Craig and I read our books to each other. Usually at night, in bed, before we turn out the lights.
Dare I say, there are few things more romantic or intimate.
This is not an act of hubris—it’s not like this takes place every night, like some sort of pat-yourself-on-the-back-ritual. What I mean is that rather than showing each other our works in progress, near completion, in manuscript form, we wait until the finished product: a book we can hold and touch and smell. And then one of us proceeds to read to the other, usually a chapter or two per night. When it gets really good, we beg for another.
The most recent was Craig’s novel, Julep Street, which launches today.
Throughout my life, I had given considerable thought to the qualities I wanted to attract in a love relationship. I’d write them in lists—some detailed, some general—and more often than not, three items appeared in each one: funny; best friend; same profession.
I can’t tell you how many people frowned upon that last one, back when I was foolish enough to share such things. “You don’t want that,” they’d say. (A lot of people took it upon themselves to tell me what I didn’t want. Every last one of them was wrong.) Mind you, a potential lover or spouse with a different career wasn’t necessarily a deal-breaker; but I instinctively knew that it meant something to me, although I never could put my finger on what.
Sometimes it still astounds me how Craig ticked off just about every item on those lists, especially the top three. And I was right about the shared profession. We are able to do what we love without being in direct competition with one another. We are able to talk about and listen to each other’s workdays without the conversation being obligatory. We support each other. We serve as sounding boards for each other. We contribute complementary talents. We know where the other person is coming from.
I still can’t tell you why that’s so important to me, but I can tell you that as a partner and spouse, I feel more at home with Craig than I have with anyone else I have ever dated. And it’s not that I sought sameness; on the contrary, our writing styles vary, our process and approach varies, and sometimes even our opinions about the publishing business vary. But at night, when the book is open, and I am hearing him read the words he wrote, tell the story he crafted, I fall in love all over again. And he with me when the words and voice and story are mine.
David O. asks: I love books, read all the time, but I’ve never reread a book. Even if I absolutely loved it. Have you ever reread any books and how did it differ the second or third time if you have done it?
Elisa answers: This is a great question. I am a creature of habit, so there are certain books and/or authors I’ll repeatedly read. I read all of Judy Blume’s books over and over when I was a kid, and have reread a few of them as adults and still love them. My sister read S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders in school, and loved it so much that she read it to my twin brother and me; I, in turn, loved and read it incessantly throughout my adolescence. There were books I slogged through in junior high and high school--Animal Farm, A Christmas Carol, for example—that I reread in my thirties with a much deeper understanding and appreciation (A Christmas Carol is a yearly tradition now, especially to pass the time when I'm traveling). I’ve read Richard Russo’s Straight Man a couple of times and laugh just as much.
And the more I reread Nora Ephron’s Heartburn, the more I am fascinated by just how good it is. I didn’t have that appreciation for it the first time.
I read John Taylor’s In the Pleasure Groove once and then listened to it on audiobook. (I mean, come on—who wouldn’t want to be read to by John Taylor?) And I loved my husband’s The Fallow Season of Hugo Hunter so much I read that one twice in a span of months—once when he sent me an advanced copy for me to offer an endorsement (this was well before we got involved; I think it’s still on the Amazon product page, but it’s lost its value completely) and again when the book launched. I read it again the following year. It’s still my favorite of his books, which kind of surprises me. I’m sure if I reread it now, it will take on even more meaning since it’s set in Billings and I know the city so well now.
There’s also Stephen King’s On Writing, which I occasionally reread just as a refresher or battery charger for my own writing.
But to specifically answer your question, the second or third reading experience varies with each book. As I mentioned, sometimes I develop a deeper appreciation for the writing or the story, or notice something about a character I hadn’t previously. Sometimes the entertainment factor is exactly as enjoyable, like watching a favorite movie or TV series repeatedly. I can’t recall any book I’ve reread where I thought, That wasn’t as good as I remembered.
Books I would like to reread in the near future:
Steve Healy’s How I Became a Famous Novelist
Richard Russo’s Straight Man (yes, again)
Karen Booth’s Bring Me Back
Marien Keyes’ The Other Side of the Story
And, believe it or not, one of my own books--Adulation. That one has been on my mind lately for some reason. The problem with rereading my own books is that I constantly find something I wish I'd worded better.
But I have such a long To Be Read list that I’m not sure I’ll get to any of them any time soon. (So many books, so little time…) It’s a good problem to have.
Have you reread a book? If so, tell me about it in the Comments!
The new craze in blogging right now is what's called a blog hop--one blogger answers a set of questions, then tags several other bloggers to answer the same questions, who then tags more, and so on. It's not unlike the current questionnaire I've been seeing on Facebook in which one person answers a set of questions about a given year, and then tags people in the post to respond and post.
Last week I was tagged by two different authors-- Alice Osborn, North Carolina poet and teacher, and Craig Lancaster, author of 600 Hours of Edward and more. The questionnaire was about works in progress; but given that I'm superstitious and don't like to talk about my works in progress, I chose to write about Adulation instead, especially given that we're just coming out of Oscar season, and the Kindle edition is on sale right now.
To continue the blog hop, I'll be both tagging writers as well as featuring them here all week. Please scroll to the bottom to learn more about these terrific authors and their equally terrific books.
Q: What is the title of your latest book?
A: My most recent title is called Adulation, published in November 2012. (The Kindle edition is currently on sale for $1.99 during the entire month of March.)
Q: Where did the idea come from for the book?
A: I had wanted to write a novel about a fan who meets her longtime idol ever since I saw the original lineup of Duran Duran perform in 2005. In 2010, I had the pleasure of meeting Aaron Sorkin following a Q&A at an advanced screening of The Social Network in Durham, North Carolina. I had interacted with Sorkin on numerous occasions via a Facebook discussion forum prior, but it occurred to me at the moment he shook my hand that had we met under other circumstances—a coffeeshop, a university lecture, through friends, etcetera—and he wasn’t “Aaron Sorkin, famous award-winning screenwriter,” this was a guy I would give my phone number to, perhaps even ask out on the spot.
The what-if was born that night: what if a fan and her idol meet and it turns out they’re more than just compatible, but meant for each other? Can it work out, or has fame and fortune gotten in the way?
Q: What genre does your book fall under?
A: I market is as commercial women's fiction.
Q: What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
A: Oooh, I always get stumped on this question! Lately I’ve been thinking Ben Affleck would make a good Danny Masters, especially if he grew his hair out the way he did for Argo. I think I’d want someone relatively unknown to play Sunny Smith. And Jim Parsons has to play Georgie Spencer.
Q: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A: When attention-craving, celebrity screenwriter Danny Masters meets spotlight-avoiding, bookstore employee Sunny Smith, both must make a decision to give up the things they want to hold on to most to be together, or whether they can.
Q: Is your book self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m currently under contract with Amazon Publishers, and I love working with them.
Q: How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
A: I wrote about half of the novel during NaNoWriMo 2010; I wrote the rest during winter, spring, and summer breaks from teaching, 2011.
Q: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
A: Not a book, but the Nor Ephron film Sleepless in Seattle, Tracie Banister’s novel Blame it on the Fame, and Jennifer Weiner’s The Next Best Thing. Readers of Christopher Herz’s Hollywood Forever might also like Adulation, although the story is rather different.
Q: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
A: See my above story regarding Aaron Sorkin! Although I want to make clear that Danny Masters is not based on Sorkin—at most, he’s had what I call “a Sorkinesque career.” Any similarities after that are coincidental.
Q: What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
The story is told in alternating POVs. Danny Masters is written in third person, and Sunny Smith is written in first person. The alternating POV enhances the dynamic of the story, and shows the parallels of Danny’s and Sunny’s lives so that even though they’re living on opposite ends of the country, they’re somehow rather close to one another.
When you find yourself feeling lazy or ‘blocked’, how do you force yourself to get past it?
Curl up in a fetal position on the couch and watch re-runs of The Mentalist…
Seriously, I either freewrite (mostly about how bad the writing is, although eventually I can psych my way past it) or put the work down temporarily and read or watch something else. Despite the fact that I’m a novelist, I find myself inspired by a lot of screenwriting. If whatever I’ve picked up is really good, it inspires me to get back to my own writing.
COMING THIS WEEK
Tuesday, March 5:
HEATHER GRACE STEWART is a Canadian author, journalist and speaker. Her most recent works are a book of poetry, stories and photography called Three Spaces and a screenplay for Kindle, Kobo, ibooks and more, called The Friends I've Never Met. She speaks at universities about the new world of e-publishing and following your passion.
Wednesday, March 6:
KRISTEN TSETSI is the author of Pretty Much True, which earned a mention on NPR. You can learn more about her here.
Thursday, March 7:
MICHAEL TINKER PEARCE and LINDA PEARCE are a husband-and-wife writing team from Seattle, WA. Michael is a knife and sword maker and Linda was an IT professional and project manager for over twenty years. You can read more about them here. Their first full-length novel is Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman.
Saturday, March 10:
NICOLE McLERNON writes because there are stories in her head that have to come out. Nicole is still venturing into the world of publishing although she has written two NaNoWriMo novels. Her favorite things to write are drabbles which are short stories of exactly 100 words. She lives, writes, and works as a nurse in Massachusetts. Her post will appear on her blog Soul Conversations. Please do check it out!
I'm an author of commercial women's fiction and a writing instructor. My claim to fame: I can say the alphabet backwards.