Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors by Sarah Stodola

I've always had a connection to the written word. It isn't to language itself - I can be quite inarticulate when speaking - put a pen in my hand and words just flow. I'd love to get paid to write, to have others read the novel, still in its shitty first draft phase, on my shelf, but like so many of the writers profiled here, life's distractions currently take precedence. Luckily, I can nerd out with my favorite authors by reading their books and going behind the curtain of their individual writing process in this great book.

Thinking of myself as a 'literary nerd,' this book gave me a key opportunity to 'nerd out.' Stodola profiles so many great authors here, focusing on how they started writing, what their process is like, and what an average day looks like for them. It's an amazing relief to see that the struggle for excellence is real no matter how accomplished you already are. It's reassuring to know that great work happens even if you're only able to write 200 words a day, if it takes you years to finish that masterpiece. This is no right way to write.

This book is the perfect piece of non-fiction for any novel-lovers book list. It's fun, interesting, and encouraging (if you have dreams of writing.) I might finish my first novel some day and figure out what my own writing process actually is, or I might throw it out and start something new when I finally get some extra time. Either way, I know, in my heart, I'm already a writer.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

I'm pretty sure I first read this trilogy in college, before everyone was writing about witches and magic and demons. Rick already had her iconic vampires, but those books weren't for me. I wanted a little magic. What Rice delivers is more about abilities than magic with spells and potions - practical magic. Rice makes it all feel real. It's what has kept these books on my favorite list for so long, and why I'm excited to finally have time to reread them.

The Witching Hour chronicles the history of The Mayfair Witches, a family who begins manipulating magic early in their genealogy to bring forth Lasher, an immortal being that's almost like a ghost demon. In each generation, one witch is chosen (the legacy,) and Lasher aligns himself to them bringing them riches, love, and protection. Unfortunately, the majority of these "chosen" witches die young and tragically (and so do most of the men they fall in love with.)

Before being called to the family, Lasher is unaware of humanity, unconnected to the physical world and not a threat. Once linked to people, he changes. Emotions and desires corrupt his spirit in a way that motivates him toward a single goal regardless of consequences. Through the generations of the Mayfair Family, he pushes his own agenda as he seemingly loves and supports his human companions. Throughout the generations, Lasher leaves behind a manipulated trail of inbreeding, rape, and murder all to create the "perfect" witch to aid in his own plan. He's such a seductive character that his true intentions aren't quickly figured out.

When Rowan Mayfair is born, Lasher's work is essentially complete. She's the "perfect" witch. She's powerful, passionate, and intense. You're not sure if she'll actually help Lasher or defeat him. She ultimately stands as a very tragic figure beside the seductive Lasher through her roller-coaster journey in the story.

Rice is an intense writer, there's no doubt about that. It's that element that initially drew me to her writing way back in college, but every read of a book is different. This time around, I felt more. I got into the heart of the book rather than getting tripped up on the action itself. The story definitely withstands the time test and still feels relevant and even a little more cerebral than a lot of what's coming out today in the same genre. You'll have to settle in for a long read if you're ready to pick this one up. At over 1,000 pages of very dense narrative, it does take a while to get through the book, but it's an enjoyable ride that doesn't lag.