Friday, June 28, 2013

Writing what you don't know...

Talking about writing out of your comfort zone... An article in The Guardian talks about a U.S. writer, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who self published her series of books about a black male detective. According to Rusch, publishers wanted her books UNTIL they found out they were written by a white woman.

Here's an excerpt from the article, quoting Rusch:

"Initially, when the publishers read the book, they thought I was a black man who had participated in the Civil Rights movement and walked with Dr King. So they set up a marketing plan based (from what I can guess) on putting this imaginary Civil Rights pioneer on Oprah and talking with her about the new mystery novel. [...] When the publishers realised that I was not black, too young to be in the Civil Rights movement, and had no 'marketability' or 'platform', they withdrew the offers. The book was worth nothing to them if I couldn't tour 'with legitimacy'."

I don't know the whole story, so I don't want to say who's right or wrong here. But, personally, I don't see anything wrong with someone of one race/gender writing from the point of view of a different race/gender -- as long as the writer puts forth the best effort and does appropriate research. I've written from the p.o.v. of an elderly Chinese man before...then again, my father-in-law is Chinese! I know it won't be perfect, but then again, that's why it's fiction!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Writing waaaaay out of your comfort zone!

Just read an excellent blog post by author Hugh Ashton about writing outside of your comfort zone. Ashton was born in the UK and later moved to Japan, where he now lives. He talks in his post about not being sure of where to set his novels -- as an expat, he's no longer familiar with contemporary British life, and he worries that setting all his books in Japan will have limited appeal to international audiences.  His solution? He writes about the past, namely London in the late 19th century, when Sherlock Holmes was "alive."

To me, Ashton replaces one uncertainty with another -- I'm not comfortable writing about the past because it requires so much fact checking! But this obviously works for him. My current dilemma has to do with a murder mystery novel I'm working on. The main character is paraplegic, and I'm struggling with making her believable. I have no experience (thankfully) of spinal cord injuries, and while I know writing is about using your imagination, it's also about putting yourself in the character's shoes. I have been watching videos and reading blogs written by people with disabilities, but that has only made me more aware of how little I know! Nevertheless, I will keep plugging away. I like my main character, and I want her to get out there in the public!

I think it's extremely important for writers to move outside their comfort zones, not just to improve writing skills but to also help broaden their horizons, and their readers' horizons. Hopefully, by writing about what we DON'T know, we can bring a new perspective to the table, a new way of thinking about things. What do you think? Is it better to write what you know and not risk offending anyone with a lack of knowledge?

P.S. For more information about what it's like living with SCI (Spinal Cord Injuries), read the excellent blog

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Smut By the Sea!

Don't you just love the name of this literary festival in Scarborough, England, for erotic literature! Smut By the Sea has nothing to do with Southern lit, unless you count England as being in the Southern section of the British Isles, but I couldn't pass up such a great name!

And what about a similar festival here in the South? Yes, we're in the middle of the Bible Belt (at least, I am in North Carolina), but surely we have erotic fiction writers here, too, under assumed names. How about "Erotic by the Ocean" or similar? Any ideas??

Friday, June 7, 2013

Southern summer reads!

Hi, everyone! I've been collecting emails about new Southern novels being published, and now I have a few to share. I haven't read any of these yet, but they all look interesting!

Reader and blogger Pamela Trawick offers up an excellent review of Into The Free by Julie Cantrell:
"Into the Free conveys Depression-era Mississippi innocence along with the harshness of survival in a time of unemployment and poverty. Life is hard, Millie’s family life is harder, and still she marches on. While not duplicating Harper Lee’s Scout, Millie has enough of a Scout echo to strum heartstrings that adore Alabama’s favorite heroine."
Kansas City writer and blogger Stephen Roth reviews Camp Redemption by Raymond L. Atkins:
"It’s about a brother and sister who own a cash-strapped children’s church camp in north Georgia, and one day receive an unexpected visitor. Like a lot of fine Southern writing, this novel has charmingly eccentric characters, a strong appreciation of history, and asks some rather pointed questions about God’s involvement in everyday life. It’s also beautifully written and funny as heck."
And, if you like cozy Southern fiction, here's an overview from The Word Verve, a writing and editing consulting company, of Front Porch Lemonade by JudiLynn Taylor:
"On the front porch of one Victorian home in the small Southern town of Eubanks, six women gather to indulge themselves in some cutting up, cutting loose, and an unparalleled stream of blowing off steam. While these friends cannot stop the events that at times attempt to knock them off their charted courses, they do find a way to embrace the changes in their lives—through each other’s support, laughter, and a healthy dose of Miss Abby’s lemonade. Hold the vodka?"