We’re happy to have Valerie Emmerich on the Book Country blog! Valerie is currently workshopping a literary fiction novel titled ROOM TO SPARE, which was a December Editor’s Pick. Valerie shares how she developed the idea for ROOM TO SPARE and advice for fleshing out characters.
Janet Umenta: Growing up, what books inspired you?
Valerie Emmerich: I don’t think I can point to one book or books that specifically inspired me. I’ve always just loved to read and write. There were lots of books around our house, and I practically inhaled them. I loved Dickens and I remember being enthralled by THE TRAVELS OF MARCO POLO, THE DIARY OF ANN FRANK, THE GOOD EARTH, and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, all quite different books. As I got older I ventured into the “grownup” books on the living room shelves and remember reading MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR (yes! A Jewish girl from the Bronx!) and IN COLD BLOOD. That may have set me up for my proclivity for reading contemporary literary fiction in my adult life. Continue reading →
My recent interview with Barbara Rogan about her superb literary mystery A Dangerous Fiction got me thinking about one of my favorite genre-blending novels ever, Gone Girl.
Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is the story of a woman’s mysterious disappearance. It’s also the gut-wrenching exploration of her and her husband’s marriage. I relished every word, although it did make me glance at my partner suspiciously for about a week…
Like me, most people loved the book but many were frustrated with the ending. I thought the ending was perfect, but this ambivalence got me thinking: most readers either love or hate how the book ends. Why the extremity?
Then it dawned on me: genre conventions! Readers who consider Gone Girl a thriller are bound to be disappointed, as it violates one of the genre’s most fundamental precepts—a straightforward ending in which the good guy or gal wins. In Gone Girl, there is no Robert Langdon to save the Vatican.
The truth is that Gone Girl is kind of hard to categorize. The compound adjectives we save for thriller novels apply: the book is fast-paced, hair-raising, heart-pounding. The two main characters give us diverging interpretations of the unfolding story, to the point where we’re confounded and can’t trust either. They cast blame on each other, constantly withholding snippets of the truth from us. Reading the book becomes an exercise in finding who they really are. It gets harder and harder to sympathize with either of them.