When I think about the process of writing a novel, I’m reminded of Michael Angelo’s famous description of sculpting—that the figure resides within the stone, and his job is to free it. Each novel (for me) starts with an unwieldy boulder of an idea: some kind of premise, theme, character, time or place, and before I can turn it into a viable book, I must discover the story. To do this, I work to answer three key questions: what is the main conflict, who are the key characters critical to the conflict (not their names, but who they are as people, how they think and how they change), and what are the defining moments/scenes/turning points around which the drama revolves? That’s the story.
Biographical fiction presents its own unique challenge. Much like writing a memoir, when sorting through the particulars of an entire life, the trick is to find the small and large moments that, when strung together, create compelling drama. For Leaving Coy’s Hill, I started by learning as much about Lucy Stone’s life as possible, and to make sense of it, laid out the expanse of it visually. The different colors represent various angles on the material: basic facts, key life events, possible scenes, and important themes. After many an hour staring at this wall, the shape of the story emerged, a truly immersive tale of one woman’s quest to live a life of consequence and live it by her own rules. I can’t wait to share it with all of you!
So the process goes like this. I had the good fortune of listening to multiple talented actresses audition for the part by reading a 3-5 minute script– a few key scenes from the book that represented the range needed for the full novel. The talent was impressive and I sensed quickly that the book would take flight in an audio version. Only after I chose the actress I thought best suited the material did I learn that she is a healer! Of course, there are no coincidences. How perfect that someone who could closely connect with the material would be at the helm. As Joline would say, nature supports!
I then had the privilege of hearing the book unfold chapter by chapter as it was recorded. It had been a long time since I had read the book start to finish, and the spoken words put me right back in Ecuador with my three favorite imaginary friends, Tess, Ellie & Joline. I’m thrilled to announce that it is now available via Audible on Amazon http://amzn.to/2qCFv10 and through iTunes.
My thanks to Valerie Gilbert for doing a wonderful job with the book. I hope you will give it a listen & enjoy!
Only three days into my time in Otavalo, I began to understand that traditional Ecuadorians revere one thing above all else: Pachamama, or Mother Earth. They believe she holds all answers within the branches of her hands, her mountainous breasts, and her river veins. They touch her skin by walking with bare feet on her rounded back, and they show their gratitude to her constantly—tipping a water bottle toward the soil, mid-hike, mid-conversation, to offer her a sip of water before taking a drink themselves, or laying a crushed cocoa leaf on the ground for her before chewing their own.
The emotional connection many Ecuadorians have with the earth was brought to life for me when I met Mama Concha, a revered shaman who lives just outside Otavalo. A stout woman with a kind smile and a face the color of honey, she struck me immediately as the personification of Mother Earth—wise, nurturing and powerful. She moved with a slow shuffle, her white lace shirt tucked into a long gray skirt, her waistband lost under the hang of her bosom. Her eyes were wise and girlish at the same time, her embrace loving and fiercely strong. I trusted her immediately and wondered what I might learn in her presence.
I had come to the Andes hoping to gain some insight into my future… Continue to full post from Read Her Like an Open Book.
I call this post my “tribute to independent bookstores.” I have been blessed with lots of support for the launch of my book from many corners of my life. I’d like to point out the particular support of independent bookstores. For most owners of these beloved establishments where we readers are able to enjoy browsing the shelves, holding a book in our hands, and inhaling the crisp smell of those just-cracked pages… running the store is often a labor of love, something that makes a community far richer because of the camaraderie, communication and understanding that blooms around books. Running author events is an extra dose of work that doesn’t always bear fruit. I am indebted to the bookstores who have signed up to support me during my book tour, particularly my home-town bookstore, Buttonwood Books and Toys in Cohasset, MA. I’d also like to thank the following excellent establishments:
With Rich Marcello
Wellesley Books (Wellesley, MA) for the fabulous signing on Oct 25th
Willow Books (Acton, MA) for supporting the Common Stories Author Series in Harvard, MA
Broadway Books (Portland, OR) — reading on November 15th
Boulder Bookstore (Boulder, CO)– reading on November 17th
BookBar (Denver, CO)– reading on November 18th
Many thanks to you all!
My book hasn’t technically launched yet (one week from today!) but I have already been blessed with 3 wonderful events to give the book a head start. The first was a party I threw, complete with 3 of my favorite women reading the parts of Tess, Ellie and Joline. Thank you Janet, Eve and Mary for your wonderful renditions of my favorite imaginary friends! The room was full of so much love and support, it was impossible not to feel buoyed by everyone’s well-wishes. The second was a wonderful panel at Trident Books in Boston with Lisa Duffy, Michelle Hoover and Sally Cabot Gunning. The third happened just today, a panel called “Coffee with the Authors” hosted by my beloved local bookstore, Buttonwood Books, in Cohasset. It was a thrill to read beside Louise Miller (if you haven’t yet read “The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living” you must) and Ann Hood, who I have so long admired. Her latest, “The Book That Matters Most” will strike a chord with all book lovers.
The first “message in a bottle” from the Fill the Sky book blessing was found! The bottle did not have to travel far on its journey, but seems to have landed in just the right hands. Having safely crossed the currents lorded over by hundreds of seals in Chatham, the bottle made its way from South Beach to North Beach where it was picked up by Linda B. Turns out that Linda and I both spent many of our childhood afternoons on that beautiful spit of sand between the bay and the ocean. She hadn’t been back in years, and said the bottle added to the joy of her day. The note inside was written by my friend Nancy, and expressed her hope that the book will be read with an open heart and an open mind, and bestow some of the magic of Ecuador upon the reader. Amen to that!