Opening up

frioI spent some time outside of Austin this weekend, and though I shouldn’t be surprised by the inspiration that a little distance can kick up I still found myself reveling in that gift. I don’t think I realized how desperately I was craving space until I hit I-10 on the way from Austin to Leakey, a little town on the Frio River deep in the Texas Hill Country. That’s when I became aware of my breathing, in a way I hadn’t been for months, outside of my yoga practice. Deep breaths and a fresh eye, and I was scouring the countryside for a little historic cemetery because that’s where my head has been for the past few weeks: stuck in a scene–a series of scenes, really–in my third novel.

I didn’t stop at any cemeteries, though I spotted signs for several. But I’m not worried. I’ll make my way back to the Frio, sooner rather than later. I was too taken with the scenery not to return. The sky was too big, the water too clear. Cold, too, cold enough that I almost wished we weren’t experiencing such a mild summer here in Austin, so I could feel the contrast of a hundred degree day and water capable of giving me chills.

I was staying at a friend’s house, but Saturday night my marketing expert and I broke away and went for a walk under stars so perfect we ended up dropping down in a clearing and tilting our heads back right there. She’s been writing lately, too, and we were talking about our books as we stared up at the sky. When we got quiet the silence felt huge. “I think we’re having a moment,” I said, and we ended up laughing so long and hard the trip would’ve been worth it if I’d experienced nothing else.

My friend says a Native American tribe used to hold some kind of ritual on the land where her house now stands. There might be a burial ground. I felt that connection profoundly. One line after another from the novel I’m writing revealed itself to me. I couldn’t get them all down fast enough. I fell asleep that night stuck in one scene and when I opened my eyes the next morning I was stuck in another.

Any break in my routine can shift my creativity, but there was something magical about that place. I wonder if you’ll be able to tell, when you read what I’ve written. I wonder if you’ll be able to pinpoint the scene in question, or if whatever opened up for me while I was there permeates more than just one section.

I’m ready to go back. Maybe I’ll buy a house of my own, or rent one, so I have space to write.

I feel a pull in that direction, and I know better than to ignore anything so magnetic.

Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

 

 

Raspberries, Wine, and Chocolate

Joel and JamesSomeone asked me recently what it’s like inside my head. I told him what some of you have already heard, that it’s all raspberries and wine and chocolate. I’m all filled up, because I’m always writing, even when I’m not.

Last week I met a friend for wine. He tells a good story, and I grilled him a bit about his fraternity days in Vermont. He was talking about hazing and drinking and I was completely focused on what he was saying until he paused and looked up at me. You’re not filing this away, are you? he asked, For one of your books?

Well. Maybe.

I wasn’t consciously thinking about my fictional world as I was listening to him, but as soon as he asked the question I realized that somewhere in the back of my mind I was all caught up in James. Because James was in a fraternity. Because the experience shaped his college years. Because in my third novel, the one I’m writing now, he still thinks about that year he quit.

So yes, it’s possible that part of my friend’s story will end up in my work. At the very least, I left the bar inspired.

Though I’m always thinking about my work, I’m not always talking about my work. People might ask me about my books, but they’re not asking about my characters. So I’ll hear, “how’s the book?” or “how’s your writing?” But the number of people who text me a photo of the train tracks at Zilker Park when they’re hanging out there with their kid, just because they know I’m going to immediately go in my head to my photo shoot last May (see that beautiful photo at the top of this post, and view it in dim light so you can really see the nuance) are few and far between. My friend who told me about his fraternity days texted after we met for wine and asked, “What are your characters up to now?” and I swear I felt a pang of something so sweet right in the center of my being. For someone to speak so familiarly about these men who inhabit my waking (and sometimes dream) hours feels incredibly provocative to me.

I have plenty of friends who haven’t read my books. Most of my family members, too. Sometimes it’s the subject matter that makes them procrastinate; sometimes it’s time. Their reasons always sound so strange. I don’t judge them; I get it. I really do. I’m busy, too, and the bottom line is that if one of them were to write a book about a subject that feels foreign to me–baseball, for example–it might take a little prodding to get me to read it. At the same time, I feel like my work is that proverbial window to my soul.

If you know my characters, then you know me.

Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

An Interview with Ann Weisgarber

The PromiseThis week I’m happy to have the opportunity to bring you an interview with Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel DuPree. I met Ann at a conference a few years ago, read her novel shortly thereafter and was delighted by the project’s inception (you’ll read about that in a moment), and completely curious about her main character. Then I found out the subject of her next novel, The Promise, and waited with great anticipation for its release. Set against the backdrop of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane, this novel absolutely will not let you go. The Promise is a 2014 finalist for the Walter Scott Prize in historical fiction, a Pulpwood Queen book-of-the-month club pick, and a 2014 Spur Award Finalist for Best Historical Fiction. Please visit Ann’s website for more information.

1) Tell us the story of how you came to write The Promise. What made you want to explore these characters–and the 1900 Galveston hurricane–in such depth?

When I finished my first novel, I freelanced for a Galveston magazine, The Islander. My task was to write articles about people who had unusual jobs. For one assignment, I interviewed a brother and sister who owned and managed a small grocery store on the rural end of the island. They’d moved there with their parents in 1963, and their stories about rural island life fascinated me. The tap water was rusty and not safe to drink, electricity went out frequently, and there were more rattlesnakes than people.

If that was life in 1963, what was the rural end of Galveston like during 1900 when a massive hurricane hit the island and killed over 6,000 people? That question drove me to the Galveston library where I found very little information about the people who once lived outside of the city limits. It seemed that Galveston’s dairy farmers, ranchers, and fishermen had been forgotten, and that felt like an injustice. The Promise is my way of remembering those people.

2) How did living (at least part-time) at the scene of the 1900 hurricane inform your writing? What kind of research did you undertake, and what fascinated you most about what you learned?

Spending time in Galveston allowed me to watch the pelicans, listen to the surf, and feel the heat of August. I’ve also been through several hurricanes, although not on the island. That’s the last place I want to be during a storm and when the Galveston mayor issues mandatory evacuations, I don’t have to be asked twice to leave. I’ve seen the aftermath of hurricanes and have witnessed the slow painful process of rebuilding. These experiences helped me write The Promise.

I also spent hours in The Galveston and Texas History Center at Galveston’s Rosenberg Library. There, I saw a photo of the nuns and orphans who lived at St. Mary’s Home in 1900. Another source described the sand dunes on the rural end of the island but in 1900 they were called sand hills. I also found the names of people who died in the storm.

In addition, I interviewed people who had long ties to the rural end and learned that in 1900 the beach was strewn with washed-ashore trees and debris tossed from ships. Someone mentioned that many Galvestonians drank bottled mineral water because the well water had a bad taste. Others mentioned the ridge road. Many of these details found their way into the story.

3) I still find the end of The Promise shocking. Without spoiling the surprise for those of us who haven’t read the novel yet, can you tell us why you made the choices you made? Or do you feel as if the storyline was actually fairly well out of your control?

Initially, the ending shocked me too but after trying other endings, this was the one that felt right. It’s in keeping with historical accounts of what happened at the time of the hurricane. It also reflects the shock many survivors experienced after the storm.

4) The idea for your previous novel, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, came to you almost out of nowhere. Can you tell us that story, then talk a bit about why you’re drawn to these specific historical moments or periods? Do you ever have an inclination to write something contemporary?

You’re so right, Jennifer. The first novel did seem to come almost out of nowhere. It was inspired by an old photograph I’d seen while on vacation at Badlands National Park in South Dakota. The photo was of an unnamed woman sitting by herself in front of a sod dugout. I couldn’t imagine how anyone would attempt to homestead alone but there she was. I was also surprised she was African American. I hadn’t known there were black settlers and homesteaders in the West.

The woman in the photo haunted me. She was alone in an isolated landscape. After the vacation, I found information about black settlers but the accounts were factual and dry. This woman, I felt sure, had a rich and meaningful story. I felt her pushing me to give her a story, and eventually I did. I felt her with me through the entire writing process.

I felt the same kind of push from the people who were on the rural end of Galveston on September 8, 1900. Like the women in the photo, they had been nearly forgotten. These are the kinds of stories that speak to me.

I didn’t realize I wrote historical fiction until someone gave me that label. I’m happy with that since I can’t imagine writing contemporary fiction. I enjoy leaving my modern life and spending time in a different century.

5) Both of your novels have very distinctive female characters. What calls you to write about women’s experience? How do your female characters negotiate their relationship with the men in their lives?

I admire women whose lives seem uneventful until crises, either internal or external, tear their worlds apart. Somehow, though, they must carry on while looking after children, cooking meals, doing laundry, and holding down their jobs. They may want to fall apart, and maybe some of them do, but most women pick themselves up and find the strength to make difficult choices.

Since my novels take place before the women’s liberation movement, my female characters typically maneuver the men in their lives in subtle ways. Many women had to be cautious since they didn’t have access to money or were unable to support their children if they left their husbands. While writing the first book, I read diaries written by women. Many of them understood they could not make demands of their husbands or ask direct and pointed questions. Instead, they were skilled in applying the light touch and this method often allowed them to get their way.

6) I’m always curious about the process of other writers. Do you outline? Spread notecards around you and create some kind of timeline? Or do you dive right into the story?

I begin with a general idea about the plot and write a one-page summary to give the illusion that I have a plan. Then I make an outline for the first chapter. Once I finish that, I go back and fill in the gaps until the outline begins to read like a story. Then I’m on to the outline for the next chapter.

It usually doesn’t take long before I’ve strayed from the summary, and that’s fine. Nothing is written in stone and research discoveries often change the course of the story.

I’d like to add that I meet every Friday with my writing critique group. We each bring six pages of our projects and the feedback I receive is invaluable. These writers have seen me through both novels, and I hope they’ll see me through the next one.

7) Tell us about your relationship with your novels. Do you prefer one book over the other? Do you have a favorite character? Once the book is published, do you ever reread what you’ve written, or do you close the door on those characters once their stories have been told?

The characters in both novels are dear friends, and I have difficulty parting from them once their stories are finished. Fortunately, I meet with many book clubs for both novels so their stories continue to be part of my life.

Rachel DuPree will probably always be my favorite character. She was inspired by a woman in the photograph that I mentioned in the fourth question. That woman made me become a writer and changed the direction of my life. I will always be grateful to her and for the book she inspired.

8) What can you tell us about your next project?

I’m working on a novel that takes place in Utah’s canyon country during the winter of 1888. The narrator is a 37-year-old woman who helps polygamists hide from U.S. marshals. I’m not all that far along and the plot has deviated far from the original one-page summary so I’m afraid to say anything more.

9) What books are you reading right now? Give us a glimpse of your bedside table!

I’m a fan of your novels and although I finished your latest novel, The Crossing, a while ago, it’s still on my mind. I’ve just started Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. The Promise has been shortlisted along with it for the UK’s Walter Scott Prize in Historical Fiction, and in June I’ll be on a panel with the other finalists. My goal is to read the other five novels.

If I may, I’d like to add that I recently read Juliet West’s Before the Fall which takes place in London’s East End during World War 1. I was spellbound. I was also captivated by Gary Schanbacher’s Crossing Purgatory. Much of the story is set in eastern Colorado before the Civil War. It’s one that I want to reread.

Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

A Day in This Writer’s Life

Many days I’ve spent in isolation, save for the company of my characters. Those days are some of my favorites. I like nothing more–as you know, if you’ve spent any time reading my blog posts–than getting lost in my characters’ heads. But I don’t always have the luxury of entire days to myself. I’m a mother, a friend, a reluctant dog owner. I, too, run out of groceries and cave to invitations of wine, even when I have stories in my head clamoring for release.

And still I make it through. I make it through because I’m always thinking of my work. My characters seep in around the edges of my consciousness, and carry me. They really do.

I thought you might want to know how that works. How this writer’s life fills up with images and phrases and moments stolen from others who will never know that their look, their smile, their particular turn of phrase ended up fodder for inspiration.

My alarm goes off. It’s light outside, but barely. I’m not thinking about my characters at all. I’m thinking about fixing beds and packing lunches and cajoling my child. But then, on the way to the bus stop an hour later, an SUV catches my eye. We’re at a stoplight, and the driver isn’t wearing a shirt. I can tell because his window’s open. Large sunglasses hide his eyes. He’s young. I’m already combing through my characters. Would Adam drive anywhere without a shirt? Hell no. Would James? Maybe… Joel?

I can think of six thousand reasons why Joel would end up behind the wheel of his Explorer without a shirt. And those reasons stay with me through drop-off, through a trip to the bank and a fill-up at the gas station down the street.

Then I’m home. I step in my house and take a deep breath; there’s a whiff of something other here, in this seventy-four-year-old house of mine, and I know there are days when Joel walks through his front door and breathes in the same scent.

Connection: that easy.

Breakfast, email, time to tweet. Last night I happened to stumble across a link to a live show of Soulhat’s, from August of ’91. I watched it over and over, and now I play it again as I post the link on Twitter. I might have been at that show; I know Joel and James were.

More email, some copywriting for a friend who’s launching her website later this month, then lunch with author Susan Michalski. We meet at South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery, because we’re obsessing about tacos and Topo Chico. I’m well aware that Torchy’s opened in 2006, after Adam moved to Seattle. I wonder if James has ever been. Sue and I talk about our work and nothing but our work for an hour: what we’re writing, who’s reading what we’re writing, what it’s like to watch a photographer shoot a scene that we’ve written. I envy the fact that she needs only a few hours of sleep a night: how much more could I write if I slept less than six hours?

I know how much. I’ve done it before.

Back home my terrier screams at the neighbor’s dog as I sit down at the table on my back porch. I want to string some colored lights around the railing like James does in The Crossing, but I can’t find an electrical outlet. I post something on my Facebook author page, a question about who would be more likely to see a psychic, Joel, James or Adam. I scroll through my email again, fill out an enrollment application for school for my son, message a friend of a friend who wants me to tutor her daughter in creative writing. I have one hour left to get in my yoga practice before I have to run to the store and then head back to that bus stop. Yoga: today I tie my hair in a ponytail at the nape of my neck, where Joel would tie his.

I wouldn’t say I spend my entire yoga practice in Joel’s body, but I’m there for more than a breath.

I head to the bus stop. I have a convertible of my own and I put the top down on the way. Joel had a convertible, back in ’95. He doesn’t talk much about the wind in his hair in The Crossing, but he does in book three. The music I play as I’m driving has James written all over it, especially “February Stars” by the Foo Fighters.

I pick up my son. He wants an entire meal at 4:30, and a water balloon fight in the backyard. He has way better aim than I do. By the time we’re finished I’m soaking wet and have to leave to tutor another student. I drop my son off at a friend’s house in Hyde Park, not too far from my house, and just blocks away from where James rented that garage apartment in graduate school. I’m tempted to drive up Avenue G, to see if I can spot the place. Instead my eye’s drawn to two men walking along the sidewalk to my left. I notice them just as they reach a place where hedges on either side of the sidewalk grow tall enough, and curve inward enough, to form a tunnel. So cool. I want to know what they’re doing in there, what’s being said. I want to know which of my characters would disappear into that tunnel, but I really don’t have to think for long.

It’s Joel and James. Of course.

I tutor. I pick up my son. He wants more food, and book time, and help falling asleep. I end up answering emails on my phone: I’m trying to get on a panel at the Texas Book Festival, and author Ann Weisgarber wants to update me on the interview questions I sent her. My friend has questions about her copyedits. My marketing expert needs me to write up a description of a special project I’ve undertaken. I feel like I should take advantage of the hour I have before sleep overtakes me to write a bit, but I’m not sure I’m in the right mental space. I spend my time texting with various friends. I like connection.

By midnight I’m done. I fall asleep thinking of that guy in the SUV this morning. I liked his arms. Where can I work that in?

Somewhere. Undoubtedly. At the very least it’s in my head.

Where I’m always writing, even when I’m not.

Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

An Interview with Susan Michalski

Today I’m happy to introduce you to Susan Michalski, author of Safe Distances

Safe Distances

and the upcoming novel, Stellar Navigation. I met Susan through a mutual friend, and when I read her first novel I was struck by the similarities in our themes: trauma and repression, memory and betrayal. Though her fiction falls under the YA umbrella, she doesn’t shy away from adult content. Her upcoming novel, Stellar Navigation, is due out this summer.

1) Tell us how the idea for your Geodesy Series came to you. How long has this story been taking up your mental space?

I had this idea years ago, like in my thirties, about twins who had gone through an enormous tragedy that triggered psychic powers and they would go out on the astral plain and find others like themselves and lure them into this sort of messed up little commune. I actually wrote that book too, but it was horrible, and I knew that there was no saving it because the plot was so thin. Then years later the plot of SD came along with Sage, so I went back and stole the twins from that book, made them younger, and focused the story on surviving trauma rather than perpetuating it. I have always loved young adult fiction and since I am totally a young soul, that genre was the perfect fit. As far as mental space, I have been living with this story for a decade, but I didn’t get serious about researching PTSD and parapsychology experiments until maybe 2010. I started the character journals that summer too, so I could develop really distinct voices and personalities for each of them. The back stories of characters emerged from the journals. Essentially the characters told me their stories. Weird. I know.

2) Describe for us your relationship with your characters. What made you want to write more than one novel about them?

I love this question because I do have a relationship with each of them, just like the “real” people in my life. Sometimes I love them and root for them, and sometimes they tick me off and make me want to scream at them to wake up and smell the espresso! Sage is the character I most relate to. I think I kind of blow through my life, sucking the marrow out of every experience like she does. I never judge or let some societal norm keep me from being open to love on lots of levels. The downside is that, like Sage, my decisions aren’t always the wisest or the most thoughtful. I get Sage and I love her openness and hate her foolishness. Elena is like my best friend, the one who sees all the beauty in life even though her naiveté is maddening at times. She is like a luminescent moth in a pitch dark forest, real and ethereal in a way I wish I was, but can never be, so I just want to be near it to breathe it in. I will save the boys for the next question, but I have both maternal and sexual feelings for both of them. I just love guys and their otherness (I know you get this). They are like these miraculous, strong, gorgeous beings that have such an intense vulnerability that is so unlike feminine vulnerability. The cool thing about my characters is that they each represent an element. It wasn’t exactly planned, but once I noticed it, I brought it out as much as I dared. So Sage is Earth, Elena is Air, Finn is Fire, and Ethan is Water. Their relationships play out much the way the elements mix, too. Wild the way the subconscious contrives all that. That’s the magic of being a writer, just saying.

3) You know that I adore Finn, and Ethan makes me crazy. How have your other readers responded to your characters? Do you have a favorite?

I love that you love Finn and hate Ethan. In fact I channeled some of your hatred into Dr. Robineau in Stellar Navigation when she calls him spoiled and stubborn. As for others, I would say, to the person, every reader prefers one or the other, and the split is about 50/50. Oddly, it’s the mothers of boys who hate Ethan the most. I think that’s why I love him the most. He is my favorite character, though the hardest to write, probably because his story arc is the widest. He is the most damaged and therefore has the longest journey to take. Plus I just want to take care of him and make it all better. He won’t let me, luckily, because that would be a really boring story. Finn is the fave of all the single ladies. What can I say? He is HOT! What girl can resist the bad boy? Not me. That’s for sure. My male readers all want to BE Finn so they choose him over Ethan, too.

4) You write a damn good sex scene. Do they come easily to you? How have your readers responded?

For all the writers out there hoping to write a sizzling sex scene one day, listen up. This is THE secret. Have sex with lots of people: boys girls older younger gentle and rough. Then stop for a LONG TIME. The only way to write great sex is to know what it feels like and to feel like you will never have it again in the flesh. Too much detail, I’m sure, but detail is key. If you feel that depth of longing, you will experience (and write) every tactile, aural, visual, nasal, and (What is the adjective for taste?) taste detail that leaps vividly from your memory. One of my largest groups of readers is men between 30 and 60. I’m sure you can guess why they like the book so much.

5) We have some similar themes in our writing: trauma, memory and repression, to name a few. Why do you feel drawn to these topics?

Another great question. Trauma shapes us in ways that scientists are only beginning to understand. It changes the brain chemistry, altering the essence of who we are, for better or worse. Trauma gives us a choice: let it make me stronger or let it destroy me (though the choice may be programmed before we are even born). I think people who are made better, faster, stronger through trauma are ABOVE the rest of the population in some way.  Something about earning stripes comes to mind. Memory is another one of those great unknowns. My interest in it stems from growing up with 7 siblings, and though we grew up in the same house and lived the same events, it never fails that we remember them in vastly different ways. Our minds are not video recorders that capture facts in the form of memory. Instead the mind is like a sculptor and the event is the clay. The memory molds and morphs the event to suit our needs and it never stops, so a memory of my 11th birthday today might be miles from what it will be when I am 70. And yet, memory to us is REAL and hard to the touch. We stake our lives on it quite literally sometimes, never grasping that memory is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Repression is the sculptor turned magician, because he takes what is there and makes it seem to disappear, but it resides all along in the lining of the sleeve just waiting to fall out and reveal itself. The stuff of great stories real and imagined! Book four, Finn’s story, deals with that in spades.

6) How do you categorize your fiction? Do you consider yourself more of a Young Adult writer, an Emerging Adult writer? Who reads Safe Distances?

I categorically refuse to categorize my series! But I did ask a librarian to take a stab at it. Geodesy Series is NOT “Emerging Adult” or “New Adult” fiction largely because that very emerging genre space is occupied mainly by romances. And while Safe Distances has some romantic moments, the story is really a mystery of histories, and the other two installments are more action/adventure/mystery with very little romance. I don’t really fit well into the YA space either, which is becoming a landscape of post-apocalyptic revolutions, horror stories, and supernatural romances with a sad cancer story or two thrown in for good measure. Again my books are none of these, but the characters age from 17 to 21 in the series and the themes appeal to a similarly aged audience, I think. YA also has some really specific rules that I break, too: no sexual content beyond kissing and no swear words, but any amount of violence is AOK. (Meg Cabot breaks these rules too, so I am at least in good company). So the verdict is that the Geodesy Series is young adult fiction for older teens and above.

7) Tell us a little bit about your writing process. Do you furiously write for hours and then revise, or do you deliberate over every word? Do you prefer writing longhand or do you need your computer to really get in to your story? Do you write mostly at night or during the day? And (I always love this question) what do you snack on while you’re working?

Back in the day I needed an hour to get in the mood with candles and wine (like courting sex), but now I can do it on the fly for ten minutes while I’m waiting in the traffic line to pick up my kid from school or in my work cubicle at lunch time. (Like quicky baby-making sex after 10 years of marriage – it gets the job done). I am only half-joking, really. So I spend a good deal of time at the front end getting to know my characters. The plot comes to me like a bolt of lightning all at once with a profound headache that follows. I take that and break it into “scenes” like it’s a movie in my mind. Then I jot down the director notes (dramatic goals for each scene: mood, plot, forward, character evolutions, funny moments) with an opening hook and a closing zinger for each chapter. (This changes a bit as I roll forward, but it gives me some rails to ride on). Then I just go chronologically. I live the events of the story in my mind while I’m walking, running, showering, cooking, driving, breathing (sometimes the events don’t make it into the novel but they happen anyway). Then as soon and as fast as I can I get that part of the story in writing. I move back and forth each time I sit down to write, honing a part I already wrote and writing new material too, even if I only have ten minutes and I only get one sentence written. The going back gets me back into the scene and the moving forward moves me forward. The bottom line is that because the movie is always playing, I am desperate to get it down on the page. It eats at me until I do. Also I NEVER EVER stop at the end of a chapter or book. I get at least a third of the way through the next chapter or book before I revise the one I finished. This is because of what I like to call the faucet principle. As long as the faucet is running (even if it is only at a ten minute trickle some days) then the pipes can’t freeze up. It’s all about inertia. A writer in motion tends to stay in motion; a writer at rest tends to get blocked and depressed. Revision has to wait because it exists in a different realm in my brain, and if I turn on the part that is good at revision, the part that is good at creating immediately turns off, and you know what happens to the flow then. I never eat when I write. It’s too intense for me. It would be like eating when I’m running. But I do drink, anything anyone else serves me. Getting up to get a drink is out of the question.

8) I know you’ve done some photo shoots of scenes from both Safe Distances and Stellar Navigation. What has that experience been like for you?

OMG! It has been like bringing the novel to life. I can only imagine the elation of having a novel brought to life in a movie or series. The kids who I found to become the characters are nothing short of perfect in so many ways, and my photographer (one of the first people who read my book) gets the vision in his soul. He is a real artist with all the emotion and sensitivity that this kind of project calls for. I also have a composer writing a score for the book trailers too. Lots of pieces to make come together, and even though it has been time consuming, it has inspired me in my writing in ways I never imagined. On kind of a crazy note though, I have a tough time sometimes when I’m interacting with the kids, separating the real person from the character. I might be having a conversation with Jeremy, the pedicab driver with a philosophy degree, but my heart is talking to Ethan. It freaks me out a little.

9) How soon will we have the next installment (and can you give us a teaser)?

My goal is to have Stellar Navigation out by my birthday at the end of June. I am past the halfway point, and I tend to write faster and faster as I get into a book. With Safe Distances I wrote the last 250 pages in less than 10 weeks, and I only have maybe 150 left to go on this book. As for a teaser, I will tell you that Stellar Navigation is Elena’s story and it is all about power and weakness and how they are ultimately illusions. Like SD, SN is a mystery of motivations. WHY? WHY? WHY? is what the reader will ask again and again. I have some amazing new characters to love. Cayde is a fourteen-year-old, hyperactive, telekinetic, black boy with a goofy sense of humor and the sunniest of outlooks in the face of great darkness. His foil is a nineteen-year-old girl named Jordan who is all about the dead, who she writes to on a black wall with an awl. The there’s Jamie, the mentor, who shows Elena her power despite his weaknesses. The crossing-character is Dr. Caroline Robineau. I’ll let you figure out if she is evil or good. The through theme from Safe Distances is the deep and dark secrets that all the characters keep and eventually reveal with devastating consequences. Maybe you will like Ethan a little more this time around, but he does take a dark turn. It was inevitable. Wasn’t it?

Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

An Interview with J. H. Trumble

I’m thrilled to be able to bring you a personal interview with J. H. Trumble, two-time Lambda Literary Award nominee and author of Don’t Let Me Go,

Dont let me go

Where You Are

Where You Are

and Just Between Us.

Just Between Us

I met Janet last year through the proprietor of a local Austin bookstore called Bookwoman, and was intrigued from the beginning. How could I not be intrigued, given that, like me, Janet writes from a gay male perspective? I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in a joint reading with her and Austin author Russ Gregory, and today I’d like to share with you our recent conversation.

1) Tell us about your latest Lambda Literary Award nomination, and give us a little bit of background about Where You Are. The plot’s a provocative one, isn’t it? What was writing that book like for you, and how was it received by your readers?

I have to admit that Where You Are is the work I’m most proud of, so I was delighted when it was shortlisted for a Lambda award. WYA was also the easiest of my three books to write. Maybe that’s because I was writing about two worlds that I knew so well—public school and a family dealing with a terminally ill person.

I was actually working on a different book when the idea hit me to write about a teacher. I have a good friend who has been married to his wife for more than 40 years now. He was her history teacher. She was a cheerleader. He fell for her, but waited until she graduated to ask her out. I was intrigued by their relationship and couldn’t help but wonder what it would take for a really good guy like him to cross that student/teacher boundary before she graduated.

So I gave my main character a young man in crisis, a young man who was fairly mature for his age and who was just months away from a milestone that would render their relationship perfectly legal, and then I just let the relationship develop.

I had only about a week to think about it before I sat down to write. For the six weeks it took me to pound out the first draft, I never once lost the thrill of the initial idea. It was pure Nirvana!

Overall, the book has been well received. Most readers have really liked it, but those who haven’t generally object to the student/teacher relationship. It’s a very black and white issue for them. But I can’t help seeing the world in various shades of grey. Yes, the main character crossed the line, and yes, he suffered the consequences of his actions. But I just can’t see the relationship as wrong.

 2) I have to ask the same question my readers ask me. Why gay men? Why are you drawn to your characters and their particular stories?

I get asked that question a lot. The answer is really simple.

The genre is underrepresented.

And my daughter is gay.

Young gay men and young gay women need more role models.

They need to know that they’re okay, that they’re going to be okay, that being gay isn’t what defines them, but merely a part of who they are.

They need characters who are like them, taking on the world, triumphing, falling in love, breaking up, screwing up, having their hearts broken, feeling their hearts burst with love.

But just as important, the straight world needs to experience the same thing.

They need to know that their gay brothers and sisters, cousins and friends, parents and teachers, neighbors and elected officials are really no different than they are.

They need to know that they can root for a relationship between two young men or two young women just as they can for their straight counterparts.

When I first considered writing Don’t Let Me Go, I read everything I could find in the genre. Most of the books seemed to fall into one of two categories—coming out stories and erotica. I don’t know much about the latter, but the former already had some great books out there.

But I wanted more, and I couldn’t find it.

So I wrote my own book about the challenge of long distance relationships, then a book about a forbidden relationship, then a book about a difficult relationship.

While there is a coming out element in each of the books (that’s just reality), coming out is not the focus.

Those are the books I want to read, and those are the books I want to write.

So I write novels about gay young men.

Why not gay young women?

Because my daughter is gay.

It feels a little intrusive to me.

Maybe when she’s older.

3) Sometimes I get the impression that people think I’m pilfering the lives of my gay friends for story ideas (when in reality I’m pilfering the lives of everyone I know!). Where do you get the ideas for your novels?

From everyone I know, from my own life, from news stories that affect me. I tend to write about moments that just won’t let me go because they were side-splitting funny, or tragic, or frightening, or infuriating. The assault in Don’t Let Me Go came straight from a similar crime in my area. The young man eventually committed suicide. I wanted to give him the hero he so desperately needed. The family trauma in WYA came straight out of my own life, much fictionalized for the story, but moments and even dialog were just as I remember them. In Just Between Us I borrowed heavily from my experience during Hurricane Ike and from chaperoning my son’s band trips. My books are, in some ways, chronicles of my life. 

And just to set the record straight, I’ve never been involved in a student/teacher relationship! But I’m sure my school colleagues could read WYA and recognize far too much.

4) I’d love to hear about your writing process, and I think my readers would, too. Do your characters live in your head and keep you awake at night? Or do you come up with a topic and think, this would make a good story, and then go to work?

My characters definitely live in my head and keep me awake at night. Once I decide what I want to write about and determine the characters who will live in my story, I think about them all the time—while I’m driving, in the bathtub. They are behind the blank stare when someone’s trying to engage me in a conversation. My daughter says I talk to myself. I don’t even realize it, but I guess I’m working out dialog to see how it sounds.

I keep a Word document going with snippets of dialog and scene ideas that I want to use but I’m not ready for yet. I don’t use much of what I put in that document, but it gives me a place to troll for ideas when I’m not sure what comes next.

5) I love that we see glimpses of characters from one of your novels to the next. What makes you go back to the same characters–or at least the same fictional community–again and again?

Unfinished business! At the end of Don’t Let Me Go, Nate does see Luke again. It’s ten years later and Luke is with his fiancé Curtis. I love the way Curtis crushes Nate’s hand when he shakes it. A little warning? I had to know what that was about. I had to know what got Luke there. So I wrote JBU. And therein, we meet Robert. In one scene, Robert has dinner with Luke’s family—a rather awkward dinner. When Luke apologizes for that awkwardness, Robert tells him it’s no more awkward than dinner with his own family. And I thought, huh. Why? 

So almost two years later when I came up with the idea of writing about a teacher and I needed a student in crises, I thought about Robert, and WYA was on its way.

I love it when that happens.

6) How do you feel when you’re writing? Do you find the process difficult? Smooth and easy? What’s your favorite aspect of writing your books, and what do you find most challenging?

It’s different for every book. With my first, DLMG, I just wanted to write a novel. My goal was to hit 50,000 words. And I did it! But the story wasn’t finished, so I wrote a 50,000-word sequel. The two books eventually became DLMG and underwent significant rewriting to combine them.

JBU was torture. I completely rewrote the book at least three times and then revised it until I just couldn’t work with it anymore. I’d love to take another crack at it! But that’s why it was published third. It just wasn’t ready.

WYA was a breeze.

I love watching the novel unfold, seeing connections that I didn’t even know were there, finding those threads that I can pull through. And I love it when my own books make me laugh or cry.

7) In your most recent novel, Just Between Us, you write about a high school student, Curtis, and his reaction to a positive HIV diagnosis. What kind of research did you do for this novel? How have readers reacted?

In the early drafts of JBU, Curtis did not have HIV. But I knew he was keeping Luke at arm’s distance. I just couldn’t figure out why. What would be serious enough to keep two young men who are clearly smitten with each other and who are openly gay from starting a relationship?

HIV was the only thing serious enough to do that. The plot line was born and the research began. My sister-in-law is a doctor. She’s worked with AIDS patients, so I picked her brain plenty. I read And the Band Played On to understand the historical perspective. I corresponded with a young man who wrote an article for The Atlantic about his sero-discordant relationship. I talked to several young gay men whom I became friends with after the publication of DLMG about their feelings about dating an HIV positive man. I read every current article I could find on the current state of HIV. And I became friends with a woman who lost her brother to AIDS in the late 1980’s and whose son is gay and now living in San Francisco.

What I learned is that HIV is very manageable today. But it’s still a devastating diagnosis—the treatment is lifelong and is not without side effects, and the social stigma is significant. That was my story.

The reaction to the novel has been positive, but I do think the subject matter turns off some readers. Sales of this novel have not been as robust as they have been for the previous two.

8) What’s your favorite book of the ones you’ve written? Who’s your favorite character? Who would you like to see more of?

WYA is my favorite book, but I couldn’t possibly choose a favorite character. I love them all!

I’d love to visit all of them again. But I don’t know that I will. I am considering a novel wherein Nate and Adam are parents of a teenager, but they would be secondary characters in the novel (see below).

9) Can you tell us a bit about your current project?

I have a couple of ideas that I’ve been kicking around for a year or more. One involves a closeted married man, one is about a teenager who feels responsible for the disappearance of his sister, and one is about teenage girl with two dads. I’m not quite sure which one I’m going to tackle next. And who knows… I may come up with a totally different idea or some weird combination of the three I already have. It just works that way sometimes.

Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

Writer, Interrupted

A few months ago I wrote a blog post for Writership called “10 Ways to Keep Writing over the Holidays.” My ideas are sound, and personally tested. I really did write part of The Crossing sitting in the mist outside Laguna Gloria while my son took an art class. I really do believe that the more I move my body the more profoundly I can connect to my creativity. And there’s no question that I do my best to prioritize joy. I have nothing to give to anyone or anything around me–and that includes my fiction–if I don’t find at least a little space to take in the ballet or meet a friend for wine.

Some of the other ideas I mentioned in that post aren’t sustainable. I’m happy to stay up every once in a while to get in some extra writing time. But when I stayed up night after night for two years because I had a toddler and no other time to write I eventually crashed. Taking a shortcut here and there–the example I gave in that blog post was buying cupcakes for my son’s holiday party instead of firing up my KitchenAid mixer–makes sense to me. But I don’t like taking shortcuts all the time. I don’t like half-assing anything.

The trick seems to be finding the right combination of staying up late and taking shortcuts and prioritizing joy.

I’m still learning.

I do know that I write best when I have a swath of time to immerse myself in my characters. Fifteen minutes isn’t enough. An hour isn’t enough. I need several hours–at least two, and ideally three–when I’m completely unplugged. No texts, no emails, no Facebook notifications. I remember my mother telling me once that when you’re deep in work and you’re interrupted it takes twenty minutes to fully reengage. I have a feeling that’s pretty accurate. For years I’ve ignored the doorbell and let my phone roll to voicemail. The few times I’ve answered, the first question I’m asked is if I’m okay. Not because I sound irritated as hell (though I usually am), but because I sound completely out of it. I am out of it. I’m somewhere else. I’m someone else.

Writing this today I can’t help thinking of that phone call Joel makes to James in 1999. He’s in the back room and he’s painting, and for the first time in so long he thinks he might actually be able to finish what he started.

Joel's Supplies

But he’s supposed to meet James, and when he finally picks up his phone to cancel their plans James won’t let him off get off the line. This is what happens next:

I turn back to my easel the second I end the call. But I can’t find the image. I try to coax it back, like a lover gone astray, let my eyes fall to my palette. The colors shimmer in the light. I touch my brush to the paint, then try a half a dozen strokes. Nothing. I take a step away, go into the kitchen and pour myself a glass of water. Take a few deep breaths. I can lose myself again; I’ve been interrupted more times than I can count over the years and slipping back inside has never been a problem for me. This time won’t be any different. Cracking my knuckles, I go back to the canvas.

Gone. 

I don’t want to lose the words in my head. I want to lose myself in my characters. I want those wide swaths of time. I want a few hours when I have nothing and no one to answer to except my Muse.

That’s how I write my books. Not in bits and pieces, not a handful of minutes here and a few seconds there. But by surrendering myself wholly and unreservedly.

My characters deserve nothing less.

Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved.

My Own Exquisite Puzzle

“I could never write a book,” someone said to me recently. “It just seems so hard.”

But writing books feels so much easier than anything I’ve done so far today. Writing books feels easier than waking up this morning at 5:15 for no reason I could ascertain, then falling back asleep about five seconds before my alarm went off. Writing books feels easier than discovering we have a third “snow” day here in Austin, Texas, and knowing that the novelty has totally worn off for my bored, eleven-year-old son. Writing books feels easier than trying to convince my son that if he’s old enough to listen to music with explicit content on Pandora, he’s old enough to step up and feed the damn dogs. Writing books feels easier than trying to capture my terrier as he tears around my backyard, howling at the Weimaraner next door. Writing books even feels easier than writing this blog post, which I’ve done with interruptions to make hot tea and answer a phone call and retrieve my son’s favorite stuffed bat from the clutch of that demon terrier’s tiny jaws.

Getting into Joel’s head and writing his story? That’s nothing. It’s not even work. It’s the best kind of play. Even revision doesn’t feel tedious to me.

Occasionally when I’m on Twitter I see tweets from writers talking about how difficult they find the writing process. I never understand.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying I find the process effortless. Sometimes the words don’t come as quickly. Sometimes I work for hours and come up with nothing more than a single paragraph. But even then I don’t feel like I’m working. Instead I feel patient and grounded and wholly curious about what comes next.

In The Crossing, Joel says:

James is [...] something I can’t wrap my head around under the best of circumstances, and which tequila renders downright impossible. He’s mystifying, a puzzle exquisite in its intricacy, the one thing I want to figure out. At the same time he’s the simplest thing I know right now, my one constant other than the painting, as sure as the feel of that brush in my hand.

I feel the same way about my work.

Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved.

There’s Just a Good Feel in Here

I’ll do anything to get closer to my characters.

You probably already know that. You’ve seen my status updates on Facebook, you’ve read my blog posts over the years. You know about the readings, the photo shoots, that night in the cemetery. A few days ago, in a post on Writership–the year-long, online writing program I’m launching–I wrote about this very topic. I’m an organic writer, and unlike my Writership colleague, I can’t imagine using notecards or outlines as part of my process.

I want to feel my characters. I want to get inside of them.

So maybe it’s no surprise that when it came time to move last month I gravitated toward a house in central Austin that was built in 1940. Oh yes, I said the moment my friend unlocked the door and let me step inside, This is definitely more me.

Or more Joel. Because really, I can’t stop thinking about how much he’d like this house. The old gas fireplace

Fireplacethe original tile in the bathroom that I can never quite get clean

Old tilethat ridiculously tiny sink.

So smallI can hear Joel’s boots on the hardwood floors of this pier-and-beam foundation, can see him sitting on the back porch with a cigarette. In some ways I can’t get out of 1994, and in other ways this house reminds me of the kind of house Joel would have rented–in east Austin, though–at the end of I, too, Have Suffered in the Garden, in 2005. This room I’m sitting in right now, with the built-in bookcase

Bookcaseand those seventy-year-old windows

Broken Windowthat really do leave me shaking with cold when the temperature drops, is exactly the way I envisioned Joel’s studio. Here’s what happens when Adam sees it for the first time:

The room doesn’t hold a candle to the space I created for him at home. He’s dealing with a second bedroom in here, and though windows line three of the walls my guess is that he doesn’t get the light he needs. There’s no sink, no room to stretch his own canvas. But the work itself drops my jaw.

I’m ready to drop your jaw. Because this house is where I’m writing my third novel, the follow-up to The Crossing and I, too, Have Suffered in the Garden. I know from experience that I can infuse this house with an energy that’s palpable enough to register with anyone who walks through my door. There’s a good feel in here, James admits in The Crossing as he watches Joel work, and Joel knows exactly what he means.

I had a bit of hesitation about moving here. There’s no central air-conditioning, no central heating system. The third bedroom is really a converted garage, not necessarily the most inviting place for my son. But now that we’re here, I don’t even notice the window units. I’ve totally made that third bedroom work. Best of all, slipping into Joel’s head feels easier than ever.

How can it not, when he’s everywhere I turn?

Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved.

 

Write It All Down

I was at a party earlier today at my son’s school, and I ran into someone who’s reading The Crossing. She pulled me aside and said in a hushed tone, “I just have to ask. Where do you get these stories?”

I knew what she meant. She wasn’t asking why I write about psychological trauma and memory and repression. She wanted to know why I write about gay men.

I’ve been asked more times than I can count, believe me. I mean, I could probably write one book with a gay narrator without raising too many eyebrows. But I have two novels published and another one on the way, not to mention short stories and vignettes. So what’s up with this preoccupation of mine?

I like to say that my stories are just there. I’m not creating a damn thing. I’m just tapping in, and giving voice to these characters.

But that sounds so trite. I’m a channel, I’m a conduit, I’m some sort of medium. Saying those words makes what’s really an incredibly humbling experience sound… I don’t know. Cheesy.

It’s also the truth.

Of course, I could tell you that men fascinate me. Because they do. The way they walk across hardwood floors in a pair of scuffed boots. The way they say bullshit under their breaths, with just the right drawl. The way they scrub their hands across stubbled jaws when they’re tired. I’m intrigued, enough that I want to know more.

I could also tell you that I’m curious about men’s relationships with other men. Because I am, and have been from the moment I read S. E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders when I was thirteen years old. Male friendships seem to me (and I realize this could just be my perception, or my experience) to be much more guarded than the friendships I’ve seen between women. Affection sometimes bleeds through the cracks, but there’s a reticence in male friendships that totally turns me on.

Or I could tell you that I’m interested in sex in general. Because I am. And I can’t help but wonder about friendships that cross a boundary into something more.

But I never thought to myself, hmm, what would happen if a college freshman who’s a natural caretaker, maybe in part because he ended up with a baby sister when he was barely a teenager, finds himself with a roommate who can’t seem to get his shit together? What if their relationship turns into a “codependent disaster?” What if they cross so many lines they can barely differentiate between themselves?

And I never sat down and wrote out an outline about some guy who loses his lover to AIDS, only to find himself entrenched in the past a dozen years later. I didn’t think, okay, in Chapter One I’ll open with a scene in the garden, and then I’ll make sure that I reference that garden again and again throughout the rest of the novel. I didn’t think: what would happen if I wrote some kind of tome about this particular generation of gay men?

I suppose there are some writers who are that intentional. I’m not one of them.

I write what I feel. And I can really easily feel my way into Joel and James and Adam. I can see them from my perspective, like I’m watching a movie, and I can also slip into their heads and see everything through their lenses.

It’s actually pretty fucking cool.

And honestly, it feels so good. And I really base so very much on how I feel.

When I’m asked where I get my stories, when readers assume that I must have a wide circle of gay friends whose lives I’m pilfering for content, I laugh. “Maybe I was a gay man in a former life,” I say, and I’m only halfway kidding. Because these stories are there, and I’m just writing them down.

Trite or not, that’s the truth.

Copyright © 2013  Jennifer Hritz  All Rights Reserved

Reading in 2013

There’s nothing quite like losing yourself in a good book, especially during the winter months when the weather’s chilly and curling up with a book seems like the sensible thing to do. The week of Thanksgiving the weather here in Austin was so frigid that one day I never bothered getting out of bed. I’ll be honest; most of the time I was working. But I was also reading David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing,

 

A Must-Read, for Sure

A Must-Read, for Sure

undoubtedly one of the best books I’ve read this year. Lyrical and lovely, I found myself audibly catching my breath just a few pages in. That’s such a fabulous feeling, to be at the very beginning of a book and know that you’ve picked up something special and still have chapters and chapters to go.

I’ve seen so many lists lately, touting the best books of 2013. If I created a similar list, there’s no question that David Levithan’s novel would be on it. But I have to admit that I don’t always stick to what’s recently published when I’m looking for a good book. So yes, I read Two Boys Kissing this year. But I also read Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary, which was sparsely worded and yet so rich that I knew my reading experience would end too soon. I read Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, (and oh, did I want more of Jonah than I got!), but I also got caught up in Alice Hoffman’s The Red Garden and I surprised the hell out of myself by loving Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I relished J. H. Trumble’s newest novel, Just Between Us, but I also blew through her first two novels and am still trying to pinpoint my favorite of the three.

And this book just arrived for me a few days ago, Ann Weisgarber’s The Promise.

Oh, I can't wait to start this one!

Oh, I can’t wait to start this one!

 

Even the inside of the cover intrigues.

Love this

Love this

Of course, I spent more time in 2013 in my own fictional world than in any other. I’ve read The Crossing more times than I could possibly begin to count, and even made the mistake of reading through the novel after publication. I’m still trying to figure out a way to easily correct the editorial errors I uncovered on that read-through. But I never tire of reading about Joel, no matter how many times I feel like shaking him and telling him to get his shit together.

I get the impression that some of you feel the same. I hope so. That’s absolutely my goal as a writer: to tell Joel’s story so compellingly that you keep coming back for more.

I’ll be writing more about Joel (and Adam and James) in the new year, and I’m curious to find out what happens to them.  I have an idea, of course, but my characters like to keep me on my toes. I can’t wait to share with you what I learn about them. In the meantime, check back here every so often for new vignettes. I promise more eye candy, too.

And if you’d like, tell me in the comments below what books you lost yourself in this year. I’m always looking for a good read!

Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

A Moment of Gratitude

Thanksgiving figures prominently in the lives of my characters. At this time of year I can’t help thinking about Joel coming home from college and sharing sketches of James with his mother. I love those years that Joel tags along with James to Fort Worth, especially the year he’s waiting for the results of his HIV test. And that moment he walks into BookPeople on a whim the day before the holiday and stumbles across Adam Atwater: I can almost see his smile.

I’ll be at BookPeople myself tomorrow, dropping off copies of The Crossing for Austinites desperate to have their hands on a paperback copy in time for the holiday. But otherwise my holiday will look remarkably different from Joel’s. I won’t be steadying myself because I catch a whiff of cigar smoke.

"The smell knocks me back a dozen years..."

“The smell knocks me back a dozen years…”

I’m not going to be taking a midnight hike through the Botanic Gardens in Fort Worth, watching my breath in the light of a full moon. I’m not shoving my creativity down deep inside of me because I’m afraid of what might happen if I don’t.

But if anything you’ve just read intrigues you, do check out my novel. I’ve been told it’s compulsively readable. (I can assure you it was compulsively writable.)

And in the meantime, please accept my profound gratitude for your support. Writing is such a solitary act, but when readers purchase my novel, when they take the time to dive into my stories, when they reach out to tell me where they are in the reading process… well, it’s that sort of connection that makes my experience as a writer complete.

Thank you for that.

Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

Creative Rock Star

I’m a creative rock star.

At least, that’s what my psychic says. And before you roll your eyes and make a snide comment about psychics saying whatever they think I want to hear, you should know that my psychic has worked with law enforcement to capture criminals who have crossed state lines. So I pretty much trust what she says.

And she says I’m a creative rock star.

So I’m feeling pretty damn empowered.

And I should. The Crossing is now available for your reading pleasure (or displeasure; I’m getting a lot of feedback from readers who want to give Joel a kick in the ass because his behavior, like Adam’s in I, too, Have Suffered in the Garden, is so appalling). Every time I look at the cover, designed by Virginia Hassell with Big Star Creative, I feel a little thrill.

The Crossing

Cover by Virginia Shurgar Hassell

And every time I open up my email to another message from a reader, I get that much more excited. Because that’s the point of this whole process, isn’t it? Not just to lose myself in Joel’s head (or Adam’s head, or James’s head), but to share what I’m seeing with others.

I was able to celebrate that experience a little over a week ago at my book launch party, which my lovely friend, Jennifer Seth, threw for me at Chez Zee, in Austin. I’m never able to visit quite as deeply with my guests as I’d like at these events, but they’re still magical. Best of all, I was able to read from my novel, and that’s absolutely where I’m in my element. Are you nervous? my brother asked before my reading at Bookwoman back in July, and I laughed. I’m never nervous. Never. I’m just as comfortable in Joel’s voice as I am in my own, and I promise that everyone at that party last week would agree with me. What’s cool, said Amie Stone King, my wonderful marketing maven, Is that you say you need a moment to get into Joel’s head and you look down at your book… and when you look up you’re someone else.

Hell yes, I am!

You want to see what I’ve been lost in for years now? Take a look.

And please, tell me what you think in the comments below. I’d love to hear to hear from you.

Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

Heartbreak

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It’s heartbreaking to write a novel.

I’ve spent years lost in Joel’s voice, and in some ways I don’t want to let him go.  But The Crossing is finally finished, and now it’s time to share my work with the world.

Thank you, Big Star Creative!

Thank you, Big Star Creative!

If you’re ready to hear Joel’s story, you can purchase a copy through Amazon.

For now, only a paperback version is available.  But Virginia Hassell of Big Star Creative is working behind the scenes to have my novel available on Kindle within the next week or two.

And if you’re wondering about that book launch party of mine, the one with a dead date I had to meet… I rescheduled.  Sometimes life doesn’t line up exactly as you expect.  Joel knows that; so does Adam.  Instead, my party’s this Friday, November 8th.  I’ll be reading and celebrating and toasting Joel, and I’ll make sure to give you highlights.

To Joel.  I hope you like his story.

Copyright © 2013  Jennifer Hritz  All Rights Reserved

Movement

Someone told me last week that I’m at a pivotal place in my chart, that for some reason I chose to have everything in my life shift at at once.  I’m feeling it.  I’m all over the emotional map right now, dealing with some crazy shit in my relationships, finding my way through new revenue streams, diving into a new project with someone who just be the last person I would ever imagine as a co-collaborator.  And I’m moving, too, downsizing to a smaller house closer to the core of the city.  I’m not sure when that’s going to happen, but it’s going to be soon and it’s going to be quick.

In the midst of all of this chaos I’m finishing the last revisions of my novel.

Paint stains the denim, so thick and vibrant I almost can't bring myself to wash it.

Paint stains the denim, so thick and vibrant I almost can’t bring myself to wash it.

I’ve been promising you for a while that you’ll have The Crossing in your hands and now there’s no turning back.  I have a book launch party planned for October 25th, and if that book of mine doesn’t get to my designer by October 1st I’m not going to have books to sign.  So I’ve been flying through read-through after read-through, staying up late, working weekends.  I’ve had a provocative tête-à-tête with my designer about the book cover and I’m so excited to show you what we’ve been dreaming up.  And I’ve been working on Book Club questions, too, because I know from experience how much you like those.  I don’t blame you; I like little more than listening in as you argue over whether or not you can forgive Adam his affair given the damage in his past, or lament that anniversary weekend.

The Crossing is coming.

In the interim you can see me at BookWoman next Sunday, September 29th.  I’ll be there with JH Trumble and Russ Gregory, two novelists you should absolutely know if you don’t already.  We’re having a panel discussion about what it’s like to write LGBT fiction, and we want your questions, the sexier the better.  We’ll be ready to talk about love, loss and passion starting at 3 pm.  And we want to see you there.

Copyright © 2013  Jennifer Hritz  All Rights Reserved