Long time readers know The Greenists is one of my favorite blogs. It’s informational without being preachy. It’s written by real live people who can laugh at themselves.
The Greenists is the brain child of Allie Larkin. She was writing her own blog Allie’s Answers (now defunct) about greening her home and her life. She often blogged about Argo and his antics and I rejoiced when she brought home Stella (then called Luna) for Argo to have a friend. I love her dogs from afar and appreciate her desire to green up their lives too.
Allie and I became blog-friends. We mail stuff back and forth to each other the old fashioned way. I sent her some dish cloths I knitted and she sent me some books. One of those books is Stay. It’s her first published novel.
Stay will be in stores this week.
A few weeks ago she asked me to read and write about it and, of course being the good blog-friend I am, I said “yes!” immediately. I got an early copy of the book with a hand written note for Allie. I already pre-ordered my copy a few months back at Gibson’s Book Store in Concord when she first announced she was to be published. I told her I would donate the copy I ordered from Gibson’s to my local library since I already paid for it. Due to budget cuts, my town library has not been able to buy any books this year so they’ll appreciate a brand new hard cover! Allie liked the idea of me donating Stay.
Those of you who know me know fiction isn’t my favorite genre. Don’t get me wrong, I *always* like the book when I finished reading it but I don’t gravitate toward fiction like most people I know. Wolf says “if it isn’t dry and boring you won’t like it.” Fiction isn’t dry and boring — well, it should be anyways. Fiction to me is always a quick read and I want to be able to savor the book. So, instead of sitting down and reading Stay in one sitting, I deliberately strung it out over a couple days so I could think about the book when I wasn’t reading it. It wasn’t easy believe me! Not only is Allie is my blog-friend — so I wanted to just barrel right through — but it’s really, really good. I paced myself however, and it was worth it. Honestly, I think I liked Stay more than I would’ve if I read it in one or two sittings because I took my time reading it.
Stay taught me a couple things: Rochester gets more rain than Seattle and neighbors are a pain in the butt no matter where you live. But it also taught me that a fiction is always worth reading. Especially when you blog-know the author.
I liked the undercurrent of class differences in the book. I loved Louis and want someone like him in my life. I want a sexy vet in my life (ok, I have one now. I tried getting my friend Melissa to take my cat to the vet but she, in her shyness, declined. Now I can look at the vet without feeling like I’m oogling a friend’s lover) and my own aunt who comes to my emotional rescue. And of course Joe, the star of the book, is just that: the star. His doggie charm comes through loud and clear. There’s nothing I wanted more than to hug and hold Athena but she was already at her new home.
All in all Allie wrote a fantastic tail (pun intended) that I highly recommend to everyone.
Here’s the blog interview I did with her. I deliberately thought up questions that had nothing to do with Stay itself because I figured others bloggers would ask her Stay specific questions.
I always wonder is how one writes fiction. I tend to avoid reading fiction because fiction is just that: fiction. I don’t think fictionally so I don’t understand how anyone else does. But every now and again I delve into the make believe and I usually enjoy what I read. So tell me, are these characters speaking through you? Do they take over your body and use your hands to write? Or are they speaking into your ear, more like third person instead of first as I alluded to in my second question?
I’ve always been a daydreamer, and I think writing is an extension of that. The characters aren’t speaking through me. I know they aren’t real, and I’m still me when I’m writing, but thinking about my characters does occupy quite a bit of my head. Because I have ADD, I tend to think a lot of different things all at once. When I’m working on an idea, it’s almost like I’ve opened up a new file in my head that stays open and collects information. I think about my characters while I’m doing other things. In that way, I’m almost always working, and everything I do is an opportunity to develop my characters. As I go about my day or run errands, I think about how my character would react in the same situation, or how their situation would be different. It’s not that I’m not in the moment, it’s just that there are stories incubating at the same time.
When I sit down to write, everything builds on itself. Because I’ve spent so much time with the characters bouncing around in my brain, I have a pretty full “file.” If I’ve already decided that a character isn’t a big fan of the color pink, I also know that she won’t be overjoyed by someone giving her a pink sweater for her birthday. Then I can think about how she’d react to the gift, and that will tell me even more about her. I don’t hear voices. There aren’t imaginary people telling me to write things. But if I’ve given myself enough time to figure out my characters, I have a good idea of how they will or won’t react to certain things. It’s similar to the way that you may already have an idea of what Wolf’s reaction would be to having Brussels sprouts for dinner, or what a co-worker would say when she stubbed her toe. You’re not channeling those people, you’ve just learned enough about them to make assumptions about future behavior. The difference in the fiction process is, of course, that my characters are assumptions formed off of other sets of assumptions. They start at a small point of inspiration, and snowball from there. I suppose I can see how some people might see that experience as some sort of channeling, but for me, it not. It’s a thought process. It’s like putting together a puzzle in a slightly more abstract sense.
Imagine if you will this scenario: you’re writing a book. You take a break and go to the tea shop to sit down for a nice cup of chamomile ginger lavender tea. You’re sitting there sipping away, looking out the window when you see someone you know. You don’t know her well, she’s a friend of a friend. She sees you and says hello and asks what you’ve been up to lately. You tell her you’re writing a book. She says “really! That’s awesome. Am I in it?” You look at her surprised. Now tell me how you feel about her question. How would you answer her? Would you write her in? Would she recognize herself if she read the book later?
I really and truly write fiction. Joe, the dog in STAY, was based on my dog, Argo, but Joe is still different from Argo. But aside from Joe, none of the characters in STAY are based on anyone I know, or even resemble anyone I know. I wouldn’t want to write someone into a story like that. It would be limiting. I’d have to adhere to a set of truths that were imposed on the story through the inclusion of that person as a character. Or I’d have to figure out how I would handle changing those truths to fit the story. And I’m sure I’d be worrying about how she’d feel about the version of herself I’d created, which would be self-editing at the wrong stage in the process. Of course, that’s a lot to explain to someone in the course of small talk, so I’m sure I would just laugh and say, “It doesn’t really work that way for me, but I’m sure you’d make a great character!” which would work in earnest, or with a hint of sarcasm, depending on the specifics of the situation.