Resolutions

resolution2res·o·lu·tion (r z -l sh n). n. 1. The state or quality of being resolute; firm determination. 2. A resolving to do something. 3. A course of action determined or decided 

2012 has been an incredible year for me creatively. Now that we’re at the end of it, I guess I should be thinking of resolutions for 2013, “courses of action” that I will take to make it fruitful; in other words, my resolutions. But that is only one definition of the word. Resolution also means ‘ending’ or ‘the state of being resolved’. And this year, that meaning is the one that’s most resonant for me.

I’ve resolved that I am a writer always.

I’ve resolved that I know my own voice.

And I’ve resolved that I cannot be happy unless I am writing. Those are big resolutions for me, because I’ve struggled for years to subsume the urge to write, telling myself that surely there was something more practical or purposeful I could be spending my time on. Getting another degree, maybe. I even decided to split the baby, so to speak, and get a degree in Fine Arts so I could write under the guise of furthering my education. (Never did that btw) So writing has always been fraught with internal conflict for me; but this year that conflict was resolved.

As I wrote- my books and on this blog- I met many, many interesting women who’d read what I wrote and reached out to let me know that it meant something to them. They know who they are, and in the strange way made possible by this distant, digital world, they have become friends and creative confidants. They have enriched and changed my work, and made writing not nearly as solitary a pursuit for me as it once was. They indulge my navel-gazing about my characters and help me rethink some of my preconceptions about writing. And I now know, thanks to them that I’m not a voice screaming in the wilderness with no one to hear me. I never used to think it mattered honestly, whether anyone heard me or not – I would write regardless – but to know that they do adds a richness to the joy of writing, and a fullness and care to the work I try to produce that was not there before.

Before I get all weepy and maudlin, I’ll talk about something technical: one other, more literary way of looking at resolutions. The ending of my books. I generally don’t like the HEA (happily-ever-after) ending, because I like to think of my books as dropping in on people’e lives at a moment in time with the understanding that after the last page is turned, they go on (even if only in our imaginations). If after you read something I wrote you wonder how things worked out, but still feel satisfied, then I’ve succeeded. If all you do is wonder, and you don’t feel satisfied, then I didn’t strike the balance I was going for. There’s an art to it.

And that quest for balance is actually what inspired the title of the new book I’m working on, ‘The Art of Endings’ where characters you may have met if you read ‘Secret’ struggle to reach comfortable resolutions to old issues that threaten to compromise their future. Trey tries to resolve issues around his parents’ death and the sacrifices he made as a result. And we see him try to come to terms with the potential fall-out from his playboy past while building a new life with the woman he loves. Darren tries to resolve questions of loyalty and love as he struggles with feelings for his dead best friend’s fiancée; and Shayla tries to resolve the question of who she is now, in the context of a healthy, supportive relationship, something she’s never had with a man before. So essentially, I’ll explore how in life (as in writing), we may or may not get all our questions resolved or our issues dealt with but ultimately, making our peace and feeling a sense of satisfaction with not knowing may be the goal.

That’s how I feel about 2013. I don’t know what it’ll bring . . . but I’m already satisfied.

Happy Reading and Happy New Year!

Nia

The Itch

itchy-dogOn December 22nd, I was convinced I couldn’t write another word. Not. Another. Word. I had been polishing off some edits of ‘Secret’ and my brain felt like it was about to explode. I decided that there was no rhyme or reason for the pace I was keeping. I could just stop. At least until the new year, I would stop writing and give my ideas time to marinate, grow full and robust until I was ready to work again and they would by then be brimming over with flavor and texture and dimension.

But here it is, a mere week later and I already have The Itch.

All writers get it. It’s that irrepressible urge to go to your computer, or your notepad and pen and write. You go through the motions of doing all the other things you need to do in your life: you shower, you eat, you take care of your family if you have one, you pay your bills and try to concern yourself with mundane details. But really, your mind is elsewhere. A little voice inside is begging to be listened to and it’s whispering, ‘You have to write!’ I can’t remember not hearing that voice, having that itch, feeling that urge.

And now it’s back. Fed in part by ARC reviews of my latest book, The Itch has become a full-sized rash and I woke up this morning at 4:37 a.m. staring at the ceiling, wondering whether it would be foolish to get up and visit with Trey and Shayla, Darren, Tess and Paige, characters in ‘Secret’ who clearly have more to say. I managed to get back to sleep, but now am thoroughly convinced of what I honestly knew all along.  The only way- the only way– to get rid of The Itch is to scratch it. So that’s what I’m up to. The hell with waiting until 2013.

Happy Reading!

-Nia-

Voice Part VI

Le Mariage

‘Le Mariage launched my phase of infatuation with Diane Johnson and her work about expats, a somewhat separatist culture with which I am very familiar. I still read snippets of this book and ‘Le Divorce’ (never, never, never see that movie, it was an awful adaptation) every once in awhile. The author has a wonderful eye and ear and attention for the detail that distinguishes one culture from another, and the idiosyncrasies of each. I think she’s influenced my writing tremendously because her voice is both dispassionate and intimate.

She seems to be hovering somewhat above and apart from her characters, and yet we learn very intimate things about them. We are privy to some of their thoughts but at the same time, we get the sense that we do not see everything, leaving room for the element of surprise.

I tried to do some of that in my book ‘Unsuitable Men’. We learn something about Brendan and Tracy and how they feel and see the world by getting into their heads, but there are still things that the reader learns that are not completely apparent, though hints were provided along the way. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m no Diane Johnson. At least not yet. 😉

Happy Reading.

-Nia-

Voice Part V

Story of My LifeIf you grew up in the ’80s, a lot of this book will resonate. ‘Story of My Life’ is about a disaffected, privileged young woman who lives in NYC, and has everything she needs in a material sense, but a distant relationship from her parents who substitute money for their love and attention. Throughout the book you see a young woman, left to her own devices to figure it all out, amidst parties, drugs and similarly alienated friends and family. She yearns for more but can’t say what the “more” is, because she’s never really had it. But what she does have are ample opportunities for sexual and other adventures that she describes with such distance that it breaks your heart.

It’s written in the first person, the protagonist is female, and the author – the amazing Jay McInerney – is of course male. But he wrote this young woman so well, it’s amazing. You know his work; he wrote the acclaimed ‘Brightness Falls’ and ‘Bright Lights, Big City’ which became a movie. For my money, he’s the writer whose voice, more so than any other, captures the soul of New York City and the many people who try to invent and reinvent themselves there. This book, ‘Story of My Life’ was read aloud with my college roommate over a single night. We LOVED it because NYC loomed large in our lives at the time. Both the book, and the memory of that night with my roommate (and still one of my dearest friends) are incredibly important to me. I hope you read and enjoy it.

-Nia-

Voice Part IV

ImageThe stories I like best are the ones where I feel as though what’s not being told is far more important than what is. ‘The Secret History‘ by Donna Tartt is one such book. There is a subtlety about her voice in this book that you can’t help but admire if you’re a writer because you understand how irrepressible the “urge to tell” is, if you’re a storyteller. Another thing that makes this book incredible is that it has so many characters and yet each one is very much an individual, and their relationships with each other are so complex and well-developed.

If I had to think of one word to describe the voice in this book, it would be ‘disciplined’, or perhaps ‘controlled’. It doesn’t sound complimentary, but I definitely mean it as a compliment, because I think that’s the hardest thing to develop as a writer – control and discipline in how you use your voice. Lots of reviews say the writing is overwrought, but I disagree. I think they’re just a teensy bit envious, frankly. Her choice of language seemed to me to be very deliberate given the setting and characters. And oh yeah, great plot as well. Read it.

-Nia-

Voice Part III

ImageI’ve been super-busy these last several days with my other work – you know, the non-writing job that distracts me from my true love. But I did promise to post books that I think are strong examples of unique ‘voices’ in writing. And this one, is perhaps my favorite. ‘Possessing the Secret of Joy’ by Alice Walker. If you like plain prose, this ain’t gonna be your thing. Still, I was so moved by this, and so obsessed with this book, it almost made me stop writing. I read it and was like, “Okay, I don’t know what to call the crap I’ve been producing, but it’s not writing. This (Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy) is writing.” Now I’m older and wiser so totally get that there’s room for different voices, different points of view, different ways of looking at the world. But I can’t lie, this book almost convinced me I should pack it in and concentrate on just being a lawyer.

-Nia-

NaNoWriMo #Fail

I suppose there is a very, very slender chance that I will finish my book in the next two days. And it may even be something people would want to read. But I doubt it. So I’m going to throw in the towel right now and acknowledge my NaNoWriMo fail.  Truth is, I’ve never been great about writing under duress, particularly where a timeline is involved.

I was the kid who would wait until the very last evening before the essay was due and knock it out between 10 p.m. and midnight, but only because the alternative was to get a failing grade. But maybe I’m being hard on myself by considering this a failure. I have a good number of pages that I feel good about and will probably be ready to edit within a week or so, but the specter of November 30th has had an interesting effect on my psyche – my characters are not speaking to me, they have fallen completely silent over the past couple of days. I visit them in my mind, knock on their doors, ask if they’ll come out to play and for the moment, they have rebuffed every attempt. So I’ve decided to play a little hard to get, ignore them for a day or so and hope they’ll come around.

The characters I’ve been trying to lure out to play are from my new book, ‘Secret’, Trey and Shayla. They’re a complicated pair with difficult pasts, each of them insisting to themselves and to each other that they don’t want a relationship. But sometimes what we say we don’t want is precisely what we need. Here’s an appetizer from Secret (and hopefully not the last piece of writing I’ll do this month)

Happy Reading . . . and to my fellow writers, happy (sigh) writing.

-Nia-