Adrian easily could have come across as shallow, but instead his innate sensitivity and sympathy lift him above the superficial definition that his career could otherwise brand him with. We don’t learn much about Adrian’s past, yet his first-person narration is an honest-enough reflection of his nature that we don’t need to know more than the spare details we’re provided with. In contrast, while we are given a good picture of the traumas and losses that Dan has endured, leading to the disfigurement that now hinders his confidence and happiness, his emotions are a bit harder to read. We see him only through Adrian’s eyes, and since the story is so short, our glimpse isn’t a particularly comprehensive one. Yet in only a few encounters, Brooke made me believe in the relationship that grows between her two characters, even if neither of them can quite account for its cause. This is the type of writing I love, simple and sparse yet used to tenderly convey a connection of spirit that defies logic or explanation.
We readers do what we do because sometimes, we are lucky enough to stumble upon a book that speaks to us, and the experience might be painful and disconcerting, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. It’s us, reflected back to ourselves, laid bare for the world to see, to judge, to criticize.
Cameron’s book moved me. It’s not a happy book. It’s not a book about a profoundly sad person, either, though James’s own admissions would have us think so from time to time. It is, however, a book about apathy, the raw kind that can only be experienced in that awful stage between adolescence and adulthood.
For many, Someday will be a frustrating book. Many will dislike it. It’s been compared to a modern-day The Catcher in the Rye. Many will dislike it even more for this reason. Yet James was so familiar to me, bore such an imprint of my own teenage self, that I could forgive the book its deliberate decision to sustain its vague mien until the very end. Thinking back on my teenage self isn’t a particularly pleasant experience; the fact that I know well which aspects of my character haven’t really changed that much in the intervening years makes such reflection
even more uncomfortable. While I didn’t warm to James from the first page, it didn’t take me long to discover myself in him. Granted, he represents a hyperbolic sense of how I used to be as a teenager- unlike James, I did attempt to socialize, however awkwardly at time- yet his particular brand of aggrandized discontent was strikingly familiar to me.
It’s easy to look back on our former selves and laugh at the arrogant folly of our thoughts and actions, but it wasn’t too long ago that I lived those tumultuous teenage years when everything up seems down and all of the answers everyone is furiously asking you for seem forever outside your grasp. James recognizes the seeming futility that we all despair of during the transition from high school to what lies beyond; the difference between James and the rest of the teenage population is that his glass-half-empty demeanor means that those around him are quite aware of his despair. I believe that, sometimes, it’s difficult for glass-half-full people to grasp how we on the other side can dare to be so unbearable at times. Struggling through James’s narrative, traveling back and forth between the months as he haltingly tells of his foibles, his episodes of panic, the alternating inanity and beauty that can be found in life, I felt that Cameron came as close to explaining the harsh insistence of negativity as anyone can.
Perhaps it’s because I relate to James, because I understand that negativity does not mean depression, that I found him to be such a sympathetic narrator. Despite his repeated assertions that he is unhappy, I don’t believe it’s the type of unhappiness that many people will assume it to be, a type of black or white dichotomy of feeling. Sometimes, at that age, it feels as if there’s no option but to be unhappy; the paths are all set out for you, and there’s really no question of enjoying yourself as you go along, but happiness can exist alongside the unhappiness. All this is an incredibly long-winded and probably inarticulate attempt to explain that I connected with James and his story as many probably will not. I was not and am not an unhappy person, and I don’t feel that James truly is either; whether Cameron meant for him to be is another matter, and one I’m not really concerned with.
There are few books that could make me ramble at such length with such insubstantial result, so I’ll stop myself there. If you enjoy heady characters who like to toy with language and examine their own lives at length, this book might be for you.
Book Beginnings on Fridays is a meme hosted at Rose City Reader designed to feature the book you are reading right now by sharing the first few lines of the story.
I didn’t manage to get my post up on time, but better late than never. This Friday I read Good Bones by Kim Fielding.
“Dylan knew right after lunch that today he’d be cutting it close.”
Fielding has a nice way with words and managed to convey a great story in less than two-hundred pages. I would have liked to see a bit more character development, but overall it was a great novella.
Here’s the summary, taken from Goodreads:
Skinny, quiet hipster Dylan Warner was the kind of guy other men barely glanced at until an evening’s indiscretion with a handsome stranger turned him into a werewolf. Now, despite a slightly hairy handicap, he just wants to live an ordinary—if lonely—life as an architect. He tries to keep his wild impulses in check, but after one too many close calls, Dylan gives up his urban life and moves to the country, where he will be less likely to harm someone else. His new home is a dilapidated but promising house that comes with a former Christmas tree farm and a solitary neighbor: sexy, rustic Chris Nock.
Dylan hires Chris to help him renovate the farmhouse and quickly discovers his assumptions about his neighbor are inaccurate—and that he’d very much like Chris to become a permanent fixture in his life as well as his home. Between proving himself to his boss, coping with the seductive lure of his dangerous ex-lover, and his limited romantic experience, Dylan finds it hard enough to express himself—how can he bring up his monthly urge to howl at the moon?
center stage. Yet the descriptions she does provide of life at sea and in the Jamaican colonies is just enough to add flavor to her tale and set it apart from countless other historical romances.
Robert and Hal weren’t quite as fleshed-out as I would have liked them to be, but it’s understandable given the tiny page count. Even so, both men defied my expectations; while their relationship reached the expected destination, the journey was atypical. There was no instant infatuation here, nor, indeed, did one party’s feelings shift overnight simply as a result of a love revelation. It was refreshing to witness two participants in a courtship actually think through the basis for their feelings (or lack thereof) and the ramifications of their actions rather than diving headfirst, acting on passion alone. While William was a wasted opportunity for a secondary character, serving mainly as a foil for the leads, Isobel offered just enough interest to make me hope that Beecroft gives her her own novella in the future.
Unfortunately, my enjoyment of the story was marred somewhat by Beecroft’s overly flowery language. Nearly every page featured metaphors and, of more concern, confusing sentences that got caught up in their own descriptive device. Beecroft’s story could have benefitted from another round of editing, but in all, it provided me with an hour of light entertainment and an unexpectedly original romance.
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children explores an issue that I have rarely come across in young adult fiction: the transition of a trangender young adult from female to male. Most of the books I’ve read dealing with transgender have strayed from this particular angle, instead opting to uncover the problems faced during the male-to-female transition. For this alone, I applaud Cronn-Mills, who managed to address some pivotal, hard-hitting emotional issues with dignity and subtlety. Rather than retread the tired and expected avenues of angst and confusion, Cronn-Mills instead delivers her story through the voice of a remarkably well-adjusted and eminently likeable narrator. Even while reading stories from the most gifted of writers in the young adult genre, I rarely am able to dissociate myself completely from the experience of reading a book. No matter how honest and genuine a narrator’s voice might be, I am usually nevertheless aware of the fact that the character is a work of fiction, a figment of the author’s imaginings. The ability to make your writing transcend the confines of the page is the hallmark of a great author, and in this I must give credit where it is due. Gabe easily could have come across as rather pretentious, (self-conscious chapter headings paramount in creating the possibility), yet Cronn-Mills conveys Gabe’s voice so simply and unaffectedly that I never doubted his authenticity. He is sympathetic when the situation calls for it (which is throughout most of the story) and witty in a way that you could expect from an actual high-schooler (rather than a thirty-something author channeling her own voice through her youthful character). Gabe is one of the few young adult narrators I’ve come across who I would be glad to call my friend, and so it was difficult to accept the fact that Cronn-Mills again took the road less traveled in the progression of Gabe’s story, because while it might have served as a realistic conclusion (in the sense that it isn’t really a conclusion at all), I would have liked to see Gabe get a little extra payoff at the end.
Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.
This week’s theme is: Top Ten Books Written In The Past 10 Years That I Hope People Are Still Reading In 30 Years
LYNN: Thanks Shortlatte, delighted to be here. Aren’t we, boys?
SEREGIL: Of course!
THERO: Will this take long? I’m really very busy . . .
It shouldn’t take too long, Thero, I promise. Lynn, you’ve been writing the Nightrunner books for a long time now. How has your experience writing the series changed over the years?
LYNN: As far as the writing goes? In the early, early days, before I was published, I was writing strictly for myself, and a few friends. Once I had an agent, a publisher, and eventually readers, there was a lot of outside expectation. I had deadlines to meet, and a lot of feedback, not always good. It’s a challenge to keep telling the stories I want to tell, and not always be looking over my shoulder, wondering what others will think. That’s not to say I don’t care about my readers’ opinions; it’s just that if I start trying to guess what will please, rather than writing what I am inspired to write, then it will all soon fall apart.
As for the series itself, though, it’s just been more and more fun exploring the boundaries of the places and people I’ve created. Because of the episodic nature of the series, I’ve been able to go lots of different directions. I’ve gone places I didn’t even know existed when I first started writing Luck in the Shadows and met people I could never have anticipated unless I wrote the next book. Time passes, and it’s been a real delight watching/making my characters grow and develop. And I really think they all have. Thero here is a great example. I really didn’t plan for him to be anything more than a secondary character—
THERO: Wait— What?
LYNN: Sorry, Thero, but it’s true. I just wanted to show that someone had taken Seregil’s place as Nysander’s apprentice. You took an instant dislike to each other as I went along, and that was fun, but that also seemed to light a spark in my imagination. I realized that I really liked you for your foibles as well as your amazing talents, and that it was a potent mix for character development. And then there’s Alec.
SEREGIL: What about Alec? We’re the stars, the co-stars. How could you have Seregil without his Alec?
LYNN: I couldn’t, of course, but I had a hard time getting Alec clear in my mind at first. He was to be the Watson to Seregil’s Sherlock, but for well into the first few chapters of the first draft I just couldn’t get him fleshed out. He didn’t even have a name. I was writing one day and my cat jumped up in my lap. The cat’s name was Alec and I decided to use that as a place marker until I came up with something better.
THERO: You named Alec after your cat?
SEREGIL: Yes, but that cat was named after Sir Alec Guinness, so it’s really quite classy. So you can stop snickering now.
LYNN: How did you know that?
SEREGIL: Really now, are you of all people surprised that I know something I’m not supposed to?
LYNN: Anyway, characters have a way of suddenly blooming, the more I work with them. I think I was having trouble with Alec because I knew he was so important, both to Seregil, eventually—
SEREGIL: From the first time I saw him, actually.
LYNN: I suppose so. And for the story. But I have to admit, Alec gave me more trouble than any other character. Once I had him and the others in place, however, things just meshed together, inspiring more and more story.
What are some of the challenges of writing a long-running series?
LYNN: Keeping things fresh and different, for one. Because I chose to make the series a series of discreet adventures, I couldn’t just write the same thing over and over again. Ten books of them foiling plots in Rhíminee wouldn’t have worked. Because they are spies and detectives by nature, I had to find new mysteries for them to solve, and for that I had to take them to different environments to find new challenges. I had to keep myself interested, too.
Have any of the characters surprised you along the way?
LYNN: Oh, most of the major ones, anyway. Alec and Beka Cavish grew up fast, and Thero matured into a real three dimensional character. Seregil has secret sorrows and old wounds that make him vulnerable at times in ways that perhaps your common garden variety “hero” isn’t supposed to be. But I never intended for him to be common garden variety, ever.
Oh, I don’t think any of us readers would consider him common. What is the first fantasy novel that you remember reading, what was the last one you read, and what is your favorite?
LYNN: The first one I remember was The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron. The one I’m reading, several pre published novels of friends and they are excellent. My favorite fantasy novel ever? That’s a tough choice, as I’ve read so many good ones over the years. Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Illustrated Man are probably top of the list, along with Tolkien and William Kotzwinkle’s Fata Morgana.
Seregil, it’s wonderful to have you with us today, though we’re sorry to see that Alec isn’t with you. What’s the last thing you said to Alec before heading out the door this morning?
SEREGIL: “Be careful. That could blow your hand off.”
Oh…my. Ah, Thero, delightful to see you as well. So tell us, what was it like inhabiting Seregil’s body?
THERO: When Nysander made us switch bodies? Bilairy’s Balls, do we have to go there?
SEREGIL: Oh admit it. You loved it. All that taut muscle and smooth skin and big—
THERO: You do know I can turn you into a brick, don’t you?
What do you think of that, Seregil?
SEREGIL: He saved my life that night, and others, at considerable risk to his own. I’ll always be grateful for that, especially since he didn’t like me back then. But I do think that he got the better end of the deal in that trade. I hate to think what he got up to with my body while I was gone.
THERO: Uh, brick?
Thero, how accurate would you say Seregil’s otter persona is?
THERO: Surprisingly accurate, really. Otters are by nature playful and love their families. They also defend themselves and those they care about with a vicious bite if threatened. And they both like fish, lobsters, and the like.
Thero, any pastimes that Lynn isn’t privy to?
THERO: Well, I paint a bit, just for my own amusement, and dabble in manuscript illumination. I’m also writing a treatise on the preparation of beetle carapaces for use in the transmutations of certain metals—
SEREGIL: (yawn) And he’s writing love poetry.
THERO: You— You!
SEREGIL: It’s rather good, too.
THERO: Oh. You really think so?
SEREGIL: I do, really. It’s very good.
THERO: You might have asked, though.
SEREGIL: Sorry. Old habits.
Seregil, what’s your favorite disguise that you’ve adopted?
SEREGIL: Well, as you probably know, I carry off female disguise rather well. It’s wonderful how your average villain underestimates women. Off the top of my head, I’d have to say playing Lady Gwethelyn has been the most fun. I mean, when I can fool a randy hound like Captain Rhal, I know I’m doing well.
One more question, Seregil. Any thoughts on who would play you in the stage version of your life? What about Alec?
SEREGIL: I get asked that a lot. I’ve been around long enough that there have been a succession of actors who’ve aged out. I think Daniel Day Lewis was the first, back in the “My Left Foot” period when he was young and had long hair. Michael Praed was in there, too, at some point. More recently Johnny Depp. He has a great deal of depth and has played a huge spectrum of roles. He’s not getting any younger though. Benedict Cumberbatch, of Sherlock fame, would be another good choice.
As for Alec, that’s a tough one. Years ago there was a Finnish Olympic ski jumper who looked right, but overall I can’t seem to find anyone who’s just right, although the version of him on the cover of Lynn’s book of short stories, Glimpses, isn’t a bad likeness.
On that, I’d have to agree. Back to you, Lynn. What is one character that you’ve read and wished you had created yourself?
LYNN: Sherlock Holmes, of course!
You’ve been somewhat of a pioneer in your genre. What direction would you like to see fantasy fiction take in the future?
LYNN: I’d like to see more strong, believable female heroes.
What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
LYNN: Editing and revision are my absolute favorite parts. There’s no such thing as a perfect first draft and for me, the rewrites are where much of the magic happens. I come up with all sorts of new ideas and action, even new characters in rewrites. First draft can be a bit of a chore; revising is play!
Do you listen to music while you write? What might be a few songs on the Nightrunner soundtrack?
LYNN: I listen to music constantly while I work. It can set the mood, or just block out the world. I wrote Stalking Darkness to Enya’s Shepherd Moons and Watermark albums. I wrote Casket of Souls to Apocalyptica turned up loud, and the soundtrack to Tim Burton’s Alice. For the Nightrunner finale book I’m writing now, currently titled Shards of Time, it’s mostly classical and New Age so far, but that may change as I go. I need something really spooky.
Seregil’s friend, Micum Cavish’s theme song would be Sting’s “It’s Probably Me.” Seregil’s song for Alec might be Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man.” Thero’s song might be Enya’s “Cursum Perficio.”
You’ve always held open the possibility for further Nightrunner books. Any chance that you’ll be revisiting the characters from the Tamír Triad again in the future?
LYNN: The honest answer is that I’m not sure, but probably not anytime soon.
What do you find most fulfilling about being an author, and in writing Casket of Souls in particular?
LYNN: On a personal level, the process of crafting something new that no one has ever seen before is very fulfilling. But I’ve also gotten some remarkable, often touching reader responses. A number of young LGBT people have found Seregil and Alec to be heroes they can really identify with, and some have used the books to come out to family and friends. One person said my books kept him from committing suicide at a dark time in his life. It doesn’t get much better than that.
SEREGIL: If I might just add, Casket of Souls is one of my favorite adventures, and has a gorgeous cover. (And no, that’s not me on it.) You can read the first chapter for free here! http://www.sff.net/people/Lynn.Flewelling/excerpts/casket.souls.exc.html
And you can read the whole book on May 29!
Lynn, Seregil, Thero, it’s been lovely having you all here. I know I’ll be first in line come May 29 to see what adventures you have in store for us.
Check out the rest of the Nightrunner series using the links below, and be sure to buy your copy of Casket of Souls on May 29!