Tuesday, May 13, 2014

When You Have a New Favorite Author

As you lovely people know, I've been reading a lot--but I've also been writing quite a bit. I'm still in the middle of "part two," so no updates on that front, but I found myself at an instance where I was thinking about what I'd been reading in relation to the way my novel is structured.

If that makes any sense, lol.


Basically, I read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford in February. For context, it's a historical fiction taking place in Seattle during World War II. In 1986, Henry Lee sees a crowd outside the Panama Hotel and comes to find that the hotel's new owner has discovered the belongings of several Japanese families in the basement--families who lived in Seattle's old Japantown and had to stow their things quickly before they were taken from their homes and interned during WWII.

In 1941, after Pearl Harbor, Henry was 12 years old, wearing an "I Am Chinese" button so white kids won't mistake him for being Japanese. Henry attends an all-white private school, where he meets Keiko Okabe, a Japanese-American girl. The two become close friends, going on adventures, sharing secrets, and falling in love in an innocent way. And then Keiko and her family are forced into internment.

I bawled reading Hotel. I put Jamie Ford's second novel, Songs of Willow Frost, on my to-read list and went on my merry reading/writing way. I started reading Songs of Willow Frost recently--I bought it during the We Need Diverse Books Campaign buy day--and then before I knew it, I was googling Jamie Ford, reading interviews and looking up YouTube videos of the talks he's given.

I think that's how you know you have a new favorite author to add to your list of favorite authors.

But here's the thing: Both Hotel and Songs are historical fiction; I haven't finished Songs yet, but the history there is history I didn't know about. They are about diverse, multicultural, fictional characters. The writing itself is gorgeous, but it doesn't make want to quit reading the book out of total jealousy (I did that to Cold Mountain--the prose was so poetic it made me sick because I don't think my natural writing style is that literary). And though the writing and plotting have space to roam a little and breathe in that way that literary fiction has, the books zip along  and are, I think, pretty tightly written.

It made me think about my story--namely in that I think there are a few too many characters just hanging around. When I finish part two, I'll go back and tighten what needs to be tightened. In the outline, I think I tied up loose ends and actually tried to plot, because those were things that I knew--and my beta picked up on--in the last draft.

I'm not comparing my book to either of Jamie Ford's, but I guess at the same time I'm reading them and enjoying them, I'm also studying them a little. Why does that work? How can I economize my story like that? How can I build up to something like that?

4 comments:

  1. I think this is exactly what should do when you find a new awesome author: read more and ponder what makes you love it so much. ^_^ I was that way with Kathryn Lasky. Get writing is so beautiful. I so want to write like that. It's awe-inspiring. ^_^

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    1. But in a healthy way--not in a "this is so beautiful, I'm never going to write like this, I don't even want to read it anymore" kind of way. I was trying to figure out why the scene I'm currently in the middle of is dragging along and I think I figured out a solution.

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  2. Oh, I know how you feel! When I'm reading a great book, I'm 1/2 jealous and 1/2 student. I envy the way the author created something so amazing, but I'm also absorbing what they did right.

    It's so nice to meet a fellow Jamie Ford fan!

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    1. Hi Julie! I'm glad I've retained the ability to read normally, considering that we writers are always studying what we read to an extent. I had such a connection to Hotel. I can't wait for the next book! The premise sounds so interesting.

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