Ask A Wench – December

Christmas WWR
Susanna here, with this month’s Ask-A-Wench post, in which our question is—appropriately enough for the season—“What Christmas stories have you been reading lately?"

Every year I settle in with my holiday comfort reads—Dinah Dean’s The Cockermouth Mail, and the paperback novelization of The Gift of Love (a wonderfully sappy romantic TV movie from the 1970s based on O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi) and, if I’m not in the middle of writing a book myself, Rosamunde Pilcher’s Winter Solstice. This year, I added a book I’d bought last year and saved as a treat—Happy Christmas, by Daphne du Maurier.

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Susanna’s TBR

Susanna here, and once again, I didn’t have anything to contribute to this month’s What We’re Reading post. That’s because I’m deep in the middle of writing a book, and I don’t read much fiction at all when I’m writing—partly because I’m so buried in nonfiction research reading I don’t have a lot of free time left, and partly because I learned long ago that, if a writer has a strongly individual storytelling voice, it will start to creep into and influence mine if I read while I’m working.

Case in point: way, way back in the day, when we were on our honeymoon (which was actually also a research trip for my novel Season of Storms only he didn’t entirely know about that), my husband brought along a copy of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath to read on the train. I wasn’t actively writing the novel then, but I did have my ever-present notebook with me, in which I jot down things that I observe and lines of dialogue and bits of scenes. I started thumbing through the Steinbeck, too.

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The Boy Inside The Man

Boy inside man
Susanna here.

Eight years ago, when I was writing The Firebird, I did something I’d never done in a novel before.

Firebird_finalOne of my readers, Lee Ann Ray, had written to me asking whether Robbie McMorran—an eight year old boy in The Shadowy Horses—would ever get his own story. At the time, I’d thought to myself, “But he’s only eight (or, as he would have corrected me, eight and three quarters)—too young for a book of his own.” Then I realized that he had been eight and three quarters way back when I’d written that book in the mid-1990s, which meant that in 2011 he would have been in his mid-twenties—and even older by the time I wrote a new book and it actually got published.

The more I thought about it, the more I could see how Robbie’s gift of second sight could work to bridge the past and present in the story threads that were developing for what would be The Firebird.

So I gave him a try as the modern day hero of that book.

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A Memorable Read


Susanna here. I’m in a different time zone this weekend, on the west coast of Canada at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference—the highlight of my writing year.

This has been a busy day—I’ve moderated a panel session on world building, taught another on mining your own life for story ideas, coached some other writers through blue pencil sessions, and am now having a short break before tonight’s dinner and this evening’s “Shock Theatre” radio-play-style entertainment, in which I’ve been given a
speaking part.

This will, then, of necessity, be a shorter post.

But I’ve been thinking of something all day, and I thought it might be a good discussion topic here.

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