I have interviewed 13 authors with Must Read Fiction. What a six months it has been!
Some of the conversations have been in person. We’ve met in libraries—the Mercer Island Public Library’s meeting rooms are particular favorites—and in bookstores and coworking spaces. We’ve met virtually, spanning hundreds of miles through the power of a video conference. I’ve met authors one-on-one or together with their spouse (a married couple with their debut books releasing the same month!).
Each interview has sparkled with possibility and curiosity and a deep love of words. Elise Hooper talked about the research for her novel, The Other Alcott, and how she initially thought she’d write about Louisa, but May was the sister that drew her in. Husband and wife writers Michael Shou-Yung Shum and Jaclyn Watterson talked about their mutual love for the vintage word “pinchbelly” and how the word found its way into their writing. Jessica Strawser, novelist and editor-at-large for Writer’s Digest, provided highlights from some of her interviews with great contemporary writers (she’s interviewed David Sedaris, Stephen King, and Alice Walker, among many others). I’m so grateful for each conversation and so delighted to be able to share them.
Devin Murphy sat down with me earlier this month to talk about his novel, The Boat Runner, a story of a young Dutch man coming of age during World War II. We also talked about his years of research for the story, his time spent working at sea, and how he uses storytelling as a father to three young children.
Before I ever started writing, I was a reader. I love fiction. I love how it makes me feel connected – to myself, to others, to the world. I love how it allows me escape from my skin, how I can be present in the mind and bodies of others. I love how I carry those ideas with me in my daily life, how a scene from a novel will help provide clarity to moments in my day.
So I started Must Read Fiction, a community of readers who also live life with fiction. A novel makes everything better.
It’s December. It’s cold outside, the ground has seen its first covering of sparkling snow, and sunset seems to be getting closer and closer to 4pm. It’s hibernation season. It’s also the season where I find myself looking back on the year that’s passed and to looking forward to what’s coming next.
This past year saw me happily revising the novel that I wrote as part of National Novel Writing Month last November. While the revision process has been slow, hindered by an interstate move and adjusting to my first year at a new job, it has been steady.
Slow but steady saw me to the completion of the second draft of the novel in July. It was a day worth celebrating in many respects. I was in Mt. Vernon, Oregon, enjoying a writer’s retreat with three other women who have been writing colleagues of mine for almost ten years. We worked consistently for three days together, 45 minutes on, 15 minutes off. And 45 minutes at a time, in what was a culmination of seven months of work, I finished the second draft.
Since July, I’ve been finally doing the task I put off as long as possible – intensive research. Parts of fiction are invented, yes, but stories are grounded in the real world. Nothing throws me out of a narrative faster than when a “good” swimmer shows up in a novel, but he can’t break a minute in the 100-yard freestyle. Novelists must get the details right. Their credibility depends on it.
I’m taking the time to get the details right. I’ve read more nonfiction than I prefer, I’m overdue to give a donation to Wikipedia, and my friends who are doctors and teachers and veterinarians are probably very sick of talking to me about my very random questions. (Don’t worry, friends, your place is secure in my acknowledgements page.) The result of four months of research? This week I finally jumped in to the third draft of the novel.
So far so good! The first week in the third draft feels energized and solid and full of potential. I’m looking forward to seeing how far this will go in 2017.