Archive for December, 2005

History Beneath the Surface

Since starting THE NOVEL I’ve happened (stumbled?) across other authors’ novels with similar themes or characters as those I’ve been living with since July. Without talking the thing to death, I’m sure the subjects I’m dealing with (family history, raising small children in a small town while running a small business, fear of lakes, children’s book illustration) are pretty much universal, but for one reason or another I’m drawn to books with story lines very much like mine: Richard Russo’s Empire Falls, Alan Zweibel’s The Other Schulman, and to a lesser degree, Ingrid Hill’s Ursula, Under. They’re all really excellent books written by gifted writers, so it’s no wonder I find them (or they find me); I know many writers and subscribe to at least a few bookish newsletters, but these kinds of books just seem to keep popping up. It’s especially odd when (in the case of Russo and Zweibel) I encounter a character’s behavior or mannerism, or a setting that is nearly identical to something I’ve already written — I don’t want to be derivative. Sure, I’m pleased that my writing runs parallel to these talented working writers (at least my subject matter — style and craftsmanship couldn’t touch theirs without vast amounts of blood- and tear-shedding), but sometimes these coincidences just floor me.

Anyway, I started reading Ursula, Under, (Algonquin doesn’t publish crap) and who do I see on the Acknowledgments page? (Yes, I always read this page after the first chapter and I don’t know why.) Marly Youmans. Jeez, you sure get around, M. (See her fantastical website, The Palace at 2 a.m., linked at the top of my page.)

And check out what Ingrid Hill says about parenting and writing:

“Parenting takes perseverance: so does writing. Parenting demands creativity: so does writing. Parenting pays back great emotional and spiritual rewards—and also gives us grief. So does writing. Both are manifestations of the great spirit of life itself.” A mother of twelve should know. Check out her interview on Bookslut: http://www.bookslut.com/features/2005_07_005950.php

What I really mean is that I’m subconsciously trying to validate my writing by seeking out books with similar themes — See, these novelists have written the same things I’m attempting, so I must be on the right track!

Here I am blogging (at which I suck) when I should be doing the novular thing.


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