The Second Time Around

Both booksMany authors, once they’ve published their books, never read them again. I understand why. Misspellings and minor discrepancies, especially given the time most writers spend revising and editing before publication, are cringe-worthy. Stumbling across entire paragraphs in need of elaboration–or that should be scrapped entirely–can be downright demoralizing. Better to just focus on the next novel, right?

When that next novel involves the same characters, however, looking back at those previous books becomes a necessity.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve reread both The Crossing and I, too, Have Suffered in the Garden. I started with The Crossing (chronologically speaking, that novel comes first, but was published second), and finished Garden yesterday. As I expected, I found misspellings and minor discrepancies, as well as the inevitable paragraph in need of elaboration or omission. Those errors weren’t what got to me.

Here’s what did.

Joel has balls. Somehow I missed that in the writing of The Crossing, which took a good twenty years.

James has an agenda. He’s also a coward. (For the record, that last sentence was really, really hard for me to write.)

Loving someone and feeling like you shouldn’t be with them sucks. That just might be the most banal statement I’ve ever made, but James’s angst was profound for me with this reading.

Coming out in the nineties, especially in Texas, was arguably more difficult than coming out in 2016. There’s the second most banal statement I’ve ever made, but I keep thinking of Adam’s rant in Garden about the next generation of gay men:

They have no idea what I’ve gone through, what any of us who came of age in the eighties had to endure […] They’re too busy reaping the benefits of the groundwork we were responsible for laying […] I just can’t stand the sense of entitlement I see, the defiance I find undeserved.

Joel’s father has more nuance than I remembered. His mother, while she has her own story, makes me crazy.

Ashley (James’s sister) and Lindsey (Adam’s niece) are little scene-stealers.

The sections that were once my favorite no longer speak to me in the same way. This makes sense, I suppose; I hadn’t read The Crossing since 2013, and I hadn’t read Garden since 2010. My favorite scene overall? The one in The Crossing where Joel picks up the guy who wears too much hair product. I’d entirely forgotten the wording at the end of that scene, and whoa. I felt such a tremendous sense of foreboding.

Parts of each book made me cry. I knew what was going to happen, but I cried anyway. I don’t know if that’s because I love these men so much, or because the scenes in question (I’m thinking specifically of Joel sitting on the floor of the closet in his old bedroom at the end of The Crossing, and Adam talking to his father over Thanksgiving at the end of Garden) are actually that heartbreaking.

The big revelation? My third book might actually be two. I’ll know soon, because next up on my agenda is reading the 171,000 words I have so far. (For reference, The Crossing is 195,000 words, and Garden is 120,000). Either way, I promise you’ll have something to read soon. (That’s writer-speak for within the year.)

In the meantime, I invite you to reread one or both of the novels I’ve already written. I promise your take will be different the second time around.

Copyright © 2016 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

Now Available for Your Reading Pleasure

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 Bloom, 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.

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

Want a Taste of Joel?

Someone once told me after hearing me read from I, too, Have Suffered in the Garden that I became Adam as I read. You didn’t even need the book in front of you, she said, You knew the story by heart.

Well, yes. Adam has held me captive for years. I know his words, the cadence of his speech. I’m intimate with his every inflection. So the idea that I become him when I read his story aloud makes complete sense to me.

The same holds true when I read from the point of view of my other characters.

Back in May I participated in a group reading at BookWoman, and I chose to read this vignette, told from the perspective of a peripheral character in the fictional world I’ve created. I needed a moment that day, after I introduced myself, to take a breath and find Travis’ voice, but once I did I was inside of him. Travis has a bit of a drawl, and I heard that drawl come from my own mouth. I felt the desperation he’s feeling, standing there between his parents at his brother’s funeral, watching as Adam–a senior in high school at the time–approaches to offer his condolences. My voice shook a little describing those afternoons Travis and Adam spent behind a locked door, and steadied with resignation as I read the last two lines.

I love reading my work, and I’ve been told that it shows.

This Saturday, July 27th, I have another reading at BookWoman. This one’s solo, and I’m going to be reading mostly from I, too, Have Suffered in the Garden. I’m not yet certain which scenes I’ll read, but I’m excited by the deliberation. Maybe I’ll read from the novel’s first section, where Adam finds Bobby kneeling in the garden. Maybe I’ll read the scene where Adam takes over that babysitting gig from Joel–an epic fail. Or I’ll read about James’s arrival in Austin, and what Adam does that night to end up in jail. Oh, and the scene where Adam meets David, and suffers through that wonderful, terrible kiss? That’s one of my favorites.

I have so many choices.

I’ll also have another treat for those of you in attendance: I’m going to read a bit from The Crossing, coming out so soon my heart skips at the thought. Just a taste, mind you, but I’m really looking forward to slipping into Joel’s voice, right there in front of you.

BookWoman this Saturday, at 7 o’clock. I’d love to see you there.

p.s. Is there a scene you’d especially like to hear? Leave a comment below and tell me what you’re thinking.

Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved