… for my imaginary book club! I’m not in any real book clubs because I’m terrible at it. I only read the books I pick myself, and even when someone else’s pick sound terrific, I tend to buy the book and forget about it until the night before, at which point I read the book club questions in the back in a frenzy planning to fake it. Then at the actual club I walk in and the second thing out of my mouth is a confession that I didn’t read the book, because the book club questions make no sense to me and faking it would be futile.
This surprises absolutely no one who knows me. I will read the books in my life in the order I see fit, and if that means I’ve read two serial killer thrillers before getting to that Pulitzer Prize winner, so be it. Does anyone want to start a book club with me to discuss the books we were actually reading when we were supposed to be reading our book club books?
If I were in a book club I would want the trio of best friends from THE GLASS WIVES, Evie, Laney and Beth, to be in my club too. They are fun and funny and seem to have excellent taste in men, clothes, and especially cookies. And they are powerfully and sometimes painfully honest with one another, which would make for a lively club discussion. We would probably never get to the sanctioned back-of-the-book questions, though. Too many other things to gossip about.
Today, in honor of Deb Amy’s big launch, I’m going to suggest some ‘book club questions for the rest of us’ for THE GLASS WIVES. Sure, there are great and thought-provoking book club questions at the end of the book itself and plenty of things to chew on from the story, things that will really get your brain going. But what if you don’t want to provoke that much thought? As always, when it comes to not thinking too much, I am here for you.
To follow along, you’ll need to know the general thrust of the story, and so I give you The Jacket Copy to start us off:
Evie and Nicole Glass share a last name. They also shared a husband.
When a tragic car accident ends the life of Richard Glass, it also upends the lives of Evie and Nicole, and their children. There’s no love lost between the widow and the ex. In fact, Evie sees a silver lining in all this heartache—the chance to rid herself of Nicole once and for all. But Evie wasn’t counting on her children’s bond with their baby half-brother, and she wasn’t counting on Nicole’s desperate need to hang on to the threads of family, no matter how frayed. Strapped for cash, Evie cautiously agrees to share living expenses—and her home—with Nicole and the baby. But when Evie suspects that Nicole is determined to rearrange more than her kitchen, Evie must decide who she can trust. More than that, she must ask: what makes a family?
Or, to put it another way, there’s this woman, Evie, whose husband has recently left her for the younger and blonder Nicole, and fathered a kid with her, and then boom, had the gall to kick the bucket, leaving them all somewhat adrift, emotionally and fiscally. And Evie has these two friends, see, who help in some ways and hinder in others. And they all have to renegotiate everything they thought they knew about each other. And there are cookies.
Everyone up to speed? Great! Then I present:
Deb Kelly’s Book Club Questions for the rest of us!
(Don’t forget to comment and get your chance to win a free copy of the book… answering one of these questions gets you brownie points if not bonus points in the sweepstakes…)
1. If you could steal the life of one of the characters in THE GLASS WIVES, which would it be?
2. Does this book pair better with red or white wine? Why? And does anyone have any red or white wine?
3. What food item in the book do you most wish you had a recipe for? What food in the book would you never ever eat? Hint: there is chopped liver in the book.
4. Have you ever lived in a place like Evie’s idyllic Chicago suburb? Would you love or hate having your neighbors know your bidness?
5. Which character (dead or alive) from the book would you be happiest to drop off at a distant bus stop and never come back for? What about which real-life neighbor?
6. Which is a worse quality in a friend: being too nosy or being too secretive?
7. Which are you?
8. Could you ever befriend an ex’s new squeeze? Have you? Would you always be secretly looking for their flaws/trying to feed them fattening food, or is that just me?
9. Did anyone bring cookies to this club meeting?
10. How excited are you to read THE GLASS WIVES?
For some reason I find it impossible to avoid hyperbole in my post titles. And everything else, for that matter. Universe: please do not kill me over this cover.
Anyhoo… if we’re just meeting for the first time, I wrote this book, see, and it has THE WORLD’S MOST GORGEOUS COVER.
Here it is. If you don’t like it, you are cray. That is to say so crazy you cannot even spell crazy.
I love this cover for so many reasons, and one of them is that it is NOT what I would have chosen if I had been in charge of the process.
If I were in charge, I would have picked something brainy and quiet. There would probably be the bottom half of a girl in a vintage dress and she would be darning something, and all the colors would be muted and blah and even owning the book would be a huge downer. In fact, I actually told my editor I loved nighttime covers. Never mind that exactly two scenes in the book take place after 5pm, there are no vintage clothes, there is nothing muted about the beauty of coastal Maine, and my writing is neither brainy nor quiet. Never mind a lot of things. Ever heard of Body Dysmorphic Disorder? I have Novel Dysmorphic Disorder. I have no idea what my book looks like to the outside world.
This is why I am not an art director.
Luckily my editor did as I asked her when she first asked me for my thoughts about covers: ignored my bad ideas.
Which brings me to this amazing thing I learned when I first started out in the book business: authors really don’t have much to do with their covers. Basically, most authors get up or down votes, and, in a pinch, a veto.
At 21, in my uncomfortable shoes and ill-fitting Ann Taylor blazer, this fact blew my mind. Somehow I’d gotten the idea that authors, from the lowliest debut author with no track record to the superstar bestseller with millions of copies under her belt, basically roughed out sketches of how they wanted their covers to look, delivered them to their publisher, and the publisher Made It So.
Hahahahah, ah ha, ha ha ha… sigh.
If that were the case the bookstore would be the ugliest place in the world. Sorry fellow authors, but have you seen what you are wearing right now? Hint: IT IS PAJAMA PANTS. Here is how it really is: Sometimes authors and art directors have a meeting of the minds. Sometimes art directors think bigger than their authors, as in my case. Sometimes something gets lost in translation and cover and contents are in conflict. Sometimes–maybe usually?– there’s some aspect of all three outcomes all on one 8×5 piece of cardstock.
But cover design is a rigged game. No matter how winning, appealing, or original, I’ve yet to find a cover that every single reader loves. Not even mine. So. If I called you crazy at the beginning of this post–if you, for whatever reason, don’t like my cover, know this: it had nothing to do with me.
Lucky for us all.
We are excited to be sharing the blog with Marci Nault today. Marci is the author of THE LAKE HOUSE, available next week everywhere books are sold. She’s also the creator of 101dreamscometrue.com, an inspiring site that will have you dreaming of life lists and wondering what you might be capable of reaching for–not someday but today. Today, Marci shares a very inspiring reflection on her debut process and the powerful connection between risk-takers.
I’m honored to guest blog today on the Debutante Ball. I’m a Deb this year, and I’ve come to this site many times to read the Deb’s blogs.
In my debut novel, The Lake House, the main character, Victoria Rose, leaves behind the man she loves and her close community of friends for a bigger life at the age of nineteen. Afraid her family will never accept her choice of becoming an actress in Hollywood, she stays away until at seventy-four she comes home with tremendous regret and the desperate need to make amends.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about what happens to a woman when she chooses a different path. With all our advancement in the world women still expect certain behavior from other women.
Five years ago, my life turned upside down and instead of fighting for the man I’d planned on marrying I chose to pursue my own dreams. I made a life-list of 101 Dreams Come True that I wanted to experience; to live in Tuscany; raft the Futaleufu in Chile; go to private parties in Napa; travel the world solo; become a published author; and many more. I wanted to experience the adventures that characters had shown me through many wonderful novels.
When I chose this path many women supported me when they thought I was in my early twenties, but when I told them that I was in my mid-thirties they were confrontational. “You know no man will want you after a certain age. You’re eggs are getting older, don’t you want children? You’re going to regret this decision someday.”
My close friends and family made jokes about me never marrying and no matter how much I loved my life it always came down to the question, “So do you even have a boyfriend? You better choose a man fast or you’ll be alone forever.” These words plagued my decision to follow my journey, but they didn’t stop me.
I write this here, because it’s rather appropriate when talking about Debs. There was a time when women were presented to society in the hopes of finding a suitable husband to take care of them and their placement in life was who they married. Now, we present each other to society as artists, writers, businesswomen, and those simply taking chances.
For me, the most exciting part of being a debut novelist has been the support of other writers. Instead of clamoring for position and pushing each other down, we support one another with blogs like this one, tweets and Facebook posts, buying our writing friends’ books, and giving encouragement when needed. Everyday I picture the other female writers I’ve met all standing at the edge of a cliff wearing parachutes and holding hands. We run together towards the edge with the attitude – I jump, you jump, but no one has to jump alone.
I wonder how Victoria’s story would’ve changed if her friends had accepted her decision, known that she loved them even though she had to do her own thing. There’s a moment between Victoria and the man she left behind, Joseph, when he explains why her friends are so angry with her:
“You’ve suffered so deeply and lived fuller than anyone I know. Not one of us ever left the safety of this place. When someone lives as brightly as you, it’s hard for all of us in the shadows, because it reminds us of the dreams and chances we didn’t take. That’s where the real anger lies.”
I know other women are concerned about my happiness but do their comments also come from their own fear about what they haven’t done?
I believe that the reason female writers are so comfortable holding hands and helping one another is because we know what it means to take that risk, put ourselves out there standing a little naked before the world, and to try to live as brightly as we can.
Preorder THE LAKE HOUSE at your favorite bookseller, and don’t miss a visit to Marci’s terrific website here: http://101dreamscometrue.com/wordpress/
I have secrets. Deep dark… nah–just kidding. I can’t keep my own secrets–only other people’s. By now you have probably figured that out.
But here’s something you may not know that I can spill today: My book has a huge secret in it. It may seem like it’s about winning a dream home and the stuff inside it, or falling in love with Maine and the world outside, and it certainly has lots of cooking and eating and drinking and laughing in it, so one might think it’s about food or friendship. But while I think it’s about all those things, I somehow managed to squeeze in not just one but several secrets. I’m the sort of reader who likes big reveals when you least expect it, and the sort of writer who cannot resist them.
So I guess my secret is, I like secrets. The only thing I like more is sharing them.
Earlier today Jason Collins came out. He had a secret, and he told it, because as he said, no one else was telling theirs so… what’s a gay NBA player to do. I wept when I read his interview–it’s no secret that bravery makes me cry. Bravery, and commercials for Nicholas Sparks movies.
Collins said he was “baking in an oven” until he came out, and I have been thinking about that phrase all day. It’s so writerly and brilliant. That’s what secrets can do to you. And think of this: a secret keeper isn’t always in the oven alone. The people around them might be roasting, and not even know why. They might think that they’ve gone crazy, or they can’t trust themselves, or they can’t trust anyone. So Jason Collins got out of his oven and probably let out a few zillion other people by doing so.
You may think I bring this up just because I want to lend my voice to those congratulating Collins today. Sure, that’s why, but wait for it and I promise I’ll bring this around to our topic: As a publishing professional, I read some (a lot of) submissions where the whole of the book was based on a secret, the plot balanced delicately on the tippy-top of a secretive spire of lies and half-truths that could topple–and would–if one of the characters had had a moment of sense or integrity. Alas, a secret or a lie or a big misunderstanding, whatever you want to call it, is not enough to hold up an entire book/life. But you’ve got to hold something back for your characters to reveal over time too. And that’s a balance that can be tricky. Too many secrets and you’ve got an eye-roll. Too few and you’ve got a yawn.
As a writer, when you dream up your secrets, think about Jason Collins’ oven. Now that’s a secret. If you are going to give your characters a secret, make it a worthy one, and make it pervade every aspect of their lives. Put your characters in an oven and remember that they are hot to the touch. Remember that a secret does not make a character whole, but it can undo him. And see how, like in life, the revelation of a secret can be one’s ruin–or one’s making in the realm of greatness.
We will resume our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow or when Deb Kelly’s kid takes a d*** nap, whichever comes first.
I have gotten, and given, in my life, a metric buttload of writing advice. The only advice that works every single time, of course, is to put your bottom in a chair and write. Writers write. You know that. I know that.
I have met approximately four billion people in this world who want to be writers and don’t write.
There have been times that I am one of those people.
What insanity is this?
Why do we as humans talk about writing so much and then do so precious little writing?
Here at the Deb Ball we have a trained mental health professional on staff. Deb Kerry always has a smart solution, a new way of looking at a problem, a sympathetic ear and a level of compassion that I could never match. She knows that there are a thousand good and understandable reasons that a person might not write, even if she wants to write.
Today is not Deb Kerry’s day to post. You’re stuck with me.
I am the Jillian Michaels of writing. If I could come to your house and yell at you to write until you barf, I would come to your house and yell until you barf. “Write!” I would scream. “What are you doing with those dishes? Put down those dishes! Have you written yet? I didn’t think so. Go write!”
While you were in the shower I would knock on the bathroom door. “Are you done in there? It is time to write. You better be plotting! I am coming in there!”
At night just seconds before you fell asleep I would pop out from the closet and shout “MY GOD HOW ARE YOU SLEEPING WHEN YOU DID NOT WRITE TODAY!?!?!?” And give you a heart attack.
And you know what? I would not be the only one shouting at you all day long. If you are a writer, that shouting voice already lives in your head. She is screaming at you to write or else. She is telling you, like the brilliant Bernadette in Maria Semple’s terrific beautiful hilarious novel, that if you don’t create you will be a menace. You may only be a menace to yourself, but if you long to write and don’t, you will probably find yourself shouting all day long at yourself until you do. And yes, though I am being tongue and cheek in this post, you can and probably should work on the shouting. The shouting, ultimately, is not that helpful. But it is often easier to just do as the shouty voice says than fight your own longings every step of the way.
So get that voice out of your head the only way you can. (No, not from coming after me with a baseball bat.) Write.
It’s what writers do, after all.
Okay, I might have oversold it a bit at the title. But here’s what I’m about today: I’m shoulder-deep into a book called DARING GREATLY by Brené Brown, whom you’ve surely heard about from her lovely Ted talk about vulnerability or from your friend in Chicago who gives good book recommendations or from Oprah because am pretty sure Oprah is into this lady too. The thrust of this book is not news to anyone: To get rewards, you gotta take risks.
Alas, my summing up thusly did not save you reading 300 pages of sometimes anecdotal self-help–you still gotta read it. Or, at least, I think you do if you’re anything like me. That is to say, if you are a writer, or a mother, or a person with real human feelings and not a robot. If you don’t like rejection, and you shouldn’t, because it is freakin’ rejection, I like this book for you.
The thing is, writers have two great enemies: that weird butt spread you get from sitting too much, and rejection*. A standing desk might help for the first but for the second there is no beating it.
But maybe there are a few ways to make it less powerful.
Here’s what Ms. Brown and her book have made me think about lately: You know that thing where you get a email or a phone call or telegram from someone you’ve been waiting to hear from, and you panic and don’t open it/pick up the phone/turn on your wayback machine? I know this is not just me because I have placed a few “the calls” in my day and one time an author told me she let me go to voicemail because the New York area code on her caller ID made her vomit. That, my friends, is anticipated rejection, and we all do it before the rejection comes. We play with how it will feel and try to get super comfortable with it and sometimes we don’t even need to send out a query letter because we already know exactly what the pass letters will feel like in our minds and it is so bad that it’s not worth it.
The rejection, when it inevitably comes, does not feel as bad as all the practice. Actually, to me it feels a little better because then the bad feelings have a cause that isn’t total craziness. The practicing works in that it somewhat softens the rejection by comparison, but it is completely counterproductive in that it multiplies the amount of rejections you have to experience before any given success you might be seeking comes your way. And worse, it makes it hard to be joyful when rejection doesn’t come–because you are in the habit of seeing rejection around every corner! It must be stopped!
So here’s my authorly experiment for all y’all who are reading this and are thinking of putting something new out there in whichever form it might take. Can you dare to not practice the next rejection you might be anticipating? Can you dare to think, while you’re producing your next project or writing your next query or I don’t know, getting ready for your debut launch, that you will be a huge success? Or at least not a failure? Can you be brave enough to set yourself up to be blindsided by rejection?
I dunno, but I am trying it. I think if you can pull it off, the rejection will feel just as painful when it comes, and sometimes it will come. But there will be less of it in your life as a whole. And when you are accepted–and that will happen too, sure as the rejection–you will be practiced and ready.
*Oh yeah, and digital piracy. But I’ll think about that tomorrow. Fiddle dee dee.