While reading Eve Karlin’s historical fiction novel CITY OF LIARS AND THIEVES, which is published by Alibi, I was struck by Eve’s powerful use of imagery that made me feel like I was living in 18th century Lower Manhattan. The street names were familiar: Spring Street, Bowery Lane, Greenwich Street, Chambers Street, Wall Street. But the detailed description of the boats bobbing along the New York harbor, the gritty and packed city blocks, and the sounds of a growing working-class invoked the spirit of a different era. Eve shares the real-life murder mystery that inspired her to write CITY OF LIARS AND THIEVES and the questions she encountered during her research that led to her novel.
I did not set out to write a historical novel. Six years ago, while reading a biography on Alexander Hamilton, I came across a reference to a story that reached out and shook me.
In December 1799, a young woman named Elma Sands vanished on the snowy streets of Manhattan. Twelve days later, her corpse was found floating in an abandoned well, and her lover, Levi Weeks, was arrested for murder. The brutal slaying of a beautiful girl rocked the city—as similar crimes do today—but it was the trial that made the case truly sensational: Levi was defended by Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr four years before their infamous duel. Continue reading →
When you have writer’s block, is it okay to read instead of write?
I liked what Book Country members had to say in response to Molly‘s recent post on the “How do you break out of writer’s block?” thread. Atthys Gage reassured Molly that reading “cannot help but make you a better writer,” and Carl E. Reed expanded the list of acceptable procrastination techniques to include “cooking, physical exercise, dreaming . . . Everything is grist for the mill when you’re a writer.”
Bibliotherapists Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin definitely endorse reading as a cure–and not just for writer’s block. THE NOVEL CURE is their compendium of books-as-cures for all manner of ailments: low self-esteem, unemployment, and, of course, writer’s block. The authors recommend I CAPTURE THE CASTLE (by Dodie Smith) for ridding yourself of writer’s block. Here’s why they chose it:
The remedy for writer’s block inflicted upon the novelist father in I CAPTURE THE CASTLE is nothing short of genius. But–darn it–to tell it would be to give away one of the plot twists in the unutterably charming novel. Mortmain, as he is known by his second wife, Topaz, achieved great critical success with an experimental novel called Jacob Wrestling. But he has not been able to put pen to paper since an unfortunately incident involving a next-door neighbor who foolishly intervened when Mortmain brandished a cake knife at his first wife while they were having tea in the garden. He ended up spending three months behind bars, writer’s block set in, and the family has been penniless ever since.
Wayne Norris is a writer from Oklahoma who’s fascinated with history’s mysteries, and has recently joined the Book Country workshop. We wanted to welcome him to the fold and chat with him about his young adult book, JESSE, which asks the question, “What if Jesse James didn’t die at the hands of Robert Ford?”
NG: Let’s start from the beginning: How did you become a writer?
WN: It’s a strange, round-about story. I used to be a Correctional Officer, mainly transporting inmates from local jails. I spent a lot of time on the road, so I had plenty of opportunities to think about things. Eventually, a story would pop into my head and, on my off hours, I’d type it on my computer. This became the basis of my first book. Once that was published, I was so proud of myself, I had to start another; hence, JESSE was born.
Ian Nathaniel Cohen is a Book Country writer, and has a number of writing projects of different genres in various states of progress, ranging from historical adventure fiction to fantasy to mysteries. His first complete manuscript is The Brotherhood of the Black Flag, which he’s currently shopping to agents.
NG: How did you find your calling as a writer?
IC: Writing is something that I’ve always liked doing, and I’ve always had story ideas floating around in my head. I started writing fanfiction in college, using it to practice writing stories in various genres – romantic comedy, adventure, drama, and so on. Also, as a Radio/Television major, I was better at conceptualizing and the writing aspects than any technical production aspect. Then at some point after college, particularly when I was job hunting, I decided I’d take the various ideas I had for stories and have a real go at turning them into novels.
NG: You’re a history buff: you read and write historical fiction. What is it about “history” that wakens the muse in you?
IC: History is full of intrigues, triumphs, tragedies, and adventures that many people aren’t aware ever happened that are just as exciting as any work of fiction, if not more so. It’s interesting as a writer to spotlight less mainstream historical eras or events, and use them as the basis for adventure fiction. I also hope that a reader might find a less familiar historical setting more unique.
Oh, and it’s easier to work swordfights into historical fiction than a contemporary setting.
Amy Brill is a New York City native whose first book, a historical fiction novel published by Riverhead, came out in April. THE MOVEMENT OF STARS is the story of a female astronomer in 1845 Nantucket and the unusual man who understands her dreams. Amy’s writing has also been published in Salon, Guernica, and Time Out New York.
I met her at an industry event. She was incredibly sweet and game for the following impromptu interview.
NG: Thanks for being such a trooper and taking time to chat with me!! How did you become a writer?
AB: I became a writer through reading, which I think is probably true for a lot of writers.
I was a very early reader, and my Mom took me to the library pretty much constantly as a child. I just devoured books: there’s something magical about disappearing in the world of the story. I grew up in a very busy, very active neighborhood in Queens, and I think that something about having this incredible world that was completely mine was very appealing to me. I started writing at a very young age. I think I wrote my first “novel” when I was in fifth grade.
I feel a responsibility to tell the truth as I experience it. –Shannon LC Cate.
Shannon LC Cate
We’re happy to welcome Book Country writer Shannon LC Cate to the blog. Shannon’s debut novel, Jack, is forthcoming from Musa Publishing in September 2013. She’s also been writing about family, parenting, politics and religion since 2000. We sat down to talk about Book Country, the writing process, and getting published.
Nevena: Congratulations on selling Jack to Musa Publishing! Can you take me through the publishing deal?
Shannon: I had submitted Jack to a handful of literary agents. (I workshopped my query here at Book Country.) Three requested the manuscript in full and one of those wanted a revise and resubmit. I did the revision but still got a final “no thanks.”