Orange Prize for Fiction

The Orange Prize for Fiction celebrates the literary talent of women authors who produce the best full-length novels in English that are published for the first time in the United Kingdom. This prize is also one of the few prizes to be judged exclusively by women.

This literary award is fairly young having only been formed in 1996. Winners are announced annually in June with a prize award of 30,000 pounds (equivalent to $60,345 US) and a bronze figurine affectionately called “Bessie”. This is one of my favorite awards because it’s for and by women. And even though it is a UK award, the winners are global. Long and short list nominees have come from America, Britain, Australia, and Tahiti; just to give you an idea of the diversity involved.

Choosing the best writer for the award is a three step process. First in March a long list is created and released to the public with approximately twenty potential winners, then in April a short list with six potential winners and in June the final winner is announced at an awards ceremony in the United Kingdom. In 2005 a new award was added, the Orange Award for New Writers, in honor of the Orange Prize’s 10th anniversary. This new award also has its short list announced in April and final winner in June.

Notable previous winners include Andrea Levy (Small Island), Valerie Martin (Property), Ann Patchett (Bel Canto), Carol Shields (Larry’s Party) and Zadie Smith (On Beauty). A complete winners list can be found in the Orange Prize Reading List in the related links below.

Update 2014: Orange is no longer a sponsor of this fiction prize. The new sponsor is Bailey’s. Learn more about the Bailey’s Prize from the official website.

David Gilmour

“I write crap all the time.” ~David Gilmour

That’s the comment that stood out for me when I watched David Gilmour in a interview for a Canadian television series for writers called Writer’s Confessions. For someone as successful as Gilmour to admit he writes crap really takes the pressure off those writers out there struggling to complete their first draft.

Before I knew Gilmour as a writer I knew him for his television commentary and criticism on CBC’s The Journal and his talk show Gilmour on the Arts. He has a familiar and calming voice with a warm and humorous personality attached. He has six novels published and in 2005 he won the Governor General Award for Literature for A Perfect Night to Go to China, a story about how one family is changed forever when a six year child goes missing because of the father’s negligence.

The 58 years young author, who resides in Toronto, Ontario with his wife and children, has an interesting rearing perspective not tried by many parents. His son came to him when he was 15 and explained his strong desire to quit school. And instead of having a battle about the importance of education he told his son he could take a year off as long as he committed to watching three movies a week with him. It seems like a strange method from someone who graduated from of Upper Canada College and the University of Toronto, but the son agreed to it and father and son probably have a better relationship than most parents do with their children at that age. Gilmour’s thinking was that his son was going to do it no matter what he said so he might as well try to encourage some kind of education during that time. It was such an interesting experience for both of them that Gilmour even wrote a book about it, The Film Club.

David Gilmour is just one of the many entertaining and interesting Canadian novelists worth reading.

David Gilmour’s Novels:

Back on Tuesday, 1986
How Boys See Girls, 1991
An Affair with the Moon, 1993
Lost Between Houses, 1999
Sparrow Nights, 2001
A Perfect Night to Go to China, 2005
The Film Club, 2007

This piece was originally posted on 12/16/2007 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy is the author of ten novels. Some of his works include: All the Pretty Horses (1992), The Crossing (1994), Cities of the Plain (1998), No Country for Old Men (2005), and The Road (2006). He won the National Book Award for All the Pretty Horses in 1992 and The Road was chosen this Spring by Oprah Winfrey as her 57th Book Club Pick. The novel was moderately successful before Oprah. It’s sure to be sent into all-time-favourite status because of her recommendation.

The-Road-Book-CoverThe Road is a post-apocalyptic novel about the journey of an American man and his son trying to make their way to the coast. Of course, they are fraught with misfortune, danger and their own psychological demons. It’s a story about hope, love, devastation, and survival that is still relevant for our time and to many generations of readers.

If you want more information on this private author and his history steer clear of the publisher created site which has very little to offer other than a few hard to read blurbs from reviews. The best place to visit is The Official Website of The Cormac McCarthy Society. It is a non-profit organization with a yearly membership that was founded in October 1993 by a group of “scholars and interested lay readers of McCarthy’s works”. According to their website the purpose of the society is “to further the scholarship and general appreciation of Cormac McCarthy’s writing and to facilitate the gathering of scholars and enthusiastic lay readers alike who share a common interest in Cormac McCarthy and his work.”

The society has no personal connection to Cormac McCarthy but you’ll find a wealth of information all in one spot like a full biography, reviews of his books, resources on translations, bibliographies, relevant links to other websites and special information for book collectors. There is a simple forum with current discussions about his works. A yearly journal called The Cormac McCarthy Journal which you can read online for free or receive in the mail when you purchase a membership. You don’t have to join to have access to their website but if you decide you want more, membership dues are a reasonable $35 annually.

Visit The Official Website of The Cormac McCarthy Society.

This piece was originally published 3/28/2007 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

Indu Sundaresan – Author Interview

Indu Sundaresan was born and raised in India. She came to the United States for graduate studies and has been a full-time writer for the last thirteen years. The Splendor of Silence is her third novel. She makes her home in the Seattle, Washington with her husband and daughter.

Moe: Looking back, did you choose the writing profession or did the profession choose you? When did you ‘know’ you were a writer?

Indu-SundaresanIndu Sundaresan: When I was growing up in India, writing or becoming a writer was never really considered a true profession, merely a hobby (Medicine and Engineering were job worthy degrees!). Even though I wrote a short story and sent it in to a contest when I was in college, I never considered myself a writer, or thought this was what I would want to do. I did economics for my undergraduate degree, and came to the US for graduate school–I have graduate degrees in economics and operations research. When I finished graduate school, I decided, one day, to write a novel. So I bought a computer and wrote a novel. There was no fear involved in that decision, no sense that it was a big undertaking. Then I wrote another novel. And then, I wrote my first published novel and its sequel, The Twentieth Wife and The Feast of Roses. But I suppose like most writers who trudge through masses of rejections, I only knew I was a writer when I published The Twentieth Wife. Now, of course, I know better. I was a writer all along!

Moe: What inspires you?

Indu Sundaresan: What has inspired me so far is the lives of people from the past, and the excitement and thrill of being able to imagine and recreate a world for them to live in.

Moe: Every writer has a method to their writing. On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?

Indu Sundaresan: I have no typical writing day–I suppose that is my method. Since my work typically involves a great deal of research, I spend a few months reading and making notes on what I think might find its way into my novels. And then, I will sit down to write the novel. I write at a steady stretch, with few breaks during the day and this goes on until I’m done with a first draft. I’ve sent in my work to my critique groups or to friends for comments before finishing my novels or discovering how the story comes together and always find myself struggling after that to finish because now, all of a sudden, I am back in editing mode, not a writing mode. I also do research while writing, of course–there is no way I could retain that much history and information in my head–but it’s now only to be able to write out a scene or a chapter.

Moe: How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?

Indu Sundaresan: I will edit my novel quite fast at first, until I think it is readable, and then I give it to my friends and ask them for comments, during which I go back to revise. When I get their feedback, I compare notes with what I’ve done since giving them the manuscript. Although I struggle when I get comments early on, before finishing the novel, I prefer to have editorial comments while the work is still malleable enough to be changed–that gives me fluidity with the work and allows me to see where even major changes need to be made.

Moe: When you sit down to write is any thought given to the genre or type of readers?

Indu Sundaresan: Yes, to some extent. The first write through is always just for myself, if I don’t like the voice of the novel, well, it won’t go anywhere. If I don’t like the sound of the narrative, I change it to something that is more musical–but whatever kind of animal the book turns out to be, in its very basic form, it is written to please my ear and my senses. All else, comes later in future edits.

Moe: When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?

Indu Sundaresan: I don’t plan everything in advance, but I do plan some strands of the storyline in advance, and these are usually subplots. I know they exist, I know how they play out and what will happen to a certain character, now all I need to do is weave these subplots into the main storyline. One example of this from my most recent novel, The Splendor of Silence, is what eventually happens to Kiran, Mila’s brother. The Splendor of Silence is a love story between Mila and Sam, and they are the main protagonists of the novel, but when I first began to write, their stories were still murky to me. Yet what Kiran, Mila’s older brother, has to go through, what role he was to play in Mila’s eventual decision about her love for Sam… all of this I knew before I had put down one word on paper.

I know I’m being a little obscure here about Kiran, but I do think that if I were to be more clear about his character in the novel, it would give away too much to someone who wants to read The Splendor of Silence—and when that revelation comes, it will be heartrending.

Moe: What kind of research do you do before and during a new book? Do you visit the places you write about?

Indu Sundaresan: I write a lot from memory, and I tend to set my novels in places I have already been to. So no, I don’t visit places in anticipation of writing a novel about them (in my experience that never works). I just travel to places because I am interested and while I am there, if there is a story in these old monuments and forts in India, then I will find it and make it my own. When I need to refresh my memory, there is, of course, no dearth of books I can read.

Moe: Where do your characters come from? How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters?

Indu Sundaresan: Some of my characters come entirely from my imagination–in The Twentieth Wife and The Feast of Roses, both based on the life of an actual, extremely powerful empress, Mehrunnisa existed already in historical documents. Yet, because she was a woman who lived in a harem (she was Emperor Jahangir’ twentieth wife, hence the title of the first novel) and was veiled when in public, there is very little in the documents about her true character. So much of how she is in the two novels is how I imagined her to be, given the path her life took–the early marriage to a Persian soldier, an unhappy marriage with him, his death, her marriage to Emperor Jahangir at 34 years of age, her immense power for the next 17 years in a time when women were not meant to be seen or heard.

I do put some characteristics of people I know into my characters, but they are so diffused that I doubt anyone will recognize themselves.

Moe: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If yes, what measures do you take to get past it?

Indu Sundaresan: Yes, especially if I feel the novel is not going well (which I suppose IS writer’s block). When I get to this point, I write a lot of other stuff. I will take out all my writing workbooks and do exercises, I will read and write short stories, I will work on writing something, anything, every day until I feel that I can go back to the manuscript.

Moe: What do you hope readers gain, feel or experience when they read one of your books for the first time?

Indu Sundaresan: I like immersing myself in the place and the people. When a reader picks up my work, any of the three novels, I hope she will be so engrossed that she will not be able to put the book down until it’s done, and when she does, she will not forget details for a long time.

Moe: Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?

Indu Sundaresan:
1. You are your book’s best asset.
2. There is no one else who knows your work as well as you do, and who should be able to talk about it as well as you can.
3. If you write a good book, people will talk about it and more people will read it, despite the publishing industry’s famous (or infamous?) shelf life for a book, sometimes a book will go well beyond everyone’s expectations. I’ve found this to be true, especially of The Twentieth Wife. I still hear from people who are reading the novel (it first came out in 2002), choosing it for a book club, inviting me to their book clubs and talking about my work.

Moe: What is your latest release about?

Indu Sundaresan: The Splendor of Silence is the story of a young American soldier named Sam Hawthorne, who comes to the princely state of Rudrakot in northwestern India (secretly) in search of his missing brother Mike, and while there, he falls in love with Mila Raman, the daughter of the local political agent. Mila is greatly attracted to Sam herself, but like him, she too carries secrets, and is forced eventually to decide between her love for Sam and her duty and loyalty to her father and her two brothers.

The Splendor of Silence opens twenty-one years later near Seattle, Washington, where Olivia, Sam’s and Mila’s daughter receives a trunk of treasures from India for her birthday. In that trunk, among the silk saris and the jewelry, is a thick letter from an unknown narrator which tells her the story of her parents’ love for each other–a story Olivia never heard from her father Sam.

The novel is set during four days in May of 1942 in the princely state of Rudrakot, a few years before Indian independence from British rule and amidst the chaos and upheaval of the second world war and the nationalist movement in India.

Moe: What kind of books do you like to read?

Indu Sundaresan: I read a lot of fiction, and some non-fiction.

Moe: When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

Indu Sundaresan: I garden, knit, LOVE to cook and try out new recipes. But the most fun part of my day goes in looking after my daughter!

Moe: New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?

Indu Sundaresan: Be persistent. There will be many rejections, and each time you get one, dust off your novel (or your short story, or query letter) and find another agent or magazine to send it out to. Then you can feel dejected for a while! But if your work is not out there, it will not get published. And, if it’s not very good, it will not get published–this happens to be true. So work on it until you do think it is perfect before sending it out, and then… revise again.

Moe: If you weren’t a writer what would you be?The-Splendor-of-Silence-Book-Cover

Indu Sundaresan: I don’t know… a potter, a sculptor, a painter?

Moe: What is your favourite word?

Indu Sundaresan: Imagine.

My interview with Indu Sundaresan was originally published 3/18/2007 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

Visit Indu Sundaresan’s official website.

Maureen O’Brien – Author Interview

It’s funny but I feel akin to every woman named Maureen and often relish in any success they may achieve. This one is no different. At the moment Maureen O’Brien is celebrating the successful publication of her first novel, B-mother, with Harcourt Trade. Over the last 29 years she has written a lot of short stories and poems, some of which have appeared in literary anthologies. Currently, Maureen is teaching writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of Arts with future hopes of some day writing full time. She makes her home in Connecticut with her husband and two children. I hope you enjoy getting to know this fresh author.

Moe: Looking back, did you choose the writing profession or did the profession choose you? When did you ‘know’ you were a writer?

Maureen-ObrienMaureen O’Brien: I believe it chose me. I’ve been very committed to my writing since I was in college. Writing is the way I process the world. I think I knew I was a writer when I realized I was willing to make sacrifices — like no job security and less money — in order to write.

Moe: What inspires you?

Maureen O’Brien: Listening to people talk about the truth of their lives.

Moe: Every writer has a method to their writing. On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?

Maureen O’Brien: I write every day if possible. I try to set a goal each day I write. Usually that means becoming highly focused on the reality of one particular character within one particular scene. It means sitting very still until I can be right there with them, watching and listening.

Moe: How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?

Maureen O’Brien: The novel I just published, b-mother, took me four years. I revised chapters as I went along. But my new novel I am approaching differently, writing it all the way through and then I’ll go back. It’s a very energetic piece and I want to keep that energy high from start to finish. I want a full draft before I begin the line-by-line tinkering. The tinkering is my favourite part.

Moe: When you sit down to write is any thought given to the genre or type of readers?

Maureen O’Brien: My allegiance is to the characters, first and foremost. They lead me to the genre and the readers. I write the stories that I would want to read.

Moe: When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?

Maureen O’Brien: My new novel is more plotted, but I am of the belief –like so many writers — that plot comes from character. I’ve been putting individual scenes on Index cards and then laying them out to see the possibilities of story structure, to see how I can integrate back stories.

Moe: What kind of research do you do before and during a new book? Do you visit the places you write about?

Maureen O’Brien: I love the research because you search for resonant details from your character’s point of view. I am in love with the Internet, because you so easily find obscure facts and images you need to bring verisimilitude to the story. The first part of b-mother was set in a town I know very well. The last third of the novel was set in a town I discovered while driving up the coast of Maine; scouting locations where it seemed my character Hillary would land. I knew she needed to be near a post office and I found a view that fit her perfectly.

Moe: Where do your characters come from? How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters?

Maureen O’Brien: My characters usually start out as composites of people I know (especially facial features, expressions, gestures, etc.), then morph into their own separate selves. Though in b-mother, Lola is a real person who gave me permission to use her as a character in the book. I am not a birthmother, but Hillary grew from certain aspects of my own personality, a more wounded side. I’ve given my new character Grace a lot of my own quirks, beliefs, struggles, and sensibilities.

Moe: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If yes, what measures do you take to get past it?

Maureen O’Brien: When I am resistant to writing I try to go back to the basics of timed free writes. Write as fast as I can, whatever comes to mind, for 12 minutes, that sort of thing. I also put on loud music to drown out my thoughts so I can write.

Moe: What do you hope readers gain, feel or experience when they read your book for the first time?

Maureen O’Brien: The bottom line is I want my readers to enter the story and feel satisfied by the telling of it, to enter the world of my characters, and merge with them while they read. I cried a lot when I wrote b-mother and when readers tell me they cried while reading it, it’s gratifying to know the words can create physical reactions like tears.

Moe: Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?

Maureen O’Brien: Having an agent who loves your work is essential. It’s a hard-hitting competitive business and your agent is your advocate. And even though it’s a business, I have crossed paths with passionate, intelligent women who have enriched my life — editors, my agent and her assistant, my publicist, independent bookstore owners. Also, I’ve learned that there are a lot of writers on-line who are willing to share information of publishing; people are pretty generous.

Moe: What is your latest release about?

Maureen O’Brien: My novel is about a family hit by loss, and how they heal over 25 years. My narrator first came to me ten years ago. I was crossing at a light in a group of pregnant teens from a home for unwed mothers. A man in a car at the light was gawking rudely. One of the girls with a very big belly confronted him, shouting, “You wanna take a picture?” Hillary began to form in my mind right then.

Moe: When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

Maureen O’Brien: I love yoga; I love to walk.

Moe: New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?

Maureen O’Brien: Rejection can be very hard, to the point of being debilitating. You have to be deeply defiant sometimes and just keep writing.

Moe: If you weren’t a writer what would you be?B-Mother-book-cover

Maureen O’Brien: Some job where I could be on a lot of land, with animals

Moe: What is your favourite word?

Maureen O’Brien: I’ve always thought “Shenandoah” was a beautiful word, but I’ve never seen the river.

My interview with Maureen O’Brien was originally published 2/23/2007 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

The Opening Line

Novels, on average, have about 300 pages. At 250 words a page that would make a 75,000 word novel. Regardless of the abundance of words, it’s the first few pages that determine a reader’s interest in a story and whether they will continue to follow the author’s creative world until conclusion. The opening line pulls you in, hopefully piquing your interest.

In our daily reading we don’t give much thought to the opening line. They can be short dialogue, “Brother to a Prince and fellow to a beggar if he be found worthy.” or a luxurious description, “The studio was filled with the rich odor of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.” It can offer hints of things to come, introduce an idea or sum up the whole book. Regretfully it is often overlooked as we delve in, quickly reading over the first few pages to determine the essence and worth of further reading.

Some of the best opening lines obviously come from the classics. This simple opening line in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” sums up the social politics for the characters of this era as well as laying the groundwork for many of the storylines.

I’ve often heard Charles Dicken’s opening line from A Tale of Two Cities quoted and misquoted, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” Instantly we know there is a division of time and knowledge; which later reflects on the two main characters.

Here’s a game for you: Grab a novel off your book shelf right now (maybe something you’ve recently read) and open it up to the first line. Read it. Think about what the author is trying to say? How it relates to what you’ve already read. Did the author give you a clue in the first line? What importance does this first line have to the whole novel? What if this first line never existed?

For the next book you read, instead of whisking through that first line or paragraph give it a little of your time. Read it a few times. Take in what the author is attempting to say with those few words. If first impressions make any difference then don’t ignore them. It doesn’t necessarily make or break a book but there is a reason behind why the author chose those particular words to start with out of the 75,000 possible words he or she wrote.

The Opening Line was first published 1/22/2007 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

Tom Wolfe

Who is Tom Wolfe? Not to be confused with the other novelist Thomas Wolfe (You Can’t Go Home Again). I have to admit I didn’t know much about him, other than from an episode of the Simpson’s where he’s white suit personality has been forever immortalized in reruns, until I watched an interview recently. In regard to the white suits (he’s the only man who looks good in them besides Don Johnson), he says they have been “worth their weight in gold”. I imagine so. It’s almost like company branding.

If you’re like me, having more knowledge of Woolf over Wolfe, you may be more familiar with such books-to-films as The Right Stuff (1979) and Bonfire of the Vanities (1987). Both were written by Wolfe. Tom, not Thomas.

His white suits are not his only distinguishing feature. If you were to be a fly on a wall in his office you’d see him working away at a typewriter before you were squashed for peeping on his next work in progress. Is it me or has working from a typewriter become cliché? I remember when I learned typing in the early 80s we had to use the old clangers which would certainly cause tears of pain in any carpel tunnel sufferers of today.

I-am-charlotte-simmons-book-cover-tom-wolfeThis reporter and novelist could have very well taken another turn in life. A little know fact about Wolfe was his talent and enjoyment for playing baseball, he was semi pro in Richmond Virginia where he was born. What young man wouldn’t want the fame and fortune of what the Sports Hall of Fame brings? Wolfe would have liked to have played pro rather than graduate from school but instead he’s the author in the white suit.

Do you need personality to be a writer? Tom Wolfe thinks his personality comes from his suits and while that may be the case, this notable writer who currently lives in New York with his wife and two kids can enjoy it all the way to the bank. I’m sure Tom Wolfe will be remembered for his body of work, white suit or not.

Tom Wolfe’s latest book is I Am Charlotte Simmons : A Novel. The story is about a sheltered 18 year genius from the Blue Ridge Mountains who’s accepted on scholarship to the best university in America where she hopes to “expand her mind”. She learns college really has a life and culture of its own. In Wolfe’s journalistic tradition he researched this book by visiting many colleges hoping to provide realism to this fictional story.

This piece was published 3/6/2006 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

Tom Wolfe’s official website.

Kate Braverman – Author Interview

She likes it HOT. She can take eight hours of August Tucson sun and still want more. Me, I’d be a stain on the cement within thirty minutes. Born in Philadelphia, raised in Los Angeles, Kate Braverman is currently at home in San Francisco where she cohabits with her husband. She has spent the last 40 years producing poetry, short fiction, essays and novels. Her most recent creation, “Frantic Transmissions to and from Los Angeles: An Accidental Memoir,” will be released in February. In her spare time she teaches and hosts a monthly literary talk show. Crab your tea and prepare to learn about the addiction of Kate Braverman.

Moe: Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer?

kate-braverman-authorKate Braverman: Growing up as a marginalized girl child of the secret dirty city of Los Angeles, as slippage deep within a colossus of yellow hibiscus, in a region that didn’t exist in literature, I was, in complex ways, as described in my new “Frantic Transmissions to and from Los Angeles: An Accidental Memoir” alienated and only comfortable alone and writing. I knew words were sacred and books revered. I was writing at college workshops when I was 13. I never wasn’t a writer.

Moe: Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?

Kate Braverman: You can’t choose to be a writer anymore than you can choose to be a gymnast or painter. It isn’t a choice, but an ineluctable inevitability. You can attempt to choose to be a writer, but if it doesn’t open in an act of alchemy, you will fail. There is a process where the page reveals its infinite complexity. It’s not a flat surface but three-dimensional, with an audio track, scents, seasons, an entire substrata of sound and cadence. The page is a unique kingdom, vast, mysterious and eccentrically indigenous. It’s like a dance, you do some and it does some. To have the page open itself, to shed its skin and allow you to autopsy the living and the dead is an inexplicable experience. Most writers do not have this experience, this star-hewn brassy vertigo, and their writing feels like work rather than elation and communion, discovery and revelation. Most inflict themselves on the page, without recognizing it is the embrace and caress that must occur for acts of passion and abandon, for books that matter, for blood books, built from your own molecular structure.

Moe: When did you ‘know’ you were a writer? Were you a good writer as a child? Teenager?

Kate Braverman: Particularly because I was living in Los Angeles, imprisoned by narcissism, writing seemed a pure form, inviolate, ancient, the antithesis of the conventionally perceived Los Angeles, that bitch of surface beauty and commercial pursuits, which I knew, at 10, vulgar and oppressive. I thought I could use words as a bridge or highway to cross into another world entirely. There are entire levels of knowing, it continues to evolve. Once, because one has published a poem in a national poetry magazine. Or a book, or been translated, awarded. The kinetics of reading to an audience and seeing them cry. The knowing that keeps you writing for 3 decades of solitude, in service to the word, I call that grace.

Moe: What inspires you?

Kate Braverman: I’m always at performance level with my writing. I have trained myself, on a neural level, to observe and examine the world, cities, regions, landscapes, people and circumstance as a writer. It’s not the inspiration, but the technique brought to bear on the matter. There are no great stories or locales. It is the writer’s job to take anything and make it spectacular, make it indelible. In this, I work as many painters do, landscapes, portraits, collages, still life’s. I also work on multiple aspects of a long project or sequences of shorter pieces, so there is always an area I’m working on. I learned this living with a painter, something always on the walls drying or not finished or fully realized, some reason why a brush was always required. Inspiration and motivation are entirely different issues.

Moe: Every writer has a method that works for them. Most of them vary like the wind while some seem to follow a pattern similar to other writers. On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?

Kate Braverman: Typically, I take my first cup of coffee at my desk and begin writing. I will write for 16, 18, 20 hours. There have been stretches of my life where people would leave groceries at my door, when I did not leave my house for weeks or months. I need complete immersion and unlimited acres of time and space. By my early 20’s, my apartments had two bedrooms, one for writing, a study. Sometimes it takes 8 hours to get in or 8 hours to get back where you were. I will write a piece until I’m physically too exhausted, try to leave it on life-support, hope it survives the night, and try to get it into intensive care from life support the next day or in 3 days or 3 weeks or sometimes 3 years. Some stories or parts of longer fictions are born. Mostly, they are composed, layered, though I now know all the DNA is in the initial draft. It’s just decoding it, but if you are using the blood stuff, what Lorca called the “dark sounds” then the entire novel is on the first page, like DNA and fingerprints.

Moe: How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read?

Kate Braverman: Books vary. I tend to write fast and rewrite relentlessly. That’s a real problem with finding stories in my computer. I have 20 drafts of a story with the same title because I was so certain at the time that this is the draft, I’ll never forget this one, but then I’ve got 20 of them and have to read through all of them to see which was the real one, the one that glows in the dark, the one you can know in this life and all others.

Moe: Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?

Kate Braverman: I revised when I was a young writer. Now my techniques and strategies are fully developed, so that sort of revision is no longer necessary. I push for a first draft. Once you have a first draft, technique, writing and strategy alone will finish the book. But there is the aspect of motivation.

Moe: When you have your idea and sit down to write is any thought given to the genre and type of readers you’ll have?

Kate Braverman: No, I never consider the outside world in terms of the work at hand. I have no idea what I’m writing, if it’s a short story or novel, a poem or essay. I like to make love to the mutating subtext. The alchemy of the spinning is intoxicating, the newly born fabric, the strands and possibilities. You have to interact with the materials, which move like pieces, like sculpture and collage. A blood work speaks with a multiplicity of dialects, there are many options. In fiction, it’s like the evolution of a planet, ecosystems rise and vanish, climates change, accidents. The page exerts its own Darwinian process of natural selection, but you must put your ear to the earth, the sea, rain, bells, hyenas, the passing peanut crunching crowd to hear. You must trust your instincts, you’ve honed and refined them atom by atom for this ability, but error is probable.

Moe: When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?

Kate Braverman: Plot is not a strong suit for me. No writer does it all, possesses a full repertoire of tools. Description. Style. Dialogue. Architecture. One identifies one’s strengths as a writer and uses them extravagantly, recognize weaknesses and avoid them. My gift is innovation, experimentation, accessing my emotions, my internal intellectual dialogue and language, the sound and rhythm of words. I can also write dialogue. I’m a poet who can write dialogue and I want to inhabit the page as a female. I want grandeur and elegance, danger and chaos. I can make words ignite. That’s what’s in my toolbox.

Moe: What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?

Kate Braverman: I’m a method writer, like a method actor. I do the research on myself, as if I was a lab experiment. I’m not interested in conventional research, which is a structure I don’t want, artistically. I travel a great deal, often in character. I live it, basically. I also experiment with my biochemistry. That’s another tool I’ve used throughout my writing life. I will take substances that provide clarity and stamina. A writer is always doing research, even when they’re sleeping. I sleep badly. Being a writer is like being a martial arts expert, there’s a certain stance and alertness always present.

Moe: How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters? Where do your characters come from? Where do you draw the line?

Kate Braverman: Most of my characters are composites in which at least one of my identities is present. I’ve written about my mother and daughter extensively in this composite emotional collage form. I don’t draw any lines. I’m a guerilla fighter on the barricades of the male dominion of literature and I am prepared to engage the enemy with ruthless force. I don’t take prisoners and I don’t have a Geneva Code. By the time the page has had its say, and technique transforms the ordinary into the luminescent indelible, what was real and the fiction that emerges are separate entities. Women who draw lines will find themselves painting by the numbers and filling in the outlined spaces of coloring books. That is not how to make art.

Moe: Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it and what measures do you take to get past it?

Kate Braverman: Writers block is not a problem for me, ever. It comes from being diverted from the page work by outside considerations, such as self-censoring, fear, and accepting the dictates of others, particularly the grotesque mockery they call the marketplace. The cure is to do exercises. For the first decade, I advise this as an apprenticeship, I thought I was writing, but I would have spent the years better by doing exercises. The view of your garden or street at every hour, half-hour, the sounds, scents, textures, suggestions. They are not just insinuations, but glyphs you must decipher. Take a photograph and assign yourself 15 pages on it. Collect sounds, landscapes, sketch faces with words. Take your favorite piece of music and describe it to a deaf person you love. Exercises are liberating. My current class is called “Experimental Writing: Improvisation and Related Outlaw Activities.” Writing and crime are quite similar. Women should be more comfortable with their criminality, they should celebrate it.

Moe: When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel or experience?

Kate Braverman: My students and readers have told me I gave them permission to enter their femaleness. That they have learned the entire schematics of how to be lean and tough enough to enter into mortal combat with the mutating subtext, to not be afraid they are violating family, or the rules of law and order which are different for men then women. Men are given inviolate protection. We say they cannot but etch lives of chaos; they are the embodiment of the mythic artist. The intensity of their passion absolves them. When women dare live like this, they are locked in institutions. I am very careful. I write for revolution and subversion, I dare live the mythic artist’s life as a woman. You know, Kathy Acker had to pretend to be a lesbian to get over. How long before a woman can get over as she is, authentically, whatever her sexuality.

Moe: How do you handle fan mail? What kinds of things do fans write to you about?

Kate Braverman: Now that I’ve got my web up, people I knew in junior high are coming by. My fans have generally read one of my novels, Lithium for Media or Wonders of the West, say, or a book of my short stories, and they can recite pages, it changed their life. They got divorced, went to Nepal, worked in a brothel in Budapest, got their PhDs or whatever, and they cherish this book. Their copy was either loaned to them or they loaned it to somebody. They haven’t had it in years but the memory burns. I must point out that if a book meant that much to me, I’d damn well buy another copy and if “Tall Tales From the Mekong Delta” and “Pagan Night” touched me so profoundly, I’d want to read the other books by this author. My gentle reader, if you don’t buy the books of the outlaw princess of darkness now, 25 years later (the book they said I should be put in jail for writing) I feel that bespeaks a laziness of purpose that rather surprises. In fact, when my fans write in, I personally point this out to them, explain the corporate deleting apparatus, and ask for them to do something. Post a review of one of my 11 books or 4 or 7 of my books on Amazon. On their blogs. My old students know this; I don’t ask more than I give. I encourage engaging the page as much as possible, I should save my emails, I treat them as letters, confidences, another possible mutating fiction. There is so little real critical work on me, cumulatively, it’s shocking. I know I’m being taught at Stanford, SFU, SF State, UC Davis, Riverside, Mills, St.Mary’s, Pratt, Iowa, New School and universities in MN, CO, TX, FL. I assume this is merely representative of the actual colleges where I am on the required reading list. You can’t get an MFA without reading me. And yet——

Moe: What’s your latest book about? Where did you get the idea and how did you let the idea evolve?

Kate Braverman: O, it’s a divine (as in the gates, the choir sang, free fall by starlight with Mars like a lamp, making you glow like your mother looking at Marilyn Monroe) experiment, what they call in science a quick and dirty. It’s an informed intuition you follow with an improvised protocol. It’s real history, impressionist collective cultural history, gender studies essays, still life’s, ridges of pure poetry, plateaus of stand-up comedy routines. This is less a painterly book and more sculptural.

Moe: What kind of books do you like to read?

Kate Braverman: I tend to reread the same books for decades. Current writers, Bill Vollmann. The Royal Family in particular. Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridan. Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life. Underworld by Delillo. I’ve been reading 70’s writers for an essay. Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. Didion’s novel Democracy, her White Album. Bob Stone’s Dog Soldier. Kate Moses wrote a beautiful novel about Sylvia Plath called Wintering. The Making of the Atom Bomb by Richard Rhodes is a masterpiece. Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behavior. I read Gibson’s Neuromancer every few months. Elizabeth Block’s A Gesture in Time. One reaches for a stratum of books for various research projects.

Moe: When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

Kate Braverman: I love the sun. I love Rome in August when tourists are fainting and that’s good, you can step over them, it makes the lines shorter. I like Maui and Mexico in August when it’s steaming. I can take 8 hours of August Tucson sun and want more. I like water, sailing, cruise ships, rafts. I do yoga. I’m a certified California pot smoker, so I like to come down from a day or two run of writing, of doing mortal combat with the universe and smoke and eat pot, particularly when doing my email. I find it relaxing. I do a bit of visual art, print making, graphics built around text or text as a visual element. I find it relaxing the way normal people must feel about TV. I’m in a band now so I’m listening to lots of music and rehearsing. That’s fun. I have a conceptual reality TV show, we’re so real we refuse the camera. That’s every second Monday in San Francisco; it’s called Fusion City. I’ve been playing at least 3 hours of ping-pong a day whenever it is possible.

I love being read to at night. My partner is reading the John LaCarre trilogy out loud for the 7th or 8th time. I enjoy film. Since we don’t have a disgusting toxic mind control device like a real TV, we are further encouraged to go out, musical and literary events, performance art, one man shows, a bit of dance. I collect seashells and bodies of water; I have all the oceans and many of the seas now. The Thames, Seine, Ganges, Nile, Mississippi, Danube. I love travel of all kinds. My only rule is no goats the first two weeks. I like to begin in a Four Seasons, then move to a lesser hotel, then still less and by two weeks, I’m ready to sleep on a stone floor with goats and other non-urban mammals. I tend to go native wherever I am. I hang out with my partner. We’ve been together 15 years now and when we’re in celestial alliance, we’re like a single entity. We amuse each other endlessly. We talk until our throats are hoarse.

Moe: New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?

Kate Braverman: Don’t go there, honestly. The chances of success are like winning a lottery ticket. The system is corrupt and disintegrating. Writing is a vicious profession and a life of more rigor then anyone should endure. In fact, a writer’s life is cruel and unusual punishment and it should be entirely outlawed. The Constitution does not permit this. The world does not need your shoddy mediocrity. The planet demands dedicated, life long readers. The memoir and new kid phase will burn it outside (be no longer financially attractive to the collective consensual corporate apparatus) and you will see your ambitions for celebrity will never be fulfilled. So many rush to the light, yet so few are called. Duchamp said if you’re 20 and write poetry, you’re 20. If you’re 40 and write poetry, you’re a poet. But a post-historical analysis should be undertaken.

Moe: What is your favourite word?

Kate Braverman: Prague.

Originally published 1/30/2006 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

Visit Kate Braverman’s official website.

Megan Chance – Author Interview

“A book is a bridge from a writer to a reader.” ~Megan Chance

For most of her life Megan Chance has written short stories, poetry and novels. This Washington native has written professionally over the last 14 years and has produced ten novels, most recently, An Inconvenient Wife. That’s a lot of writing for a busy wife and mother of two. With three more stories is the works I’m sure you’ll find this writer knows much about the craft and fortunately she was willing to share it with us. I hope you benefit from Megan’s words as much as I have.

Moe: Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?

Megan-Chance-AuthorMegan Chance: I don’t know there was anything in particular that helped me decide to become a writer. I know I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was about six years old. I’ve always loved writing and researching, and there was never any question in my mind it was what I was born to do. So, in a sense, the profession chose me. In high school, I had a wonderful teacher who set me up to study with a published writer once a month, and the school paid for me to attend poetry workshops, etc. in the area. I was extremely lucky, and very well supported in my writing endeavors.

Moe: What inspires you?

Megan Chance: Everything. Truly–simply living in this world is a huge inspiration. Great books, movies, television, radio, newspapers, driving, going for walks, listening to my children, talking with my husband and my friends… The world is full of inspiration. All one must do is be is open to it.

Moe: Every writer has a method that works for them. Most of them vary like the wind while some seem to follow a pattern similar to other writers. On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?

Megan Chance: A typical writing day goes something like this: I wake up at 7:45 and get my children ready for school. After I drop them off at 9:00, I either go swimming for half an hour or I go home and work out for an hour. By the time I shower and dress and take care of whatever small chores need to be done, it’s usually about 11:00. I go out to my office, which is in an outbuilding behind our house and I work until 3:15, when I go to pick up my children. After that, the rest of the day is devoted to family. If I’m on a deadline I’ll sometimes write at night or research if I need to. I try to take the weekends off but it doesn’t always work like that. I usually end up getting anywhere from 5-15 pages done in a day.

Moe: How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?

Megan Chance: It takes me a little more than a year to finish a book. This allows for 4-6 months of research, and then another 7-9 months to write the book. I pretty much revise as I go–sort of. I usually write 100 pages, give it to a friend of mine who is also a writer, who reads it, and then revise two or three times until I get it right. At 200 pages, I do it again. It isn’t until I hit about page 300 that I begin to really get a feel for what it is I’m doing, and I’ll revise again up to that point. The last 150 pages or so are usually written straight through. Then I’ll revise it again, give it to my critique partner and then do another revision. This is before I’ll let any other person except my critique partner read it. At that point, it’s usually ready to go to my critique group, and my agent and my editor, who will all suggest other changes. Once the book goes into editing, I’ll revise it at least once more pretty aggressively, and then do another line revision, where the words are cleaned up.

Moe: When you have your idea and sit down to write is any thought given to the genre and type of readers you’ll have?

Megan Chance: Oh, this is a rather tortuous question! My answer is: sort of, but not really. It’s something I’m trying to get better at. Generally, when an idea comes to me it’s pretty bare bones and I don’t really fill it out until I start doing research. At that point, all doors are open. Then you have to start figuring out which direction you’re going to go in. I write the books I want to read, and I try to force myself to think a bit in terms of marketing–who would enjoy it, what their expectations might be, etc. I should think about this more, and as I’ve gone more and more into the hardcover, mainstream fiction market, I’ve been forced to consider these things more strongly than I ever have in the past. But it’s not really during the inception of the idea when these considerations come into play–it’s more about making choices in telling the story, and being aware of what the ramifications of those choices might be marketing-wise, and then being smart. Unfortunately, I’m not always smart.

Moe: When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?

Megan Chance: It’s a little of both. I plot out the bare bones of the story in advance, but I never go into much detail. For example, I’ll know at the quarter point in the story, a particular thing is going to happen and it’s going to change everything. But I don’t know how I’m going to get there, so every page and every chapter is an adventure. Sometimes, I’ll get halfway or three quarters of the way through a book and realize what I’ve plotted isn’t going to work, because the characters have dictated a different course and I’ll re-plot.

Moe: What kind of research do you do before and during a new book? Do you visit the places you write about?

Megan Chance: Because I write historical fiction, I do a great deal of research. I generally try to stick to primary sources, and then read more scholarly studies beyond that. But diaries, newspaper articles, periodicals, journals, transcripts and other primary sources are my bread and butter. Generally, I have been to all the places I’ve set a book in–with the exception of Panama, which is where my first book was set. But the journals of the people who had experienced what my hero and heroine experienced in that story were so vivid I felt it was unnecessary to visit–and I don’t think it is necessary to visit the places where my books are set, it’s just I happened to have done so.

Moe: How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters? Where do your characters come from? Where do you draw the line?

Megan Chance: I suppose all of my characters have some bit of me in them, but I don’t think they’re very much like me in general. What’s important is I understand what they’re thinking and feeling–I don’t need to agree with it, and it’s not unusual that I don’t. Some personality traits of people I know make it into my characters, but really, my characters become complete people and personalities in themselves.

I don’t really know where my characters come from. Sometimes I’ll read a historical account about someone, and find him or her fascinating, and some aspect of that personality or their experience makes it into the character I’m writing. I certainly draw from my own life, and other people’s lives, to make my characters real. I’m a horrible eavesdropper and I live vicariously through many different people, and all of that often makes it into whatever story I’m writing.

I’m unaware of drawing any line. My characters aren’t copies of other people, and as I write them, they become more and more individual, even if I start out by using some aspect of someone real. Everything I experience, hear or see becomes part of the well from which I draw. I’ve never had someone recognize themselves in a character I wrote, and if they did, they would be mistaken.

Moe: Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it and what measures do you take to get past it?

Megan Chance: I don’t really get writer’s block. I often have days where the writing doesn’t come easily, where I despair, or where I think I can’t write. My experience is that those days come because I’ve hit some wrong note in the story, or I’ve gone in a direction that doesn’t work. Generally, if it persists, I go back and do an edit and try to find where I went wrong, and that usually fixes things.

Certainly there are some days where I feel emotionally or physically unable to write. But for the most part, writing is my escape; it’s where I go to deal with difficult days and impossible emotions. It’s my sanctuary.

I also think working every day helps. It’s hard to get back into that chair after taking a weekend off, or after taking a vacation. But I find if I can get to five pages, I can almost always go further, and so I set myself a quota: I cannot stop for the day until I get my five pages. At that point, it’s either time to quit or the book begins to hit flow. In general, I suppose, I don’t believe in writer’s block.

Moe: When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel or experience?

Megan Chance: I hope they live the life my character is living. I hope they feel the things that character feels; I hope they understand a path different from their own, and perhaps gain some understanding of the road that was laid for them to follow. I write because I have a vision of the world I want to communicate to others. A book is a bridge from a writer to a reader.

I often teach writing to my daughter’s class, I tell them what I believe: you are unique, no one sees the world as you do, and communicating what you see is why you’re here. To understand how someone else sees the world is, I think, the most valuable gift we can give each other.

Moe: Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?

Megan Chance: First and most important: publishing is a business. Editors and agents increasingly make decisions based on marketing, and not on their instincts, and it’s important to realize that even though they may love your work, they work for a company, and that company is a business which must make a profit. The days of Maxwell Perkins and other editors of his type, who would support and stay with an author regardless of their sales, because they believed in the writer’s vision, is, for the most part, gone.

Secondly, the business of writing requires incredible perseverance. The industry cycles and changes constantly–what’s hot one day won’t be the next. We’re trained to believe that publishing is above the marketing fray, but it’s mired in it, just as every other business is. Staying with it requires a nearly unshakeable belief in yourself.

Thirdly, be smart about the things you choose to write. If you have two ideas, both of which you love, and one is set in ancient Roman times and the other in Regency England, go with the idea with the most marketable setting. Don’t give them an obvious reason to reject you. Make them reject you unwillingly.

Moe: How do you handle fan mail? What kinds of things do fans write to you about?

Megan Chance: I answer it. Most of my fan mail comes through my website and I always try to answer it personally. I get a lot of historical questions–fans are often interested in knowing where my ideas come from and where I find my sources.

Moe: What’s your latest book about? Where did you get the idea and how did you let the idea evolve?

Megan Chance: I’m working on a couple different things just now: one story set among spiritualists in 19th Century New York City, one in New Orleans, and another one on the Washington Coast. We’ll see which one gains the most support.

Where do I get ideas? Everywhere. I always have ideas. I have a file folder full of them, and I have them tacked to the bulletin board in my office. When I’m researching, I’m constantly coming across interesting things I think would make a great story. I also get ideas from books, magazines and newspapers, from photographs, from movies, from radio and television, from driving down the road and wondering about a particular landmark or place or name, from dreams. Coming up with ideas is just not a problem for me. Usually, however, there are two or three that just seem to stay with me, and build in my head, and the story I decide to write next is the idea that won’t leave me alone. Sometimes I let them evolve for a long time. Susannah Morrow, for example, festered for five or six years before I decided to write it. An Inconvenient Wife, on the other hand, came from both a snippet of research I’d come across when I was working on another book, and from a dream. It seemed to come full form very quickly. So it depends. Ideas evolve as they will; I don’t seem to have much conscious control over them.

Moe: What kind of books do you like to read?

Megan Chance: I love historical fiction. Especially stuff that’s a little offbeat, dark and psychologically challenging. Historical sagas aren’t so interesting to me, but character driven books set in historical times I often find fascinating. Recently, I’ve loved everything by Sarah Waters, Joanne Harris’s Holy Fools, and Sleep, Pale Sister, Elizabeth Knox’s Billie’s Kiss, Maria McCann’s As Meat Loves Salt. I also really like some speculative fantasy, again, stuff that’s pretty dark and psychologically complex. Elizabeth Hand is an amazing author of that kind of thing. I really liked Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and the whole Harry Potter series is amazing. Tolkien is a long time favorite. The Lord of the Rings is a book I reread every year.

Moe: When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

Megan Chance: I read! Seriously, I would rather read than do almost anything else on the planet. I like movies, though I don’t get a chance to see them much. I’m not a huge television watcher, but I love Lost and Iron Chef, and I love Discovery channel documentaries, particularly on dinosaurs, space and ancient lands. I also love to cook, and I’ve recently started sewing. Though I love making things, I really don’t have the patience to make them well.

Moe: New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?

Megan Chance: Have the courage to have a vision, and don’t give into the pressure to follow a trend. Your voice is an amalgamation of everything you’ve experienced, and no one’s experienced the world quite as you have. John Jakes said: “Originality does not consist of saying what has never been said before; it consists of saying what you have to say.”

Also, stop rewriting the first 100 pages over and over again. Move on. Finish a book. You learn more from finishing a complete novel than you ever will from refinishing those pages.

Sometimes ideas and manuscripts need to be put aside, and the things learned from them applied to new ideas and new manuscripts. It’s very possible to edit the voice and passion right out of a manuscript.

Moe: If you weren’t a writer what would you be?

Megan Chance: Do you mean, what else do I have the talent to be? Because I’d love to be a painter, but I can’t draw at all. Realistically, I was in Broadcast Communications for a long time, and I would probably still be working in that field in some fashion. Or I would perhaps be a literature or history teacher.

Moe: What is your favourite word?An-Inconvenient-Wife-Book-Cover

Megan Chance: Crisp. I love the different meanings of it: crisp air, a crisp apple, crisp sheets. I love the onomatopoeia of it. I love how it feels to say it, the s and then the quick coming together of the lips on the p. It has long been my favorite word.

Originally published 1/26/2006 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

Visit Megan Chance’s official website.

Moe’s Picks for 2005

Here are some of my picks for 2005. I tried to limit myself to ten but ended up with fifteen. Happy Reading!

An Inconvenient Wife by Megan Chance

A story about a woman living in the age of the perfect wife is expected except she isn’t so perfect with her fits and addictions. Her husband takes her to a doctor to aid her woes but he has his own agenda.

Purchase from An Inconvenient Wife
Purchase from An Inconvenient Wife


A Girl like Che Guevara by Teresa de la Caridad Doval

In Havana, Cuba during 1982 high school students were required to put in time in the Tobacco fields as part of their learning and as service to the communist regime. This is the summer for sixteen year old Lourdes Torres to experience Pinar del Rio camp. She learns her dreams of being part of the young Communist League and trying to be like her hero Che Guevara, a Marxist revolutionary and Cuban guerrilla leader, are not as easy as she thought they would be. Author Q & A with Teresa Doval.

Purchase from A Girl like Che Guevara
Purchase from A Girl like Che Guevara


The Icarus Girl: A Novel by Helen Oyeyemi

The story of an eight-year-old caught between two worlds of her mixed family. When she acts up her parents send her Nigeria for a change of pace. During her time there she develops an invisible friend named Tilly who is a comfort at first but soon develops quirks which disturb everyone.

Purchase from The Icarus Girl
Purchase from The Icarus Girl


The Ice Queen: a Novel by Alice Hoffman

The story of a small-town librarian who gets struck by lightning and lives to tell about it. With her new lease on life she begins to notice things aren’t like they use to be. If she didn’t fit in before she really doesn’t now. She begins looking for other lightening survivors for companionship and perhaps knowledge and acceptance. Thought provoking novel with a different kind of magic.

Purchase from The Ice Queen
Purchase from The Ice Queen


Matches: A Novel by Alan Kaufman

The story about the emotional toll of contemporary warfare as seen through the eyes of Nathan Falk a young American member of the Israeli Defense Force. Nathan enjoys the game of roulette that is his life: Gaza at night, cheating fellow soldiers, seducing his best friend’s wife. All have consequences. This is an intimate look at betrayal, guilt, love and survival on the battlefield.

Purchase from Matches
Purchase from Matches


Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This is the 1982 Nobel Prize winner, Columbian author’s first work of fiction in ten years. It is the story of an aged journalist who commissions a virgin prostitute for a night but finds himself in a year-long obsession that brings forth a lifetime of memories of paid loveless sex. What remains to be seen is what he is going to do with this revelation.

Purchase from Memories of My Melancholy Whores
Purchase from Memories of My Melancholy Whores


Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Re-released in time for the release of the movie. It is an epic tale following the life of Sayuri, a Japanese Geisha, from childhood when she is first purchased to her unprecedented success. A unique look into 1930s Japan when slavery was an art and one blue-eyed woman’s rise to the status of goddess.

Purchase from Memoirs of a Geisha
Purchase from Memoirs of a Geisha


Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

From the author of The Remains of the Day comes the story of a secluded English boarding school. The well-schooled students are taught from an exemplary curriculum except it includes nothing about the world off campus. Kathy has spent her life growing up here but it’s only when she and her friends leave the safe grounds they realize the full truth of what Hailsham is.

Purchase from Never Let Me Go
Purchase from Never Let Me Go


On Beauty by Zadie Smith

An English scholar with three children has a midlife crisis about the time one of his son’s finds love on the other side of the globe. A book that asks a lot of questions and then forces the characters to look for the answers but it won’t drive you to tears.

Purchase from On Beauty
Purchase from On Beauty


Runaway by Alice Munro

A collection of stories about women from all walks of life and the people they love. Like the titled story about a wife who doesn’t think she has the strength and will to leave her husband or the story of Juliet and her tarnished relationships.

Purchase from Runaway
Purchase from Runaway


Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan

From the best-selling author of The Joy Luck Club and The Bonesetter’s Daughter. Eleven Americans on a voyage to Burma become separated from their designated Island Resort and end up in a jungle, lost and without their original guide. At least she isn’t with them in body. Misfortune after misfortune begets these travellers including running into a primitive tribe that has its own problems with the military.

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Purchase from Saving Fish from Drowning


Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb

Recently short listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Drawing from her own experiences from her fieldwork in Ethiopia for her Ph.D. in social anthropology Gibb has detailed a story about a young, white, Muslim woman named Lilly who falls in love with a man she works with. When their relationship is torn apart by the surrounding political and religious upheaval she searches for both understanding in the world and in herself.

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Purchase from Sweetness in the Belly


The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Amir comes from a wealthy family in Kabul. As a child he spent most of his time with a servant’s son Hassan. Many days were spent telling tales and running kites. Events occur that effect the nature of the boy’s friendship from the time they meet until the country is taken over by the Taliban.

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Purchase from The Kite Runner


The Sweet Edge by Alison Pick

It’s summer. Ellen is working in an art gallery. Her boyfriend Adam is going on a canoe trip in the Arctic. Told from both of their point-of-views. Alison takes the reader through both of their perspectives on their relationship with one another and the world around them.

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Purchase from The Sweet Edge


Veronica: A Novel by Mary Gaitskill

2005 National Book Award finalist. Alison, devastated by the life of fashion-modeling moves from Paris to New York City where she befriends Veronica an eccentric proof-reader with AIDS. The unlikely duo suffer through the hardships of illness, loss and all the other emotions attached to the people we love.

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Purchase from Veronica

This piece was originally published 12/22/2005 at BellaOnline.