December 6, 2008

Still Hearing Voices . . .

I play bass guitar and learned to train my ears to hear the bass lines in music. It was cool when I discovered the ability to recognize not only lines, but certain artists’ styles. (Sting & Clapton are great for that.) I am now hoping to apply that mysteriously astute part of my little brain to writing.

I am currently working through a sizeable To Be Read pile. I recently finished reading The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. I’m sorry to say I had not read her until now. Her voice hit a chord right from the start (and her first novel!) For some whacked reason, I have a hard time finding books written in a style and voice that interest me. And I KNOW there are tons of really great writers out there—so obviously the problem is with Camille. One author whose voice grabbed me on page one and latched on for the rest of the book was W. Dale Cramer with Summer of Light. So did Sara Gruen with Water For Elephants.

I also just finished reading The Secret Life of Bees, another of those highly acclaimed works I never got around to reading until now. Now Sue Monk Kidd has a smooth, soothing voice and handles touchy, painful topics in a sensitive way. I’m currently reading Lisa Samson’s Embrace Me, and next up is Olson’s Shade, Ingermanson’s Oxygen (again), then Cramer’s Sutter’s Cross and Levi’s Will, and Samson’s Quaker Summer. I await Mary DeMuth's newest series. Right now, I plan to read more of Cramer and Samson in an effort to identify their author voice, especially when each story is told from the view of different characters.

Lisa Samson makes me mad. Her ‘voice’ is confident, knows when and how it may break the rules of writing, and brings such a rich hue to the story. I don’t mean to compare my work to hers (good grief, I may be green, but I’m not stupid) but I can’t help noticing the freedom of speech with which she writes and how glaring a contrast it is to my reserved, rule-strapped little writing voice.

For now. I am an obsessed student of this writing craft and I WILL learn to free my voice, even if it kills me. :)

Maybe all this reading will shed a wee bit of light on the whole “author voice” mystery and help answer the burning question you and I and are dying to ask these authors: how do you, as a writer, keep your wry wit, polished profundity and organic originality intact while following the Rules of Great Writing . . . or at least giving them a reverent nod in passing?

Dare me to ask them?
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I've published three novels and a novella (more about those on my website.) I've been writing all my life, but decided in 2007 to get serious about being published.

I love action movies and Jane Austen. (she’s dead, I know. I found that out when I tried to get her to endorse my novel)

They let me play Bass guitar and sing in a worship band.

I can produce 4 dozen homemade cinnamon rolls in a flash for a crowd of drooling young adults. Or publishing house editors.

I used to have a Harley. Now we have twenty-something kids. Decent trade, really. The window-rattling grumble isn't quite the same, but we are still enjoying the ride.

I am a proud Grammy. Don't even think about taking candy from my babies.

I hate shopping (Yes, I'm aware that I'm a girl)

I've lived in Oregon all my life, spent time in Eugene (Go DUCKS!), Springfield, Reedsport, and Smith River. Which is not really a town, but a river, about 70 miles long, a tributary of the Umpqua River in southwest Oregon.

Although it's not a town, it is a community with a strong sense of pioneer history. It's cool to say you've lived there, especially if you lived there during the days when you had to take a boat to school. No joke! The old farmhouse my grandfather and my mother grew up in still stands, nestled into a narrow, pasture carpeted valley, complete with a swimmin' hole and its own 'crick'. It may turn up in one of my novels.

There's a rumor that my ancestors had a connection with the Mafia back in Sicily. I used to fantasize as a kid about a big black limo with tinted windows pulling up and whisking me away from school. Ahhh. So THAT'S why I'm having so much trouble conjugating my dangling participles now.

NOT RANDOM: I am challenged by the truth and amazed by the grace of God. And it's either in spite of or because of that grace that I hold a PhD in Learning Stuff the Hard Way.

Camille's Books

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Like There's No Tomorrow, Like a Love Song, and The Memoir of Johnny Devine are available in print & eBook at Amazon.