Monday, June 16, 2014

blog hop!

There's a fun exercise hopping around lit blogs and I've been tagged to participate. It's called a blog hop and the idea is to answer seven particular questions about your novel and then tag two writers to do the same thing a week down the line. 

My tagger was the lovely literary-force-to-be-reckoned-with, Laura Stanfill. I can't say enough about Laura. I've been privy to the pages of her novel in progress, which she writes about in her blog hop post, and it's lush, nuanced, quirky, funny, gorgeous writing. She is also the publisher of Forest Avenue Press - with remarkable editing and design chops, great taste, and amazing energy and drive. I seriously don't know how she does it and am overjoyed to have been able to attach myself to her coattails and enjoy the ride as I design book covers for her lovely books.

Here's Laura's post about her novel The Serinette.

And here are my answers to the same questions, about my novel in progress.

What is the name of your character? Is s/he fictional or a historic person?

The name of my narrator (a totally fictional character but, of course, with a lot of me in her) is Emmie Matzo. She's named after my favorite film noir movie star, Lizabeth Scott, whose real name was Emma Matzo.

Actually, all of the characters in the book are named after Lizabeth Scott in some way - many of them from the film Too Late for Tears. For instance, Emmie's best friend's name is Lizabeth. Her two guy friends (much of the story revolves around the odd and dysfunctional relationship of four former high school buddies) are Danny and Fuller, named after the film's male lead Danny Fuller (played by Dan Duryea, my other favorite film noir movie star). That's him there on the poster, smacking her around.

My book has nothing to do with anything remotely film noir. It was just a thing I decided to do, to stick something I love into the book in a kind of weird, roundabout way. It's actually very convenient. Whenever I need a name I jump on IMDB and scan the cast list for Too Late for Tears or one of her other movies, find a name that works, and then I can keep writing.

When and where is the story set?

Most of the story takes place in Portland, Oregon, in present day, and there's a small chunk that happens in Los Angeles. There's also a short interlude set in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Which, OK, is where Lizabeth Scott was born. I'm a little obsessed.

What should we know about him/her?

Lizabeth Scott? Well, she was this fabulous... Oh, you mean my narrator.

Emmie is a liar. We all are, of course, and that fact is part of what my book is about, but Emmie is a big time liar.* She'll tell you this is because of her mother, who was / is a flighty narcissist who rarely paid any attention to her until Emmie got used to saying anything she could in order to get Mom's attention. And then again, she'll tell you this is because of her father, who was a liar himself, and good at it. And then again, she'll tell you this is because lying is part of a person's right to privacy. And then again, she'll tell you this is because she likes people to be happy, and isn't it better to go through life thinking that vegan pumpkin cheesecake you baked for the party was delicious?

But the real reason Emmie lies is that she's desperate for human connection. And desperate to find one person, in all the crazy people she knows, who will like her for something other than what they can get out of her.

She somehow hasn't figured out yet that lying and telling people exactly what they want to hear all the time is not the way to attract the kind of friend who's going to like you for something other than what they can get out of you.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

Conflict comes when Emmie decides to try to grow up and get honest. Being honest when you've lied all your life is very difficult. Trying to remember not to reflexively lie. Trying not to hurt people with the truth. Trying to navigate between the lies you decide to tell and the lies you hope to bury. But things can get dangerous when one of those people you've lied to for years in order to gain friendship, someone who has always wanted more out of you than you wanted to give, holds a grudge - and knows all the secrets you're not ready to tell.

What is the personal goal of the character?

Of course, I got ahead of myself and already answered this one, but let's see. Other personal goals. To get a job so she can move out of crazy Lizabeth's crazy house, which she moved into when she returned to Portland after that bad thing she doesn't like to talk about. To reconcile with her dad. To master the fight scene (including being dragged off stage kicking and screaming) that she somehow has to be able to perform since she let Fuller talk her into being a super (which is to say, an extra) for the opera.

What is the title of this novel, and can we read more about it?

I have no title yet, and there's no place to read more about it. It's a novel in progress, so I don't know much more than what's going to happen next.

When can we expect the book to be published? [Or: When was the book published?]

I'd say I knew, but I'd be lying.


Now to tag two writers who will pick up the blog hop where I left off. In one week, they will answer these same questions on their own blogs.

Estela Bernal's debut novel for middle readers has just been published by Piñata Books, an imprint of Arte Público Press, which is the oldest publisher of contemporary and recovered literature by Hispanic American authors, and part of the University of Houston. I recently designed the cover for Can You See Me Now. Kirkus had this to say about it: "Bernal has succeeded in crafting a story that acknowledges tragedy without wallowing in it, placing her emphasis on resilience and personal growth. The quick pace and distinctive characters make for a smooth, well-crafted read. Middle-grade readers should respond to this tender story of learning to connect with others through open eyes and an open heart."

I wrote about the process of designing that cover here. You can learn more about Estela here.

Holly Goodman has written more different kinds of things than anyone I know. She's been a reporter and a blogger, has written fiction and personal essays. Even a number of fantastic how-to books, including a book on home plumbing that is not only informative but also quite fascinating. I mean it. Her amazing, recently-gone-viral essay on poverty, struggle and beauty is up on Nailed Magazine here. She's also writing a beautiful novel and I asked her to write about it for blog hop.

Holly's blog is here.

OK, I lied. I have three people to tag. But my third, Adam Strong, jumped in ahead of me and did his blog hop yesterday. Adam is a school teacher and father of two young daughters. I have no idea now he finds the time to work on his great novel-in-progress Bella Vista. Adam and I study together in Portland's Dangerous Writers fiction workshop. We have a phrase in Dangerous Writing: to burn the language or burnt tongue. This is when you mess with language to come up with something particular, a voice that will set your writing, and your narrator, apart. It has been said about Adam that his tongue is so burnt, it's ashes.

Adam's blog - and his blog hop post about Bella Vista, is here.

*Even though Emmie is, I'm sure Lizabeth Scott is not a liar.

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