she turns into a steel magnolia. I think whenever a first-time author writes in first person about someone with a similar background to that author – and especially the same gender – it can be hard to separate the two personalities.
I came up with the idea and title fourteen years ago, but the actual writing took me about three years. That’s because it went in and out of my drawer for nearly a decade until I developed the confidence to actually finish it. Plus, as a single mother of two very active little boys I could only write in my spare time, which was pretty much non-existent!
Oh my goodness, yes! Although I have to say I had read millions of books on the subject of publishing so I was well familiar with the odds. The biggest surprise was when my agent called me about the sale. She caught me totally off-guard. I had planned a trip to New York with two of my best girlfriends (a significant birthday celebration for all of us) and I had planned to have lunch with Holly. Truth be told I was scared she might be discouraged because the book hadn’t sold, so I wanted to meet her in person. (Heaven forbid she might drop me.) When I heard her voice on the phone I told her that I was just getting ready to call her. She asked why, and I reminded her about our lunch. She told me that she was about to make that trip to New York so much better. We had a sale!! When I learned that Thomas Dunne also wanted a sequel I was flabbergasted. That was my biggest surprise.
The first draft – bar none. Oops that’s not true, it’s the alone part. I’m a classic extravert and I found it hard to be by myself while I was writing. Finally, I started going to the library to finish the book so I’d at least have people all around me.
Well the first major difference is that I actually kinda/sorta know what I’m doing this time around. Plus I have more confidence knowing it’s going to be published.
I have joy in knowing that I have shown my two sons, now 19 and 21, that hard work and dedication really do bring about success – in whatever form that may be. They were only five and seven when I first dreamed about this project and I’m happy that I have been able to show them an example of tenacity – especially since I’m a single mom.
Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani
South of Broad by Pat Conroy
The Assistant by Bernard Malamud
The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder by Rebecca Wells
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
I just finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I loved it.
Hhmmm. That’s a good one. My favorite eccentricity would probably be the large number of meat and threes that we have here in the South, and the fact that no meal would ever be served from one of those restaurants without a delicious piece of cornbread to go along with it. Ohh, I just thought of one more. I love it that Southern children everywhere still say “Yes ma’am and “Yes sir.” I think that’s very respectful.
This one’s easy. The most peculiar thing to me about the North is the fact that you can’t bury people in the winter. That’s how I start my book by saying, “No one ever told me you can’t bury somebody up North in the wintertime.” As a Southerner, it never once crossed my mind that the ground up North froze in the first place and that it would keep people from having a winter funeral.
My blood is a deep crimson.
My grandmother’s antique diamond ring. I wear it on my right hand and every time I look at it I think of her. She was born in 1882 and was a lovely Southern belle.
Without a doubt my answer to that one is singing. I’m so jealous of anyone with a gorgeous voice. Come to think of it, that’s one nice thing about alone time. You can sing your heart out and no one can hear you, no matter how bad you might sound.
Raising my sons to be kind-hearted, tender men who love God and their mama!
Keep in mind, I’m a hopeless romantic. My idea of perfect happiness would be to live in an antebellum house with a wonderful guy who has a killer sense of humor and loves me and loves my sons. There would be a beautiful view of the Southern sky out my back porch where I could watch the sun rise and set and have my animals around me all the time. We would eat Alaskan King Crab Legs and home-grown tomatoes and caramel cake and dance to 70’s music under the stars. Travelling to fun places with my friends and family would be nice. Like Hawaii, Italy, the Caribbean, and off-the-beaten-path little hideaways right here in the States.
Visit Lisa’s website at www.lisapatton.com. Thank you, Lisa!
Monday, September 28, 2009
Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter is author Lisa Patton’s debut novel. A Tennessee native accustomed to long summers and brief winters, she spent three long, brutally cold winters running an inn in Vermont. And thus, a story was born.
Leelee Satterfield is happy with her life in Memphis. She’s got her family, her four best friends, her husband she’s loved since the tenth grade, and their two beautiful daughters. When her husband Baker gets a little antsy, he is inspired to buy a Vermont inn and haul the family North to run the bed-and-breakfast. And Leelee agrees…only because she has been love with him forever. But things don’t go as smoothly as Leelee hopes and not only is her relationship on the rocks, Vermont is COLD. When Baker picks up and leaves Leelee with the inn, she must try to make the best of her misery and prove she’s not just a helpless Southern belle.
I swear Lisa Patton was reading my mind as she wrote this. Either that or we think eerily alike. Our shared bitter hatred of the cold is one thing, but she goes into such detail on the tiny nuances that are so defining of me and my life up here. Like:
- “Memphis is my home. It always will be no matter where I live.”
- “I know people say the summer is sweltering, but it never bothers me.”
- Vermont = “a foreign corner of American” that is “sooo Yankeeish”
- “When I took my first sip, I could tell right away that it was Pepsi. I hate Pepsi.”
- “…Northerners believe that anywhere with less than one million people is only a town.” [We don't do 'towns' in the South.]
- “Barbecue to Northerners meant ‘grilling out’ so if I wanted a barbecue sandwich I might as well set my tastebuds on a hamburger.” [The word 'barbecue': North = verb, South = food.]
Not to mention references to Corky’s barbecue, Johnny Majors and Neyland Stadium, Mother’s Day Out, and First Tennessee Bank—those little familiarities that you forget don’t exist everywhere.
Needless to say, I loved this book. A well-developed main character that grew as the plot progressed, an entertaining ensemble of supporting characters, and a pleasing but not lame ending. I may be a little biased for this book for all the reasons mentioned above, but I still think it’d be an enjoyable (and hilarious) read for people anywhere in the country (or outside of it!).
AVAILABLE SEPTEMBER 29, 2009
Thomas Dunne Books
320 Pages, Hardcover
Review copy provided by publisher (Thomas Dunne).
This is the first stop for me on the Literary Road Trip, hosted @ Galleysmith. I claimed my great home state of Tennessee. You may be saying, “But don’t all of you live in New York?” and the answer is yes. But New York was already claimed by about four other people, and Tennessee was not. And as mentioned earlier, Tennessee will always be my home, no matter where else I live.
Tune in tomorrow for an interview with Lisa Patton, author of Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter!
Friday, September 25, 2009
- Jennifer Ehle (Lizzy) looks eerily like Meryl Streep in this movie. Also, she is apparently an American. Kudos!
- Whoever played Mrs. Bennett was fantastic, because she annoyed the hell out of me.
- I loved how Mr. Bennett had perfect comedic timing. He is the reason I believe Austen’s wit is much better illustrated on screen than on the page.
- The angry daughter (Mary) was hilarious. She just looked so miserable!
- I was so excited to see Saffy from AbFab fame as the youngest Bennett daughter, Lydia. She cracked me up in the first half, and then her character got really obnoxious.
- I definitely already knew how Wickham and Darcy’s relationship would pan out. Gee thanks Bridget Jones, for ripping off that plot line!
- Like in Sense & Sensibility, the openness of personal income astounds me.
- I enjoy Austen’s strong female leads that rebel against society’s norms.
- I need to visit English countryside.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The first thing I noticed is the style of writing – there’s a particular style I notice that I appreciate, when every single tangible object has a long, winding history to it. If it’s in the book, you know all about it, where it came from, who created it, why they created it, and then eventually you come to understand how it fell like a puzzle piece into its place in the plot. I love this, and I have a deep appreciation for what it takes to be this meticulous about crafting a novel that fills in as much reality as possible.
The second thing I realized is that the novel is a tale about two things I love: Brotherhood and That Ol’ American Dream. The two main characters are cousins in this case, and have somewhat inevitably complementary personalities and skills, which they combine into one incredible talent – writing comic books (cue American Dream).
I think it would have been very easy to write a decent novel with those two ingredients alone. However, Chabon adds a startling series of complexities to each character and each event that ground the entire thing into something resembling reality (like the fact that it all happens during World War II and one of the two main Jewish protagonists barely escaped Prague with his life, leaving behind his entire family which of course created a huge “Man, I’d love to enjoy the incredible life I’m leading but I just can’t do it knowing that my family is stuck back there” complex).
The final success of the whole thing is that it’s a novel about comic book writers…and the whole thing is entirely reminiscent of a comic book – having just put it down, I wouldn’t be surprised to open it again and find pages of colorful panels and exultant faces with exuberant speech bubbles. It’s perhaps this quality that makes it so easy to love – I wanted to be best friends with perhaps every single character in the book, and yet never felt like it was too easy on itself or strayed into dull cliche. Sometimes things happen or victories are won a little bit too easily but hey – this is America, after all.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Because who but a total dummy would order the woman he is supposed to be in love with to take lessons in lovemaking from some dead composer, some Viennese Bagatellenmeister? When a man and a woman are in love they create their own music, it comes instinctively, they don’t need lessons. But what does our friend John do? He drags a third presence into the bedroom. Franz Schubert becomes number one, the master of love; John becomes number two, the master’s disciple; and I become number three, the instrument on whom the sex-music is going to be played. That – it seems to me – tells you all you need to know about John Coetzee. The man who mistook his mistress for a violin. . . . Who was so dumb, so cut off from reality, that he could not distinguish between playing on a woman and loving a woman.
Monday, September 21, 2009
- A Separate Peace by John Knowles
- The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
Thursday, September 17, 2009
The captain spat in disgust. “I never met a sailor as stupid as you. Where do you think the old moon goes, then? . . . Go on, tell me.”Shuhov sighed and delivered his reply with a slight lisp. “Where I come from, they used to say God breaks up the old moon to make stars.”The captain laughed. “What savages! I never heard anything like it! So you believe in God, do you, Shukhov?”Now Shukhov was surprised. “Of course I do. How can anybody not believe in God when it thunders?”“Why does God do it, then? . . . Break up the stars. Why, do you think?”“That’s an easy one,” Shukhov said with a shrug. “Stars fall every now and then, the holes have to be filled up.”
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Frank Bascombe is a dreamer. He tells his life story over the course of a somewhat eventful Easter weekend. Beginning on a quiet Friday morning, Frank approaches the gravestone of his deceased son. He waits for his ex-wife who shares this yearly ritual with him. From this moment until Sunday evening, Frank drifts between reality and daydream recalling most of the formative moments from his life.
Ford weaves dreams into the narrative so effortlessly that one often forgets what the original time period is. The majority of the story involves little of the present. Instead we witness the vivid memories in Frank’s mind. More importantly, we understand that what exists in the present seems to be of little concern to our narrator. Perhaps that is the chief cause of his downfall.
I read this after having read its Pulitzer prize-winning sequel Independence Day last year. I can’t remember much of a difference between the two—besides the obvious plot changes—but Ford’s storytelling remained true between both books. Despite reading them out of order, I can certainly say the two exist as one piece. There is a third story out there, but I’ve yet to read that one; if anyone has I would love to hear some opinions.
The language and craft existed on the page, but I never had a connection with the characters. I know full well that at 40 years I will understand Frank’s plight, but at present I just couldn’t connect with him or any other character. But that shouldn’t deter people from reading this wonderfully potent novel. If you are middle-aged (or an old soul) make sure to pick up The Sportswriter and Independence Day.
A side note: I was suggested Independence Day during a search for road novels as I was about to embark on a cross-country trip. Though I think the novel never fulfilled my expectations of a road story (e.g. On the Road) it did travel along a winding path through the narrator’s thoughts. What are your expectations for a road novel? And what are some interesting variations of “the road novel” that you’ve read? We’d all probably be better to ignore novels with the word “road” already in the title.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
1.) Turning down pages in a book to save your place. That is what they make BOOKMARKS and receipts for.
2.) Broken crayons.
3.) White text on a black background. Headache waiting to happen.
Audrey Niffenegger at the moment. I would love to talk to her about HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY.
I like the pumpkin candy corn better than the corn candy corn.
French. Je pense que le Français est magnifique. And I am amazed that, after checking babelfish, that I had that sentence just about right! Go me!
I have terrible posture and I pick at my toenails. Gross!
Well, when I was ten I was bitten by a snake in my backyard. I bet you are thinking, that’s not funny! It really wasn’t that bad, if you don’t count the tears, my cries of “am I going to die!” and my grandma hollering at my grandpa to “Bring the da** hoe!” but it was. My uncle’s stepdad was there. As a Vietnam Vet, he said he knew how to suck the poison out. I told him to stay away from my foot. My uncle left so fast, he left my aunt behind. And in Sunday School that morning, we had gone over the part of the bible where it says that the serpent shall bite the heel of woman (paraphrasing), which in hindsight, was pretty darn funny!
I am totally a night person.
Reading, because I usually read at home and well, sometimes the chores don’t get done.
To work in a nice, small, cozy used bookstore, surrounded by the smell of old paper, the rustle of words on pages, and the dark, musty, organic feel of it all.
My real job is a production client operator for a large document copy. It’s kinda boring, but the pay is good.
Every Saturday, my aunt, my son and I go to the Farmer’s Market. It’s fun and it’s nice to get to spend the time with my aunt, who is practically a mother to me.
Romantic comedies and action/adventure.
The Princess Bride. It’s my absolute, most FAVORITE book.
Outside of books, I love to cook, knit (although I don’t get to do that a lot, no time!), work with graphic things like making photocards, taking pictures, and playing with my babies.
Go check out Heather’s awesome recently self-hosted blog, and be sure to check out her interview with me!
Monday, September 14, 2009
I like to think of myself and my work as balanced, an attempt to keep an eye on both the serious and the funny- learning the sources of both joy and heartbreak in a character’s life.
I often begin with a character’s voice and the story rolls out from that. Occasionally I begin with an image which was the case with the story “Intervention”- I had in mind the ending, a woman willingly buckling in beside someone who should not be driving; then the writing of the story was an attempt to understand why she would do this.
My Southern roots play a big role in my writing primarily because I can’t escape what I bring to the page. The big chunk of truth that finds its way into my work is a strong sense of place. My fictional landscape is southern, even more specific it is southeastern North Carolina. Certainly there is a strong southern literary heritage and I am proud to be a part of it. I think the danger in any kind of label is when it suggests that you might only be of interest to others of that region.
The “fountain coke” is a good one. That would be my mom’s choice. I don’t think that food choice is necessarily eccentric but I did miss so much while living in New England. I was surprised when I couldn’t just walk into a grocery store and buy pimento cheese or a package of country ham . Or fried okra in a restaurant. Iced tea any time of year. And field peas! I have a pot cooking right now with a big piece of country ham thrown in. I love that people- perfect strangers- will tell you whole long stories while waiting in line and no one finds this unusual at all. In fact some of the best conversations often happen in public places with people you don’t know at all and may never see again.
I think that my writing has gotten darker in certain ways. Certainly the potential was always there but I think in the early years I was not as brave about seeking it out and attempting to put it into words. I felt protected by humor and often didn’t explore a character as fully as I might now.
I often write what I think of as monologues- a first person voice that just takes off and rambles. These are usually fun to do and the revision is all about reeling them in a little and trying to give some shape to whatever story has been told. But I guess I think of this as different from a favorite character. Some of my favorites are Lena Carter in my novel Tending to Virginia. Tom Lowe and Quee Purdy in Carolina Moon. In the new collection, I would name the grandmother in “Surrender” and Marilyn in “Intervention”.
I love both the novel and the short story. I began with novels but was always trying and wanting to write stories. I love working on stories- the compactness- the revision process but it’s also a wonderful feeling to be caught right in the middle of a novel in progress.
My goal as a writer is to make sense of a life or lives, to come to a place of understanding and truth.
I simply love the process. I love the time I spend thinking about a story, wondering how all the pieces fit together.
I am working on a novel and of course always have story ideas in hand. I take a lot of notes.
I just finished reading Richard Yates’s Eleven Kinds of Loneliness and those stories left me completely in awe- I can’t stop thinking about them. I have also been rereading Katherine Anne Porter’s stories. She is an old favorite and a writer I turn back to often as I do to Welty, Flannery O’Connor, McCullers, Capote and Tennessee Williams. Now there’s a southern lineup.
I am currently reading Richard Russo’s new novel That Old Cape Magic and loving it. On deck the Updike collection that was just published “My Father’s Tears” and other stories, and I’m looking forward to the new collections by both Alice Munro and Lorrie Moore.
I love to garden, take long walks and fish. My husband and I have goats and dogs and a donkey so I spend a lot of time outdoors with the animals.
I have always loved to write and did so in childhood. I think, though, it really occurred to me in college that maybe this was something i could actually DO as an adult.
- The Cheer Leader (1984)
- July 7th (1985)
- Tending to Virginia (1987)
- Ferris Beach (1990)
- Crash Diet: Stories (1992)
- Carolina Moon (1997)
- Final Vinyl Days (1998)
- Creatures of Habit (2001)
- Going Away Shoes (2009)
Sunday, September 13, 2009
[Their mother] asked them why they called each other Temple One and Temple Two and this sent them off into gales of giggles. Finally they managed to explain. Sister Perpetua, the oldest nun at the Sisters of Mercy in Mayville, had given them a lecture on what to do if a young man should–here they laughed so hard they were not able to go on without going back to the beginning–on what to do if a young man should–they put their heads in their laps–on what to do if–they finally managed to shout it out–if he should “behave in an ungentlemanly manner with them in the back of an automobile.” Sister Perpetua said they were to say, “Stop sir! I am a Temple of the Holy Ghost!” and that would put an end to it.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
JM Coetzee is my personal favourite author, and Summertime rounds out his series of fictional autobiographies, or what he would call autrebiographies. Since he’s adverse to interviews (there’s a great one of him from Dutch television [scroll to the bottom] where you can quickly understand why he doesn’t grant question-and-answer sessions, and why people probably won’t ever ask him again), people therefore create the personality of this author to what they want to believe it is: reclusive, perhaps slightly lustful although removed from society, reticent. But his work is just too powerful even to ponder about the life of this author. Coetzee was the first author to win the Booker twice, with Life and Times of Michael K (1983) and Disgrace (1999). He is a Nobel Laureate (2003).
Sarah Waters has been on the shortlist before. In her feminist/hipster garb, we might have the best scowl/don’t mess me with me subtle rictus of all. The Night Watch, 2006′s nominee, gave Waters international acclaim and a large group of readers. Her new nominated book, The Little Stranger, sounds like an English literary version of Stephen King: haunted houses, class systems, post-WWII nerves. By the look of her she’d probably make a riotous acceptance speech. Nothing so soft as Aravind Adiga’s last year.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Sometimes it’s the story of a church mouse Carl who has fallen in love with Paul, the man whose house he’s invaded. Getting so angry seeing Paul with his girlfriend Carl gnaws into the girlfriend’s car tires in order to kill her. And it works. Sometimes it’s about a waiter named Paul who watches a crossword puzzle solver die in his café and, after his patron dies, he nonchalantly picks up the puzzle and brings it to the kitchen, perhaps perturbed because he won’t be receiving a tip from the dead man. Sometimes it’s about Sandra whose repetitive pictures are disapproved by her boyfriend Paul’s brother Joseph, which sets Sandra off on a missive writing scheme.
They agreed to wed on the 16th of December, 2012. That gave them enough time to annul the commitment if the world didn’t end on the 21st. It even built in a little extra time in case the Mayans were off by a few hours in their predictions. Neither Paul nor Sandra was even sure they wanted to cancel the marriage in the event that the earth was ok.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009