A NOTE FROM SHERRY: In honor of WICKED BECOMES YOU’s release next Tuesday, Plotters and Manipulators United is running a contest. Leave a comment to this post on how much you love Meredith’s books and/or how eagerly you are looking forward to WICKED BECOMES YOU, and you will be entered into a drawing. Five winners will each get a crazy-becomes-Sherry tin of organic shea butter, with the grand prize winner also getting a $25 Godiva Chocolate Gift Certificate, which Sherry just rediscovered in her goody drawer. Best of luck. Contest ends at 11:59PM (Standard Blog Time) on Friday, April 30th!
(Please note that while Sherry will ship anywhere, the gift certificate is only good for purchases in the U.S.)
Sherry and I both have new releases coming up – mine next Tuesday, hers on May 25th. You may have heard certain shocking rumors about these books. For instance:
His at Night has no flashbacks. (Not a one!)
Wicked Becomes You has no drug addictions. (No laudanum, no habitual heavy drinking, and not even a hint of opium!)
Disbelieving, you may have asked, What’s going on here? Has the sky fallen? Are pigs flying?
Okay, so I can’t comment with any certainty on the last question. I’m in India right now, and I often spot bands of roving street pigs doing very odd things.
However, I can definitively reassure you that the sky has not fallen, and what’s going on here is simple: both of these books represent a real departure from our work to date.
For all that it lacks flashbacks, His at Night is my favorite of Sherry’s books (and that’s saying a lot, because I love all of them). And Wicked Becomes You – well, I thought about pretending that Sherry and Janine were being mean girls by talking on Twitter about how it made them laugh out loud, but the truth is, it’s supposed to be funny—a good deal of it, at least. So it’s actually good news that the book made them laugh.
But what’s most interesting about writing a book that veers out of your comfort zone is the new clarity it brings to the relationship between you, the writer, and the novels you produce.
During a recent email exchange with Janine, my crit partner, I realized that when I write, I “get into character.” That is, much as an actor might, I try to put myself completely into the head of the person whose POV I’m using to tell the story. It makes sense, then, that when I think back on other books I’ve written, I don’t recall the events that unfolded in the narrative. What comes to me is the…pardon my vagueness, here…the general feel of the character who sucked me in most completely.
With The Duke of Shadows, that’s Emma. For a good part of the book, her outlook is very bleak. I remember how that bleakness gripped me while writing most of the second half of the book, and how liberated I felt when she finally let go of her own guilt.
With Bound by Your Touch, it’s the feel of Sanburne’s manic charm that colors my memories of the book.
Written on Your Skin is a bit different: both characters gripped me equally. I recall the sharp, quick-witted feel of Mina’s strategizing and the dark undertow of Phin’s demons.
With Wicked Becomes You? The book sings in my head; it feels light and free. This amazes me in several regards.
First, writing the book was anything but “light and free.” I finished it up after my arrival in Delhi, doing dissertation research by day and writing by night, in an apartment without a backup energy supply, in a season with endless power cuts. Many evenings, I sat in the black-out, sweating (no power back-up means no fan or AC!), the keyboard illuminated only by the glow coming from my laptop screen, typing the words in my head while my eyes strayed nervously to the little battery icon, draining far too quickly for my comfort…
And I was sick. A lot. Apparently, once I hit thirty, I lost that glorious good luck that had protected me, heretofore, from Delhi Belly. Last September, Delhi Belly paid me several visits.
And during this time, I realized that my saving grace was – my characters.
Had I been writing about Emma during this time, or about Phin, the power cuts and illness would have felt so ominous to me. Instead I was in the heads of Gwen and Alex, two of the most resilient characters I’ve ever written about. Don’t get me wrong: they’ve certainly got issues, and the longer and harder they try to ignore these issues, the less funny and more serious Wicked becomes. But these two simply aren’t the brooding types. And learning what their POVs felt like, and immersing myself in those POVs, I, too, stopped being the brooding type…
…temporarily, at least. I mean, let’s face it – I’m a total sucker for high drama, and brooding heroes are fun. My next book, in 2011, will probably be Angsty in the extreme. But that book lies in the future. Right now, I’m grateful to have spent those nights in the autumn of 2009 with two people so determined to laugh through every hardship they encounter.