If you’re following along (and I hope you are!), you know that on Wednesdays, I like to talk about what I’m reading, or books that have made an impression on me.
This week I’ve been reading my latest manuscript, with brief excursions into Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl. More on that book later. Probably a lot later because it’s a dense sucker.
Confession: I either love my work or loathe looking at it. There’s no middle ground. I’m not supposed to tell you that sometimes I loathe my own work because it breaks the Writer’s Code of Happy Talk About Your Own Work. The theory is that if a writer loathes her own work, then why should anyone else like it? Point taken. I get that. But my feelings about my writing are tied up in my emotions, my hopes and fears for its success, my worries that no one else will like it, that my parents or children will be embarrassed, that I’m revealing too much or too little about myself in the story, that I’ve begun it in the wrong place, or a typo will slip through and people will think that I don’t know when to use its or it’s. Editing a manuscript is a particularly tender time. The words aren’t yet in quite the right order. The subplots may not be fleshed out. Characters’ eye colors are liable to fluctuate. I have to judge every word, weigh it to see if it’s just right. Often it’s not, but fortunately more often it is.
My feelings actually have little to do with the words themselves. My loathing or loving has everything to do with where I am in the process. There are sticking points, and the completion of the first draft is a big one. Bear with me because I’m going to use a newborn baby analogy: Okay. Never mind. I wrote a paragraph and had to delete it because, seriously, nobody wants to read about newborn baby poop. Not even new parents. And I must draw the line at comparing my first drafts to a pooping newborn because I can just see someone looking back at this blog and reviewing this book and saying, “Well, she actually compared it to baby poop, so should anyone be surprised that it stinks?” (It would be a pretty funny review though…)
Suffice it to say, by the time all the drafts are done, the typos excised, and the eye colors made consistent, I will be as madly, passionately in love with this book as I am with all of my books. So I’ll have no worries that you won’t be able to love it, too.
I’m not ready to share the opening of The Intruder yet, but I will share a page. It’s a suspense novel, but this is the protagonist’s (Kimber Hannon) memory of her mother, Claudia, in the mid-80s, and it mentions her father, Ike Hannon, as well.
My mother was a mystery to me in a way that my father wasn’t. She spent her afternoons speaking in hushed tones to unseen friends on the phone in her bedroom, the door cracked just enough that she could hear us if we needed her. She sat on the thick, rose-colored carpet, resting against the drop of the Laura Ashley bedspread, her head tilted back as she listened to the woman on the other end (always a woman, and I bet you can guess how I knew), her eyes focused on some invisible point, seeing but not seeing, as she gently blew her cigarette smoke at the ceiling. I wondered how long the ceiling would stay white with all that smoke, and sometimes I fancied I could see a gray cloud in the ceiling’s textured paint above the place she always sat.
I couldn’t bear to be in that room for more than a few minutes at a time, and when I did go in, I firmly anchored my toes in the carpet because the wallpaper and headboard were covered in the same finely-drawn pattern of yellow and pink and red flowers and twisted lengths of mauve ribbon as the bedspread, and the whole effect made me feel dizzy and uncertain. I might have been in some expensive department store where I didn’t belong, and not in my own house.
In those days she wore her garden everywhere, dressing in florals of cotton and linen, or occasionally loose jumpers of navy blue or pale pink, as though we lived in a land of perpetual summer and not the changeable Midwest. Though she did like sweaters when it got very cold: long, chunky wool sweaters worn over slim pants embroidered with ivy or seashells or little anchors. The sweaters might have looked sloppy on another woman who didn’t have her delicately tapered legs. She was petite, and her unchanging pixie haircut suited her childlike face. The bold makeup and shoulder pads of the period had nothing to do with my mother.
She was a precious thing that only seemed to exist for us when Ike, my father, was there. None of us would have been surprised to see her heart begin to glow through one of her pastel blouses when he walked in the door after being gone for several days. If he was away, she wilted, looking drab beside all those precise and colorful flowers on her bedroom walls.
More from The Intruder, soon. After I spiff it up some more.
What are you reading right now?
February 14th Words
Journal: 55 words
Long fiction: (Edited 1 chapter)
Short fiction: 0
Non-fiction: 0 words
Blogging: 936 words
Exercise: appointments and piano shopping today!