“An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere.” Gustave Flaubert
I’ve been hearing a lot about Wired to Create, the new book by psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman and science writer Carolyn Gregoire. Those who “derive enjoyment from the act of creating and feel in control of their creative process tend to show greater creativity than those who are focused exclusively on the outcome of their work,” the authors write.
As a writer, I found this particularly illuminating. For many years, I wrote primarily for the joy of writing and the hope of one day publishing. Somewhere in the last seven or eight years, my writing became more tied to the end product, which is a natural result, I think of being on contract, but also a result of thinking about the reader. As a novelist, I believe it is my duty to think about the reader, but I also like the idea of going back to that place of joy, the flow that arises during “the act of creating.”
If you enjoyed Kubica’s earlier novel, The Good girl, you’ll want to snatch up this psychological thriller that begins with a roommate gone missing, and leads through a twisty route to a grim discovery about a family. Quinn Collins thinks that she and her roommate, Esther Vaughan, are best friends living in an apartment in Chicago. When Esther disappears, Quinn’s fears about foul play are supplanted by paranoia that Esther was out to hurt her. Interwoven with Quinn’s story are chapters told from the point of view of 18-year-old Alex Gallo, a bright young man who is stuck in a dreary Michigan town, washing dishes to support his alcoholic father. When Alex meets an attractive but seemingly broken woman at the coffee shop, he does everything he can to protect her. The characters are compelling and the mesmerizing story will keep you turning pages. There’s something alluringly innocent (if at sometimes repetitive) about the voice, which lends an even more eerie tenor to the already-creepy plot. If you’re looking for a psychological thriller to keep you up at night, this is the one.
Forthcoming from Mira, March 17, 2016
Sometimes a change in geography provides a new perspective on a certain time in your past. This happened to me this morning, when I stepped outside of my hotel room in Palm Beach, where I have come for a speaking engagement. Nearly 20 years ago, I lived for a year and a half in Miami Beach. It was a very productive time, but not necessarily a happy one. My boyfriend was living in New York City, and I missed him a lot. But I rented a stuido in an old hotel that had been converted into condos, right on the beach. For $800 a month, I had a 10th floor view of the Atlantic Ocean. There was no kitchen, not even a kitchentte, really, just a hot plate and a tiny refrigerator. There was no kitchen sink, so I had to wash my coffee cup and eveything else in the bathroom. The place had roaches. The lady next door was hard of hearing, and the walls were paper thin. She loved her telenovelas and her telephone. I almost always wore earplugs.
But the view was amazing, just flat, bue-green water stretching to the horizon. When I woke with the sunrise to write at the little table by the window, my neighbor was still asleep. I wrote a novel there, a long one that I never published, and a number of short stories. Most of the stories I wrote during that time would later become a part of my first book, The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress.
The only way to park my car at the condo complex was to valet, and on my $12,000 annual living stipend from the James Michener Foundation, making ends meet was a challenge. Valet tips added up, so I didn’t leave the hotel much, except to drive to Coral Gables twice a week to teach and take classes. Really, though, I didn’t need to leave the hotel. I enjoyed my solitude, and I was on the beach, which was then and always has been my favorite place to be. So when I wasn’t writing or reading, I was walking on the beach. I would walk for miles, and I did some of my best writing during those walks. The heat and motion, the humidity and the dound of the waves, loosened something in my brain, and the sentences would flow. I’d repeat them in my head over and over so as not to forget the, and would rush to my laptop to write everything down when I got back to my room. Smetimes I’d take a notebook and pen on my walks, and I’d plop down on the sand to write whenever a sentence or some fragment of story struck me.
Those days in South Florida in my twenties, I felt lonely but creatively alive. I felt then, perhaps more than any other time in my life, that I was living “a life of the mind.” And while I would not want to be living alone in Miami Beach again–having become too attached, as one does, to my husband and son–I have often longed since then for a life of the mind: less distraction, more time and natural space in which to think, read, and write. For me, this has always been most accessible on the beach. Bodies of water of the salty variety make me feel at peace and at home.
I think of all of this now because, when I stepped outside of my hotel room to write this morning, the warm, muggy air instantly brought me back to those days in grad school. Of course, it is December now, and December in South Florida is a far more pleasant prospect than July in South Florida. And yet, how I miss this muggy warmth, the sun coming up early and staying late. How I miss going sleeveless from morning to night, sitting outside, not bundling up. I have lived for fifteen years in or near San Francisco, where one is almost always bundled up. I love San Francisco, and I even love the beauty and smell of the fog, but between fog and warmth, I prefer the latter.
I texted my husband this morning to tell him we need to come down to South Florida. We have an anniversary coming up in January, our 15th. El Nino will be in full force in Northern California, bringing welcome rain and, along with it, big, frigid storms. When we were first together, he would make the trip once a month from New York to Miami. In those days, I thought of Miami Beach as the place I had to get out of, a way station delyaing the life I wanted to start with my future husband. I was ready to get on with things. Now, I have no such sense of urgency. We did get on with things.We got married, I wrote some books, we had a child and established ourselves in San Francisco. A trip back to South Florida, to warm nights and humid days, bright sun and long white beaches, would be an appropos way to celebrate the life we’ve made together and the years ahead. When looking forward, it is worthwhile to also look back and remember who you were and where you were at some much earlier point in your life, and how the places of your past helped form you.
5 Great Gifts for Writers
including Black Friday deals for the tech savvy novelist
Despite the stereotype of the unshaven, chain-smoking Luddite typing away on an old Smith Corona in a darkened room, most writers I know are pretty tech-savvy. For all the writers out there who are happily moving along with the times, here are 5 great gifts for writers.
Livescribe – who says you can’t have your Moleskin and your smarten too?
Livescribe is offering an amazing $70 off its Livescribe 3 Pro smarten, bringing the cost for this fantastic gadget down from $199 to $129.95. And you can get the Livesribe 3 for just $99, which is a savings of $50 from the regular price of $149. If you haven’t met Livescribe, it’s time to! I use mine to write stories, scenes, blog posts, and more in a physical notebook. The Livescribe app then translates all that garbled handwriting into actual text that you can download to Evernote and elsewhere. It’s the closest thing to magic I’ve seen in accessible tech.
Read my original review of Livescribe.
Livescribe has teamed up with Moleskine to make this highly efficient process even more beautiful. Write in your Livescribe Moleskine notebook (which has the feel and classic beauty of your old Moleskins), and watch your words magically appear on your iPad screen. Better yet, everything you write can be synced automatically to Evernote, so that your handwriting can be searched in the same way you would search typed text. Amazing, right?
Online Writing Classes with The The Book Doctor
Stuck in your novel? Want to brush up on craft? Need deadlines to help you finish your novel or stories? Get serious, get inspired, and rev up your writing practice with an online writing class. Over at The Book Doctor, get $20 off Writing the Short Story, an eight-week class in narrative craft. Intermediate to advanced writers who are writing or revising a novel can get $50 off of the Online Novel Writing Master Class, which begins in January.
Blurb – publish your book with ease and style
If you’re taking the plunge into self-publishing, Blurb is a great place to start. Beautiful templates and intuitive software make Blurb’s book publishing tools one of the better options out there. You can even create a beautiful landing page to sell your books from the Blurb website and elsewhere. Blurb has done a lot of the heavy lifting, to simplify the design and publishing of your book.
WPEngine – savvy web hosting for author sites and everything else
Every author needs a website. Only those with lots of expendable income should pay someone to do it for them. WordPress is, in my my mind, the best way by far to run an author website. It’s super easy to add new books, interviews, pages, posts–anything your heart desires. Endless options for free and premium themes make WordPress a no-brainer for authors who want to present their work to the world. From pay portals to social sharing to press kits, a WordPress site can do it all. And no one does WordPress better than WPEngine. WPEngine hosts sites of any size and provides top notch security and support to keep your website looking and feeling professional.
Now, WPEngine is offering 30% off your first month’s hosting
One Kings Lane – for writing desks, organizers, and all things lovely
I love working in a beautiful space. One Kings Lane has gorgeous desks, comfy chairs, practical trays, and all kinds of fun desk accessories. Check out Black Friday deals at One Kings Lane. Pictured: the Dinora Writing Desk and the Weston Desk Lamp. New members always get 15% off their first purchase.