Archive for the 'Novels' Category

Bestselling Welsh Author Ken Follett, whose latest novel, The Evening and the Morning (Viking), is a prequel to his popular book The Pillars of the Earth.

In our interview, Ken Follett mentioned that during the dark ages, the Anglo Saxons ignored the Romans’ brick houses and built wooden huts right next door. “It was a backward time." Also, and not the biggest news story of the month, but I just learned that Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin wanted to build a castle in his Santa Fe historic district backyard, and the city has emphatically said that he may not. The project would have exceeded height limit zoning regulations and, though this wasn’t probably stated in the city’s findings, was just been too weird. Anyway, this week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a construction controversy. Frame it, as they say, as you like. But have fun. See where it takes you. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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American Novelist Bobbie Ann Mason, whose new novel is Dear Ann (Harper). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Bobbie Ann Mason, who exchanges prompts with her “flash-fiction co-writer buddy Meg Pokrass.” They send each other lists of interesting words with a challenge to use at least some of them in a story. 

One of their lists was: leaky, clawfoot, waddle, bonk, ribs, peace, rapier, feather pillow, steam, sherry, geraniums, skimp, booth, rabbit’s foot, diner, vitality, jet-lag, quivery, Lady Astor, punchline, kettle, bitter coffee, flub.

Bobbie wrote a flash fiction called Corn-Dog based on one of Meg’s lists, using most of these words: corn-dog, frozen, carnival, necks, Animal Planet, parcel, shorts, crisp, weed, note, thrill, stucco, cravings, wispy, unmarried, fat, laryngitis.

This week, Bobbie Ann Mason suggests that you open up a few novels from your shelf. Flip through the books and find interesting words. List a dozen or two. Then pick a word and start a story. Where does it lead you? To another word on the list? Then what? She admits that this exercise can lead into the absurd, but it’s great fun, and you might discover where you are going.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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David Goodwillie, whose new novel is Kings County (Avid Reader Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by David Goodwillie. Have a character go for a walk in a city, along a country lane, or in really any place. How would that character see the world? Have the person see it in a different way than you, the author, would. David points out that all too often, we try to give characters our own traits, rather than wholly letting them be their own people. If you’re having trouble building a character, this exercise in setting and perspective can really help. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont Author Stephen P. Kiernan, whose latest novel is Universe of Two (William Morrow). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by Stephen P. Kiernan. Conjure a very specific setting - not just location, but time of day, weather, and other factors that leave no doubt in any reader’s mind where that place is and what it is like.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Tiffany McDaniel, whose new novel Betty (Knopf) is based on the life of her mother. 

In my interview with Tiffany, we talked about bringing deeper meaning to detail. In Tiffany’s case, she brings deeper meaning to the corn and corn silk, that show up throughout the book. Corn is in the characters' lives as food and as a crop. But also, corn is a part of Betty’s father’s Cherokee-inspired story about Betty and her sisters. As such, corn comes to represent more than it initially seems as the story unfolds. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to bring deeper meaning into a detail that has already appeared in your work. Don’t force anything, but work with a detail that is already in the work and might mean something more. Use it to enrich what you’re trying to bring to the page.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Diane Cook, author of The New Wilderness (Harper), which has been long listed for the Booker Prize. 

As I mentioned early in today’s show, when I interviewed Diane Cook, her infant son could be heard in the early part of the hour. Then he went to be with his dad and his voice was no longer heard on the recording. But it got me thinking: children fill our world, but are sometimes absent from our settings. Why is that? Do they make too much noise? Would the chaos keep your scene from working smoothly? (Kind of like life?) The world is full of children, yet it sometimes seems like I see way more dogs than children in the books I read. So this week’s Write the Book Prompt is to put a baby, toddler, or child in a scene. This doesn’t necessarily mean introducing a new character. But maybe your narrator is at a coffee shop. Is there a cherubic baby in a car seat by his mom’s side at another table? Is a young child acting up? Is a teenager sitting with a friend, in ardent conversation? Keep children in mind as you build your poetic and fictional worlds.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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English author Lucie Britsch, whose debut novel is Sad Janet (Riverhead Books).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was mentioned by my guest, Lucie Britsch, during our conversation. It’s always good to take a step back and remember why you are writing something. Take a day off, take a week even. When you come back, you’ll likely rediscover the energy that was part of why you began, the enthusiasm around what you’d set out to do. The break, and that rediscovery of intention, will help you move forward with your work. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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An interview from the archives with the author Alex Grecian, who writes a fictional series about the Scotland Yard's Murder Squad, as well as stand-alones, like his 2018 The Saint of Wolves and Butchers (Putnam). 

 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to wear a mask, for the sake of your community and your loved ones. And write about the joy of this horror show ending thanks to the united efforts of responsible citizens, which all of us are, deep deep down inside. Says me. Sorry, I got political. But who can even believe this level of mild, patriotic self-sacrifice has become political? 

 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont Author Ann Dávila Cardinal, whose latest supernatural YA thriller  is Category Five (Tor Teen). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Ann Dávila Cardinal. She says that it’s not a prompt, exactly, but an exercise in encouragement:

Get three smallish pieces of paper. 

1) On the first one, write down your short term writing goals, say for the next week. Even day by day. It can be to write 1,000 words, or finish a chapter of revision, or journal everyday for a week. 

2) On the second, write down your goal for the year. Send out a certain number of submissions, finish a full draft, pull together a poetry chapbook. Whatever that looks like for you.

3) And finally, on the third, write down your long term writing goals. To be a published writer, to teach writing, to publish a book a year or every other year, to build a writing life. 

Put the first one somewhere you will see it every day. When the week is over, look at it, and access how you did. Adjust your goals for next week accordingly. The second one, put it away somewhere nearby, but not in immediate sight. Somewhere you will find it over the next year and be reminded, a jewelry box, in a book you look at a couple of times a year, in the tool box. For the third one, Ann recommends doing what Dr. Tererai Trent suggests in her book The Awakened Woman, and "plant your dreams." Either in a garden or a pot you then use for a plant, or even a park. Visit the place you planted your dreams as often as you need to, but trust that you are creating "intentional rootedness." If this is too "woo woo" for you, says Ann, don't worry about planting it, write down your three levels of goals and work towards them. Period. The point is, build that writing life your way.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Author and NY Times "Dark Matters" Columnist Danielle Trussoni, whose new novel is The Ancestor (William Morrow).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Danielle Trussoni, who also suggested it in a recent workshop. In a discussion of dialogue and character, Danielle suggested that her students have one of their characters, perhaps an elusive character who's hard to pin down, write an autobiographical letter of introduction to the student, to the author. Danielle says this can be a helpful way to find the voice of the character and learn more about who that person is.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Evan Fallenberg, author of The Parting Gift, which came out last week in paperback (Other Press). 

In a review of The Parting Gift, the Jerusalem Post called the book “Intoxicating…Fallenberg is a fearless writer; particularly on the vulnerability and rawness of desire. His crisp taut sentences compel us to keep reading.” This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about vulnerability, either in your own life or in that of a character. Perhaps this has to do with exposure, the telling of secret. Perhaps it’s about actual physical danger. What is at stake? As you work, keep in mind the appreciation of Evan’s crisp taut sentences. Play around with concision in your own writing as you work to convey vulnerability. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Debut Author Alka Joshi, whose novel The Henna Artist (MIRA) has been chosen by Reese Witherspoon as the next Hello Sunshine book selection.

Alka Joshi generously offered us a Write the Book Prompt for today’s show. Think about a real person you know, and reinvent their life. What if their life had taken a very different turn? What if they’d done something completely different? What if they had married someone different, or lived in a different place, or escaped a certain set of circumstances, what would have happened, and who would they have been? 

Good luck with your work in the coming week and please tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion. 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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International bestselling mystery and crime writer Jeffrey Deaver, whose new novel is The Goodbye Man (Putnam).

Jeffrey Deaver mentioned during our interview that, when the time comes to finish his research and begin putting words on the page, he likes to write in the dark. This week, as a Write the Book Prompt, try writing in the dark. See if the words come more easily to you this way, as they do for him. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont Author Julia Alvarez on her new novel, Afterlife (Algonquin). 

This week I have two Write the Book Prompts to offer, both generously suggested by my guest, Julia Alvarez. First, a prompt she learned about when she was researching titles for her book. In considering the title Afterlife, she researched, as authors do, to be sure her book’s title was original and unique. As she did this work, she found out about another book titled Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, by the neuroscientist David Eagleman. The book offers forty short, imaginative narratives on the theme of God and the afterlife. Julia says the pieces are sometimes funny, sometimes not, but they are all clever and inspiring. She suggests a writing prompt in which we write such a piece: a 2-3 page vignette that imagines what happens when we leave this life.

The second prompt Julia suggests is to write a six-word story or bio. Hemingway famously penned this one: For sale: baby shoes, never worn. Julia was once asked to contribute to a book titled NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure, edited by Smith Magazine. As Julia points out, it can be hard to do! If you like, you can narrow it down to what your life is like in this particular year. Either way, here is a six-word prompt for you, from Julia Alvarez:  Write your story in six words. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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A conversation with the author Rufi Thorpe, whose new novel is The Knockout Queen (Knopf).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Rufi Thorpe, who finds that it can be helpful to have one of your characters suddenly become “really psychic” about another character. If you are writing from a single point of view, but you’d like to get into someone else’s head, you can actually move around quite a bit in terms of summarizing and telling. For example, your POV character might say, “I knew she was thinking about the dance and the boy she’d never gotten to dance with.” And then segway into the story of the dance, allowing yourself access into the other character’s mind, thanks to the clairvoyance, or at least gut feelings, of your narrator. So this week’s prompt is to take a character (either a new character or one that you've already been writing something about), put them in a scene with somebody else, and have them start rendering their perception of the scene and the other person's consciousness at the same time. Play around with letting them be psychic.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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An interview with Alma Katsu, whose latest is The Deep (Putnam).

For this episode's Write the Book Prompt, I'd like to reiterate Alma Katsu's advice about research. Narrow your focus before delving in too deeply. Keep it manageable, for you and your readers.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Rob Harrell, cartoonist and author - most recently - of Wink, a novel for middle graders (Dial).

Rob Harrell generously offered a Write the Book Prompt for today’s show. He created this one for kids. Come up with an unlikely super hero, and come up with their origin story, their powers, and what their costume looks like. Try to make it an unlikely super hero, like a BatPig. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please tune in each week for more prompts and great conversations about books and writing.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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An interview with Laurette Folk, author of the new novel The End of Aphrodite (Bordighera).

Here, you can find The Compassion Anthology, the journal that Laurette edits.

During our interview, Laurette Folk mentioned working after meditation as a way to engage her creativity. Specifically, after having a particularly vivid dream, she plays Tibetan bowl audio and meditates, in an effort to recapture the dream. Laurette says the bowl vibration is said to change how our consciousness works, drawing people into a deeper state. After that, she goes to her workspace and writes. This is the Writing Prompt that she suggests.

Good luck with your work in the coming week and please tune in next time for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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An interview with the author Phyllis Barber, whose new novel is The Desert Between Us (University of Nevada Press).

Phyllis Barber kindly suggested a Write the Book Prompt for us. Go to your writing desk first thing in the morning, when your mind is fresh and not bogged down with tasks and duties. Doing this, writing first thing, from the lip of your mind - writing fast and not editing yourself - can be so useful. Set down whatever idea comes without worrying if you’ll be able to use it. Just have fun. Let your morning brain liberate your creativity.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion. 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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An interview with Sharon Cameron, author most recently of The Light in Hidden Places (Scholastic Books).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Sharon Cameron, who finds the availability of online oral histories fascinating and invaluable as she works. She suggested, as an exercise, finding oral histories--immigrant stories, personal experiences from wars, and interviews--on youtube or in university collections, among other places. Listen and, if you’re lucky, watch these oral histories and create a story out of what you learn. Overlay your own creativity atop these stories. She warns that this is simply a good exercise, and it’s important to choose the right stories to tell, if you plan to take them public. Use this exercise to stretch your writing muscle. Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Just in time for Saint Patrick's Day! A conversation with the very Irish (American) Kathryn Guare, author of Deceptive Cadence, the first of the Conor McBride series of international suspense novels. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to think about where you’d most like to be quarantined, and write about what would meet your expectations as you spent time in that place, and what might defy them.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, stay well, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music: Aaron Shapiro

 

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An interview with Megan Angelo, author of the debut novel Followers (Graydon House). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Megan Angelo. She thought of it in response to a feeling of regret around the lack of spontaneity in her life at a certain point. It has, in time, become a helpful writing tool for her. Go somewhere today, like the pharmacy or the DMV or a diner that does not play loud music. Do not look at your phone the entire time. And either see what kind of conversation you might get into with someone else who isn’t buried in a phone, or eavesdrop on a conversation. If you absolutely have to take notes because the conversation gets away from you, you may. But don’t use your phone for anything else than note taking while you conduct the exercise. Megan says that this has paid off enormous dividends whenever she has done it. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Author Amy Bonnaffons, whose debut novel is The Regrets (Little Brown).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to head over to the site Amy Bonnaffons co-founded, 7x7.la, and browse for inspiration. Offering "interdisciplinary collaboration, each 7×7 invites one visual artist and one writer to engage in a two-week creative conversation." Lots to enjoy, and surely lots of inspiration for new work there as well. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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A conversation with the author Kathleen Donohoe, whose latest is Ghosts of the Missing (Mariner), a novel that follows the mysterious disappearance of a twelve-year-old girl during a town parade.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Kathleen Donohoe. Open a favorite poetry collection to a random page, write the first line of the poem you see there, and let that be the starting point for your writing session. Kathleen finds that, even if that first line can't stay ultimately, this can be an excellent way into new work. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Cynthia Newberry Martin, whose debut novel is Tidal Flats (Bonhomie Press).

This week I’m going to suggest two Write the Book Prompts, both of which were part of my interview with Cynthia.

  • First, think of black and white passions for your characters and write in that direction. See if you uncover something new and interesting that might stay black and white, or might become more layered and complex. See where it takes you.
  • The second prompt was suggested during the interview by Cynthia, who loves sentences. Turn to a random page in a piece that you are working on and study the sentences you find on that page. Where are the boring ones? What can you get rid of? Do away with anything unnecessary. So many first-draft sentences are boring or unnecessary. After that, try to make the remaining sentences more interesting. In the aftermath of our interview, she added yet another layer to this exercise. As you try to make the remaining sentences more interesting, consider looking Shirley Hazzard’s The Transit of Venus. One example from Cynthia: Instead of “Pearl Harbor was bombed,” or something banal, Hazzard writes, “One hot day Caro looked up Pearl Harbor in the atlas.” This brings the information to the reader by way of character. Try, likewise, to bring information through your own characters, making more interesting and relevant sentences.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Lisa Moore Ramée, whose debut middle grade novel is A Good Kind of Trouble (Balzer + Bray).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Lisa Moore Ramée, and was inspired by an exercise that was assigned in the workshop she attended led by Renée Watson. Take your two main characters and put them in direct opposition. Have them fight or argue about something that they really care about. You may or may not end up using the scene, but it will probably help clarify who your characters are and what they want.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont author Jon Clinch, whose new novel is Marley (Atria).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider the quote from Jon Clinch’s favorite folk musician, the banjo player John Hartford: “Style is based on limitations.” Consider how this idea might apply to your own work, and let it help you decide: what are your strengths and what are your limitations? Are these in fact helping you reign in the scope of your project, or should they? In other words, would it be helpful to focus on your strengths, as you’ve recognized them, and let go of certain goals that are perhaps overambitious, given your limitations? 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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The TW Wood Gallery was the venue for a recent panel discussion with three former Write the Book guests about their work writing horror, mystery, and suspense. Miciah Bay Gault, Jennifer McMahon, and Susan Z. Ritz shared their thoughts about the craft of scary stories, and I had the honor of moderating their discussion. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider a fear, an incident, and a mode of resolution. I’m going to offer ten of each of these for you to match up and work with as you like. (You'll see that incidents might also be resolutions in a few cases...)  See what comes - maybe something scary! Good luck with your work in the coming week and please tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion. 

FEAR

INCIDENT

RESOLUTION

Animals or insects

Aggression

Chemical Resolution

Darkness

Conversation

Conversation/Emotional Confrontation

Fire

Entrapment 

Hiding

Ghosts

Legal Action

Noise

Illness

Prolonged Strife or Conflict

Running Away

Madness

Solitude

Scientific Innovation

A Category of People: Men or Women or Children

Surprise

Silence

Responsibility

Temptation

Surrender

Thieves

Threat

Trickery

Weather

Trickery

Violence

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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My guest this week: the author Ruta Sepetys, whose new historical novel is The Fountains of Silence (Philomel Books).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a disempowered person who takes at least a small risk to change his or her circumstance, or to improve the situation of someone else.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

 

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Alice Lichtenstein, whose new Pulitzer-nominated novel is The Crime of Being (Upper Hand Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Alice Lichtenstein. She has found it fun to assign her students a prompt she calls “ekphrastic fiction.” Ekphrastic writing is written in response to a work of art. Alice recommends googling Edward Hopper, many of whose paintings are clearly narrative in nature, and letting his work inspire your writing. Often his works exhibit a single figure posed in such a way and lit in such a way that the figure naturally lends itself to story. So this week, engage in a free-written response to a Hopper painting. Explore the narrative--who is this, in the painting, what has just happened to him or her, what’s going to happen next? See where it takes you.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Author Christine Coulson, whose new novel, Metropolitan Stories (Other Press), was inspired by her time working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

We have three Write the Book Prompts this week, all sparked by my conversation with Christine Coulson:

  • First, challenge yourself to write from the perspective of an inanimate object. Animate it. Think about how it might feel, if it could express thoughts about its current situation.
  • Next, rather than exchanging work on the page, try sharing your writing with a friend who acts as an editor for you, by reading aloud from your work and letting that person offer suggestions, after hearing it. This is how Christine Coulson and her editor at the Other Press, Judy Gurewich, worked on Metropolitan Stories.
  • Finally, imagine yourself in a famous museum or other historical building after hours. What would you do, and how would you feel?

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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A new interview with Carol Anshaw, author most recently of Right After the Weather (Atria). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Carol Anshaw. As we discussed during our conversation, Right After the Weather does concern violence, and it includes scenes of violence. Carol suggests tackling this in the coming week; attempt to write a violent scene. Have you ever done this before? What do you find hard about it? What comes easily? How do you approach the material? Do you have to turn away, or do you find the process a natural extension of your other writing? 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Vermont Author Archer Mayor just published his 30th Joe Gunther novel, Bomber's Moon (Minotaur).

Blood Moon, Super Moon, Blue Moon, Harvest Moon, Bomber’s Moon. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to come up with a new type of moon, and write about a night on which it rises. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Interview from 2013 with Australian Author Poppy Gee. We discussed her novel, Bay of Fires (Reagan Arthur; Back Bay Books subsequently published the paperback.)

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to consider Poppy Gee’s character, Sarah, whose reckless behavior has cost her so much. Write about someone’s reckless behavior. Depending on who your character is, reckless might look very mild or outrageous. How does it affect the person’s experience and life? What might come next as a result?

Good luck with your work in the coming week and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont Author Miciah Bay Gault, whose debut novel is Goodnight Stranger (Park Row Books).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to try your hand at the exercise that brought Miciah to find the first line of Goodnight Stranger, a trick that was suggested to her by former WTB guest Juliana Baggott: Try summing up your novel in the first sentence, and see what happens.

When she was the editor of the journal Hunger Mountain, Miciah set the authors of one issue this task, which comes from a famous Ray Bradbury exercise for generating ideas: "jot lists, without thinking too hard, of the things that represent the writer’s deepest interests, preoccupations, desires, fears, obsessions." This original exercise can be found in Bradbury's essay "Run Fast, Stand Still, Or, The Thing at the Top of the Stairs, or, New Ghosts from Old Minds" in his book Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity. So that can be a second Prompt this week. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Archive Interview with Moira Crone. We discussed her 2012 novel, The Not Yet (Univ of New Orleans Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to begin with one of the following phrases, and write from where it leaves off:

  • After he dove into the water…
  • Through the haze and beyond the line of tractors, he saw…
  • When she found the watch in her sister’s top dresser drawer…

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont Author Kathryn Davis, whose new novel is The Silk Road (Graywolf Press). 

As she mentioned during our interview, one goal that Kathryn Davis had in writing The Silk Road was moving fluidly through time. She said, “The way you experience living is often like you’re sitting in this kitchen but there’s some part of you that is somewhere else, and … it’s also temporally dislodged. We’re not as organized as beings as we like to think we are.” This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider this statement, and to consider time and space, and your ideas about them. How are time and space organized in your consciousness? Do you feel they are independent of one another, are they interchangeable? Do you see the flow of time as unidirectional, do the past and future exist, or do they become conceptual given the notion of the now--the present moment? Maybe you’ve never thought much about these ideas. But sit with them and consider what might change in your work if you were to attempt a revision that embraced some of these new ideas. I don’t mean you should turn that historical novel into science fiction. But might the tense change to offer a more interesting presentation? Maybe your consideration of this subject will open up a new path to the structure you've struggled to find.

This week, either play with time and space in your work, reconsider how you tend to ground your stories, novels, and poems in each, or double down on what you already thought and the way you have worked in the past. If there is such a thing.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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2013 interview with Award-Winning Scottish Crime Novelist Denise Mina. We discussed her then-new novel, Gods & Beasts (Hachette). Her latest, just out this spring, is Conviction (Mulholland). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt has to do with the history of our broadcast date: July 29. On that date in 1981, Prince Charles married Lady Diana. Their wedding, even more than those of their sons, was the international event of the century. Around 3,500 guests were in attendance at the St. Paul's Cathedral in London, while another 750 million watched the wedding on televisions around the world. Write a scene from the point of view of one of those spectators. Choose a quiet gathering of friends, a rowdy party, the royal family, an expat family. Where are they? What time is it as they watch the event? How do they feel about the royals, the spectacle, the media attention? How do their own marriages or courtships feel, next to what they’re witnessing? And, if you like, feel free to write a better future for Diana. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont Author Susan Z. Ritz, whose debut novel is A Dream to Die For (SheWrites Press).

In our live in-studio conversation, Susan generously shared the following, which is now this week's Write the Book Prompt: 

Pick up a box of buttons or bows or pieces of jewelry and choose two that are somehow different from each other. Think about the people who might wear or use these things. Write a scene where they meet somewhere - perhaps a café or park - and hold a conversation that begins: "Where were you last night?" Susan says her students have found this exercise to be a great avenue into scene, dialogue, and character. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont Author Chris Tebbetts, whose latest novel is Me, Myself, & Him (Delacorte Press). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Chris Tebbetts. He, in turn, first heard about this one through the writer Matt de la Peña, who suggests writing letters to yourself from your characters, explaining what you’re getting right or wrong about them. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Award-Winning Author T. Coraghessan Boyle, whose latest novel is Outside Looking In (Ecco). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, TC Boyle. Sometimes he finds his stories through newspaper clips. But because news stories are journalism, he says, we don’t know the why or how of them, just the what. With students, he’ll suggest finding a one-paragraph story in the newspaper and trying to inhabit it to find out why and how. He jokes, Man Bites Off Own Nose, Swallows It, Winds Up in the Hospital. What’s that about? Write about it. He also suggests, as ever, reading the work of great writers. This helps us see ways into ideas that we may have had on our own. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Debut author Sara Collins, whose new novel is The Confessions of Frannie Langton (Harper).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Sara Collins. 

An older woman is angry  that a pair of teenagers keeps collecting rocks and shells from the beach on which she lives. Write a scene in which she confronts them for the first time. She never tells them why it distresses her so much nor do the teenagers tell her why it's so important to them to collect the shells, though the reader comes to understand. Write the scene first from the perspective of the old woman and then one of the teenagers.  

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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Author Heidi Diehl, whose debut is Lifelines (HMH). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Heidi Diehl. Think about an event or a time that has been important in your character’s life but does not appear in the pages of your story. Write two versions of what happened. One should be 3-5 sentences, and one should be a full-fledged scene, spanning a couple of pages. If the outcome sparks something that feels important to include, than you should of course use it. But, as Heidi reminds us, even if you don’t use that particular scene in your story or novel, it can be useful as an exercise. Exploring our characters’ histories can give us a sense of who they are and help us bring them more vividly to the page.  

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award Finalist Ali Benjamin, whose new novel for young readers is The Next Great Paulie Fink (LBYR).

Write the Book Prompt: In her new novel, The Next Great Paulie Fink, Ali Benjamin includes short interviews between her narrator and some of the other characters to provide clues about who Paulie Fink was and where he might have gone. Consider writing an interview between two or more of your own characters, to find out what they are thinking, how they talk to each other, or possibly something important that happened to them which you might not have worked out yet. You may or may not be able to use the interview in your work, and yet it could very well be helpful! 

Good luck with your work, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion. 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

My apologies for the shifting sound quality on this one. We had problems on our end with the station's internet connection - something that is being addressed in the studio. Ali, thank you for your patience! 

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Bestselling Author Jane Green, whose latest is the friends we keep (Berkley).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to think back on a relationship that once meant something to you, but is no longer a part of your life. Whatever happened to that friend, cousin, teacher, neighbor? What might you have expected? Imagine a life for that person and write about it.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Kurt Kirchmeier, author of the novel The Absence of Sparrows (Little Brown for Young Readers).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Kurt Kirchmeier. Write a scene or a short story from the perspective of someone whose life is profoundly changed by an intimate encounter with nature. And to make it more personal, write it in first person.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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New York Times–bestselling author Meg Wolitzer, whose novel The Female Persuasion (Riverhead Books) is now in paperback. 

For a new Write the Book Prompt, write a scene in which two characters meet for the first time. The main character has long idolized the other from a distance. In the scene, have that other person let down your main character in some way. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

* Audio excerpted courtesy Penguin Random House Audio from THE FEMALE PERSUASION by Meg Wolitzer, narrated by Rebecca Lowman.

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Author Rachel Howard, whose debut novel is The Risk of Us (HMH). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest Rachel Howard, and I can’t wait to try it. She says that it’s a somewhat arbitrary structure she came up with when she was teaching undergraduate creative writing at Warren Wilson College:

Write a lyric essay about one of the three great forces of life: sex, death, or love.  The essay should never name whether it is about sex, death, or love, or use the word. The essay will consist of the following sections:

* A pure description of a significant place from your past.  This could be a room, a street corner, the back of a car. Use as many concrete sensory  details as possible.  Ten sentences maximum.

* A character sketch of someone from your life.  Six sentences max.

* One short description of a song.  You may quote lyrics, but not use the words "sex," "death," or "love."  Three sentences max.

* One scene with dialogue.  Any length.

* One semi-obscure scientific fact that does not seem obviously connected to the rest of the essay (but which, metaphorically, is).  Four sentences max.

Rachel concedes that it’s an unusual exercise, but give it a try, and you may well be surprised at the experience. And after the exercise generates the rough draft, you can move sections around, and start breaking the rules to fit the emerging organic form.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

N.B. A quote about trauma that I read during my interview with Rachel came from the book Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control: A Love-Based Approach to Helping Attachment-Challenged Children With Severe Behaviors by Heather T. Forbes and B. Bryan Post.

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Catherine Cusset, author of Life of David Hockney (Other Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Catherine Cusset. When we remember something that we've shared with another person - a story or incident - very often, two very different stories might emerge from the two perspectives. Memory is not reliable, and so different people will remember events differently. With this in mind, write the same event or story from the perspectives of two people who experience it. These can be two lovers, two siblings, a parent and child, two friends; whatever you choose. Consider how each experiences a moment in time - and the sensory details each notices (what they see, hear, smell, etc) - then write two versions of the same story.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

 

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Author Steven Wingate, whose new novel is Of Fathers and Fire (Univ. of Nebraska Press - Flyover Fiction). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Steven Wingate. He calls it “The Endless Sentence,” and it is designed as both a loosening up exercise and a means of exploration. It requires only a timer and your favorite writing implement (analog or digital). You simply set your timer for five minutes and start writing, and everything is allowed except one single punctuation mark: the period. Steven explains that writers rely on periods instinctively to separate thoughts from each other. If our thoughts feel like they’re getting too uncontrolled or scraggly, we end one sentence and start another. But if you take that tool away from yourself, you’re forced to keep flying through your thoughts with less control than you’re used to. Steven argues that this is a good thing because it means freedom—which is essential, especially early on in a project when you’re looking for a narrator’s (or character’s) voice. When you remove the period, you slip beneath your own radar and do things that surprise yourself. This can lead you to a new understanding of characters and settings, or maybe even to self-standing flash pieces with intriguing musical or formal features (e.g., lists or recurring verbal motifs). Try this especially when you’re feeling stuck or when a writing day hasn’t gone according to plan.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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