thesweetteapressthesweetteapress Loving Literary Dead Guys]]>, 11 Jan 2015 16:47:58 +0000
Image courtsey of James Anderson
I do so love my Literary Dead Guys. I'm known for it, whether that's a good thing or not.
Some of my Literary Dead Guys are authors. Poe was one of my first literary crushes. While I never really went for his stories, The Raven and Annabel Lee ruined me for any other poet ever. I am #2,374 in the line of Women Who Will Use a Time Machine to Rescue Poe.
Some of my Literary Dead Guys are characters. Among them, Inman from Cold Mountain used to be my Main Literary Dead Guy. But then Jack from See You happened and Inman and I grew distant.
Jack is the Ultimate Literary Dead Guy. After 17 years of him talking, walking, breathing and smiling in my head, I believe there can never be another. I didn't create him, he just showed up, bearing snark and literacy and beautifully-graying hair, and I was lost. I loved him.
Of course, I didn't love him enough to save him. I thought more of being a good storyteller than I did of being a good paramour and I wonder what that says about me. Of course, the fact that I ask myself that question probably says more about me than I should share.
Loving Literary Dead Guys, as opposed to your everyday ordinary living human, does have its disadvantages. Slow dancing is problematic. Cuddling is sparse. They can't open jars for you, wink or warm your feet between their legs.
However, I believe the advantages almost make up for these failures. There are no disappointments or unwelcome surprises - they've already done and said everything they will do or say. For that matter, I never disappoint them, either.
One of the most attractive things about Literary Dead Guys is that they're all so wonderfully well-spoken. Regardless of their iterations and varying degrees of education, Literary Dead Guys utter nothing that wasn't first crafted and then perfected by a writer. They are thoroughly disarming in thier snark, their honesty and their declarations of love.
Literary Dead Guys never leave, cheat, fall out of love or start farting every time they sit down. They don't age, go through midlife crises or bring home intolerable friends.
I think that the single most compelling thing about Literary Dead Guys is that loving them always prompts the great "If only..." We true romantics love our tragic "if onlies" with a passion that most people reserve for children, pets and actual spouses. If only we could save him. If only he had loved us, instead of whichever undeserving female character had that honor.
At one point in See You, Jack tells Emma, "
We tell everybody we got married and then I drop dead shortly thereafter and it’s just the sweetest tragedy. The Junior League ladies’ll be tickled pink and you and Becca will be swimming in casseroles and Jell-O salads for a year.”
Yes, Jack. And we Literary Dead Guy lovers will be dripping embarassed tears into our blackberry wine, going over the "if onlies" in our borderline-psychotic minds and wishing there would be a sequel.
A perfect relationship, really, if you discount the whole slow dancing thing.
So That's What You Look Like]]>, 02 Jan 2015 05:56:07 +0000
I got the first paperback copy of See You in the mail yesterday. It was such a momentous thing for me, as a debut author, who was foolish enough to make her most important book her first.
It was such an important moment to me that before I could open the book, I had to pull up my See You playlist and put on an appropriate song. Dweeb that I am.
I chose Poison & Wine by The Civil Wars, which I had played a lot those last two frenzied, sleep-deprived days of writing. Days that I really didn't want to pass. Then I opened the package.
I've got the Kindle version on my Kindle app. I've read it several times, just to see what the experience was like for the reader. And because I miss the story. Seeing it on the Kindle for the first time was a wonderful experience. But it was nothing like pulling that paperback out of that brown packaging.
It was so beautiful. It had a weight to it, a heft. I could touch it and run my fingers over the surface.
It's hard to describe the feeling of seeing something in the flesh that I had loved without seeing for seventeen years.
It was like seeing my child for the first time, after nine months of talking, loving and kicking.
It was like seeing someone, recognizing them as the person you will love and saying, "So that's what you look like."
As I held that book, I couldn't help saying, "Look, Jack."
Dweeb that I am.
The Real Miss Margret Maxwell]]>, 28 Dec 2014 15:28:45 +0000
Miss Margret Maxwell and Marshmallow, 1980s
When the idea for See You first came to me in 1997, I knew that Grandma would be a part of it.
MIss Margret is a very important character in See You, despite the fact that she only appears in the prologue. She's important because of what she meant to Jack and Emma, because of the way she helped shape the both of them and because, in some ways, she brought them together. She's also important because she's still influencing their story and their characters long after she's gone. Just like she does me.
The character of the grandmother/adopted mother was already in the story when the story came to me, but she became real and the story became more so when I decided to make her my grandmother.
During the six months or so that I spent seriously writing See You, one of the beautiful things about the experience was that it felt like spending time with Grandma. Like Jack and Emma, I still talk to Grandma every day, but in writing the story, I could "see" her and I could "hear" her and that was a gift. Putting our shared experiences into the story and her words and traits into Miss Margret was very much like having her back.
Grandma and I made each other nuts. Things large or small were done a certain way with Grandma and I had trouble doing things large or small in certain ways. I didn't like hanging my underwear on the line with the crotch facing the sun. I didn't like hanging my underwear on the line with the crotch facing anything.
But we also had a grand time together, always in doing very simple, ordinary things. She spent months helping me draw out plans for my first farm. She spent many Saturdays looking over road trips that I planned in minute detail, then pointing out errors like driving over rivers where there wasn't any bridge or passing up an interesting stop.
We spent hundreds of Saturdays going through her recipes, playing Cribbage and rummy, working in her garden, swimming at the pool and watching old movies. We'd both cry at the end, then we'd argue over who was crying more and we'd start laughing. She'd wave her tissue at me and say, "Oh, you honyock, you!" and start hissing that way she did when she got to laughing really good.
Grandma was strong. She was a romantic. She loved to laugh. She loved her cats. She could grow anything, even me. She was the naggiest nagger I've ever met. She also believed in me, even when I wasn't writing. She loved me, even when I let her down. She was a huge influence on me, even when I resisted her influence.
Now, I do things large and small in certain ways. I make her beef stew and her potato salad and her pumpkin pies. The sweet tea gets stirred with the Kool-Aid happy face spoon. Towels are folded lengthwise and then into thirds.
I don't watch Gary Cooper without hearing her agreement on his beauty. I can't smell a gardenia without seeing her smile. I don't have a clothesline, but if I did, all the crotches would face the sun. I have several of her things, small things of little monetary value that were always icons of her and of our relationship.
When I'm sad or scared or worried, I often close my eyes and imagine an entire weekend with Grandma, just one of our many typical, quiet, uneventful weekends. It soothes me and calms me and makes me smile. In writing See You, I spent six months of weekends with her and that was one of the reasons I never wanted to finish the book.
But Grandma would have been angry if I hadn't and that, I admit, is one of the only reasons I did finish.
Grandma would love this book. She would laugh and she would fall madly in love with Jack. She would cry at the ending and be angry with me for the way it ended. Then she would shake her tissue at me and say, "Oh, you honyock, you" and start hissing.
To be honest, if no one else ever read it, that would be enough for me.
When it Sucks to Have your Dream Come True]]>, 23 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0000