Guest Post: Karen Brown- resolutions and drafts: A magical combination

new year resolutions

 

Today, Karen Brown- author of The Longings of Wayward Girls, discusses why she broke her rule of not making resolutions.

 

Guest Post by Karen Brown:

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. It’s always seemed like a gesture doomed to failure, made at an incredibly auspicious moment—one that each year feels full of magic. Keeping a resolution made for the New Year was a little like having made a wish knowing that I was the only one able to grant it. As a child I’d address my weaknesses: I vow not to procrastinate. These seemed things I could address and control, but they were dull, everyday commitments, and never seemed to match the thrill of a new date written at the top of a school paper. I found soon enough that as the year progressed I fell back into habits that were probably not in my control to change.

As an adult one New Year’s Eve, standing in a line for the ladies room in a club, the band booming through the wall, I spoke my resolution out loud to a woman I hardly knew. “I’m going to publish my writing.” I’m sure she smiled at me, indulgently, and then disappeared into the next available stall. This resolution seemed far too outlandish—and it would take years for it to become a reality. Maybe a resolution is simply a reaffirmation of our dreams, and a chance to prove we can be the person we imagined?

This year, I decided to make a resolution before the new year presented itself. I wanted to finish a draft of my new novel by midnight. Even making the decision had a sense of the fairy tale about it. I’d been working on the thing all summer, and making little headway. I was dabbling, not really writing. As New Year’s approached I knew that a deadline was necessary, and what better reward than that sense of completion as the new year rolled in?

I made no other plans New Year’s Eve—no other commitments. I worked for fourteen straight hours with few breaks. At eleven thirty I wrote the last scene and at midnight I opened a bottle of champagne—a gift from the childhood friend to whom I’d dedicated my first novel, and who before a visit last summer I hadn’t seen in over thirty years. Of course the book isn’t entirely complete, but reaching the end, letting the story lead me to reveal where it’s been headed all along, is completion enough. A new draft for a New Year! Other than health and happiness, as a writer I can’t think of anything better.

 

Thanks Karen Brown for taking time to write this guest post! If you enjoyed reading this, check out the interview and author spotlight that Traveling With T posted about her last summer.

 

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The Longings of Wayward Girls by Karen Brown

the longings of wayward girlsThe Longings of Wayward Girls is a psychological thriller- a book where the reader is never quite sure where the author is headed. By the end of the book, the reader has been given some answers and left with many questions. Perfect for discussing.

Set in an ideal New England town, a town where nothing bad happens, until it does. Years earlier, a girl disappears from town after leaving a friend’s house to head home. While police do not suspect foul play at first- after some time- it is considered. The townfolk tell their children to stay out of the woods that are around the town, as parents are trying to be cautious with their children.

Sadie, a precocious girl, has imagination. She likes to create plays and play-act with friends and kids in the neighborhood.  She and her friends ignore the parent’s warning about the woods and continue to play there. One day, Sadie’s mom, Clare, makes her play with another girl named Francie- a child that does not fit in too well in town. Sadie and Betty decide to play a prank on Francie- and they begin leaving her notes from a fictional character that Sadie has created (although the character is based on a boy in town). The prank continues- until one day, Francie is never seen again.

20 years later, Sadie still lives in town. Married, with 2 kids, Sadie has suffered from a loss of her own. When she sees Ray, the boy she had a crush on when she was a kid, she finds herself drawn to him. As their time together continues, Sadie’s life is changed in ways that she never would have expected. Being with Ray reminds Sadie of that summer 20 years ago- and brings up memories.

Told in alternating tales of the summer of 1979 and year of 2003- Sadie begins to figure things out about 1979 and sees how the summer of 1979 influences her choices of 2003.

Traveling With T’s Thoughts:

The Longings of Wayward Girls is a book that the reader is never quite sure what to expect. As the story happens, the reader begins to understand what happened that fateful summer of 1979 and how it lead to the events of 2003. Interesting read and one that is highly discussable.

If you enjoyed my review, be sure and check out this: Interview with Karen Brown and Author Spotlight: Karen Brown.

 

*This book was won as part of Goodreads First Reads program. As part of winning, you are asked to consider giving a fair and honest review- although you are not required. The above thoughts and opinions are mine alone.

Author Spotlight: Karen Brown

Karen Brown, author of The Longings of Wayward Girls, found some time in her schedule to stop by to talk about her #literarycrush, #literaryconfessions and more!

Look for The Longings of Wayward Girls to be in stores July 2nd. It’s a psychological thriller that might give a person second thoughts about children playing in the woods.

 


the longings of wayward girls
Author Spotlight with Karen Brown

1. Karen, when you are not writing- what are some of your favorite things to do?

Reading comprises much of my free time. Even though it is intricately part of the life of a writer and in that sense might be considered “work,” I’ve always been an avid reader. I also find time to fit in running, which I enjoy, and hosting family gatherings.

2. Could you tell us some of your favorite authors?

This is such a hard question for a writer—I read for different reasons—but ultimately my favorites are those that somehow inform my own work, so on that note, some classic and current favorites: Emily Bronte, Shirley Jackson, John Cheever, William Trevor, and John Updike (my male triumvirate). Other writers who interest me: Claire Messud, Steven Millhauser, Jeffrey Eugenides, Don Delillo, Josh Weil, Lauren Groff, and Elizabeth Strout. (I’ve revised this response five or six times—clearly my favorites change from day to day.)

 
3. What book (or books!) will you always make room for on your shelf?

The Stories of John Cheever, first edition, with the inscription: To Mary Lee in honor of our sojourn in Naples, and other things, March 1979, Mary L. Ward.  (My grandmother’s book)

 
4. Do you have any #literaryconfessions?

As an academic who sometimes teaches American literature I’m ashamed to confess I’ve never read a word of Moby Dick. (But I have read Sena Jeter Naslund’s wonderful Ahab’s Wife!)

5. Do you have a #literarycrush?

I love the “Mad Men” era, and John Updike’s male characters are awfully bad in a good way, so I’d say Richard Maple from Too Far to Go: The Maples Stories.

 
6. What are some of the books that you want to read for 2013?

So very many on my list, but here are a handful: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, You Are One of Them by Elliot Holt, The Son by Philipp Meyer.

 

*Thank you, Karen Brown, for answering these questions.

 

Look for my review of The Longings of Wayward Girls and my interview with Karen Brown. Once you read, The Longings of Wayward Girls, come back and let me know how it was!

 

 

Interview with Karen Brown- author of The Longings of Wayward Girls

the longings of wayward girlsKaren Brown, The Longings of Wayward Girls author, agreed to be interviewed about The Longings of Wayward Girls, her writing space, and her thoughts on social media as how it would relate to her main character, Sadie.

Check back on Wednesday, as I’ll feature an Author Spotlight on Karen Brown- and she’ll reveal favorite books, #literarycrush and more!

 

Interview with Karen Brown:

1. What was the inspiration for The Longings of Wayward Girls?

The novel emerged from a combination of two short stories, “Little Sinners” and “Housewifery,” that appear in my second collection Little Sinners and Other Stories. Both stories are set in the same Connecticut suburb. “Housewifery” explores the world of stay-at-home mothers who discover a hidden pond, while “Little Sinners” focuses on two young friends who play a prank on a neighbor girl. The town in the book is loosely based on the one where I grew up—we used to put on shows, and play Old Fashioned Days House. Our parents hosted an annual Lobster Bake. When you grow up in a place filled with very old houses and barns you always feel a part of the past. I was aware of this while writing the book, and I read a lot of diaries and journals of colonial New England women. I wanted to reveal a world in which certain ideals of marriage and motherhood remain the same, despite the era, but also show how women who transgress ultimately suffer. And yes, I vaguely remember as a child hiding notes under a stone to trick a neighbor girl. Thankfully, without the repercussions in the novel.
2. From the beginning to end, how long did The Longings of Wayward Girls take to write?

I began the novel in May of 2010 with some notes about a group of children in a neighborhood who want to put on their own Aquacade, a swimming show like the one they discover in a 1930s New York World’s Fair playbill in a neighbor’s house. About this time I also wrote a story, “Housewifery,” which appeared in Good Housekeeping in July 2011. I knew I wanted to involve the women from this story in my novel. After a year of drafting I showed it to my agent, who worked with me tirelessly, and after a major revision sold the book last summer. Of course, that wasn’t the end—I revised the book some more, with the help of my brilliant editor, until October 2012.

3. Do you have a writing space? A writing routine?

I like to write in the mornings. This was always after my children were dropped at school, and the house was empty and quiet. I used to sit in one room, in one chair, but I’m lucky that my house is large enough, with multiple rooms with couches and chairs, that I can branch out. I know, though, in which place I’ve written which story, or which scene, so I am a bit superstitious about choosing places. I’ve learned to write with the television as background noise on the weekends—right now, for instance, I think I hear “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

4. Are any of the characters based on people in real life? Or just figments of your imagination?

I never base main characters on real people, but I will use people I meet in random places in supporting roles. So, pregnant Emma with her red hair and lovely tattooed arm is someone who served me breakfast at an Inn in St. Augustine, Florida.

5. Will you be going on a book signing tour? If so, what are you looking forward to the most about the tour?

I have a few places in Connecticut and in Florida lined up for readings so far. I love talking with readers about my work, and I’m most looking forward to revisiting the book again after time away from it.

6. Do you want The Longings of Wayward Girls to be made into a movie one day? If so, who are the actors that would comprise your dream cast?

It would be wonderful to see the book as a movie. I wouldn’t begin to guess who would play what role—I’d rather be surprised. I like the idea of leaving it up to the new creator’s expertise and interpretation.

7. Sadie, the precocious main character in Longings of Wayward Girls, is a character that is hard to forget. How did you create her? Was it hard to write about a character like her?

I think children can be filled with resentment and spite without really knowing why, and Sadie’s cruelty toward Francie seems to arise out of her own sorrow and confusion about growing up. For this reason I was able to sympathize with her and understand her. Because she does some of the things I did as a child (I really wrote a musical called “The Memory of the Fleetfoot Sisters”) I could relate to her creative side. The adult Sadie’s actions were harder to imagine and write about—but I felt that the two Sadies—young and old—are so closely linked. She’s never grown out of the past, and I felt I was essentially continuing her story.

8. Describe Longings of Wayward Girls in 10 words or less?

A suburban mother reawakens old love and a haunted past.

9. The setting for Longings of Wayward Girls is an idyllic, sleepy town. Way before the days of Facebook and Twitter. Can you picture Sadie as a precocious girl using social media?

The “letters under the stone” incident in my own past occurred to me after reading one of the many reports occurring now in which someone corresponds via social media with an unknowing victim. I think it’s all too easy now to pretend to be someone else, and sadly I’m sure Sadie would have taken Facebook and Twitter in stride with similar disastrous results.

*Special thanks to Karen Brown for this interview!

 

 

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To find out more about Karen Brown or her book, The Longings of Wayward Girls– please visit her website, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest pages.