Even Then I Was Working

I learned early on that some of my best work came to me when I was doing absolutely nothing. Adam never understood. I could see the irritation in his expression when he’d come home from work and find me on one of the pool loungers, my eyes shut and my skin dark. But I was always working. Even then I was working.

These words come from Slow Burn, and they belong—as you might have guessed, if you’re familiar with my fiction—to Joel. I’m appropriating them today to explain why I’ve been so quiet lately: on this blog, on my Facebook author page, on Twitter, on Instagram.

I’ve told you before that I feel a dip in between books. Finishing Slow Burn was no exception. I know what’s coming in the next novel; I’ve already written almost one hundred pages. Given that those scenes were planned for Slow Burn, I assumed I’d move effortlessly from one book to the other. Instead I’ve taken a break, what started out as a two-week hiatus sometime last spring and stretched across the entire summer, most of which I spent sitting on my settee, watching the birds in my birdbath. Every so often I’d feel a wisp of breath from the Muse. Then I’d look out my window again.

I knew I was cultivating something anyway, something I couldn’t yet see.

That’s Joel again, talking about a pause in his painting in the summer of 2007. Without that pause, Slow Burn wouldn’t unfold in the same way. Joel’s art would take a different turn. So would his relationship with James. His entire life would change if he put those months to a different purpose.

Of course, in the end you might wish that Joel had never taken time off.

For my part, I appreciate the time I’ve spent on my settee. Even if I haven’t been sitting with an open laptop or posting on Instagram, I know I’ve been working.

Now comes the fun part.

Copyright © Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

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 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

Writer, Interrupted

A few months ago I wrote a blog post for someone 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. Unlike many writers, 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, and I can’t help but wonder about the ones 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 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, 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.

Ann Weisgarber’s The Promise arrived just a few days ago, and even the cover intrigues.

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

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

Heartbreak

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 craziness in my relationships, finding my way through new revenue streams, diving into a new project with someone who just might 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

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 

That Question Is too Intimate

A friend of mine occasionally asks how my characters are faring. How’s Joel today? she’ll write in an email.

At first her questions took me aback. They felt personal and deeply intimate. But now those questions make me giddy.  Even when I haven’t had much time to write, instead of seeing those questions and feeling guilty because I haven’t had the opportunity to give my characters the attention they deserve, I pause for a moment and think, How IS Joel today?

I just finished my last major read-through of The Crossing.

I take notes as I go, instead of editing as I read. That way I’m able to maintain the novel’s flow in my head; I’m able to tell if sentence follows sentence, paragraph follows paragraph, scene follows scene, seamlessly. When I get to the end I look at my notes, usually a dozen pages of what needs to be changed. But this last time around I had less than one page.

That’s how I know I’m getting close.

From now on I’ll be looking for minor edits, keeping an eye out for stray commas and homophones. I’ll also make sure that the novel’s structure makes sense; in an earlier draft, Joel’s life was measured by James’s semesters. But now I’ve blocked the novel differently, and I want to make sure that works. I added a few moments during my last read-through, too, and I want to make sure they make sense when read against the novel as a whole. After my photography shoot in May, for example, we ended up with some great photos of James (Addison Roush) peeling off his coat to give to Joel (Evan Shaw) on the night of his 25th birthday.  (Look at this photo in dim light, so you can really see what’s going on.) That moment never happened in the original scene. But we ended up with those shots courtesy of Josh Baker and they were so perfect that just yesterday I added it in. I’ll make sure when I read through the novel that the addition wasn’t a mistake.

I don’t think it was.

Then I’ll be ready to work with my designer to get this novel into your hands. We’re already revamping my website in preparation.

Soon you’ll be able to see for yourself how Joel’s doing.

p.s. While you’re waiting, give I, too, Have Suffered in the Garden another look, and in the comments below, tell me what you thought. Did you love it? Did Adam make you crazy? (Oh, you still haven’t read it? Click here to purchase.)

Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved

Swings, Bars and Cemeteries

I’m mere months from the publication of my next novel, The Crossing, and part of the revision process involves early readers. One in particular, Kristin, I can always count on to blast me with the unadulterated truth, the kind that makes me go back and rewrite the beginning. Again. But I trust her, and I know she’s not going to steer me wrong. However brutal it might have been to hear that my first paragraph was too precious, I had to admit she was right.

So I’ve been deep in revisions for a while, and I’m looking forward to that moment I read through the entire document and think, yeah, I’m done.

(As much as any artist can ever be done. Wasn’t it Degas who kept trying to work on his paintings even after he’d sold them?)

Kristin has read The Crossing more than once. I think she’s read it five times, actually–twice recently, twice the first time around, and once in between. She’s a careful reader, and thoughtful, and she’s not afraid to mince words (as evidenced by her “your first paragraph is too precious” comment, as well as a few other choice remarks). But what struck her the most about her latest read-through, she said, was that she really “felt the years.” Kristin read the first draft of The Crossing back in 2006, and now it’s 2013 and I’m still living with the same voices in my head. She wondered what it would feel like to write this book, to have a twenty-year relationship with certain characters (Joel first came to me so long ago I’d rather blush than mention my age). How could I still connect with them?

Oh, but I can. I slip into their heads so easily. I think about them so often, in fact, that I know the people who love me most think I’m a bit crazy.

So much of the time I’m somewhere else.

But I honestly can’t help myself.

And I don’t know that I want to change.

Does this mean I can’t be there for my friends? That my son doesn’t get my undivided attention later today when he comes home from summer camp and wants to race his radio-controlled cars with me? That I’m incapable of a connected conversation?

Absolutely not. But it might mean that you have to say my name more than once.

Because I might be thinking about that swing scene, the one where Joel says that he can “feel something building, a restlessness, a shiver of impatience.”

Or I might have in my mind the moment Joel meets Adam, and says, “His eyes, even in the dim light of the bar, knock me out.” (You know all about Adam if you’ve read I, too, Have Suffered in the Garden–and if you haven’t read that novel yet, OH. You so should. Click here to purchase.)

Or I might be thinking ahead, to the next novel, the one I’m already writing.

Tantalized?

I am. I always am. And each short story, each vignette, each photograph, feels that much more provocative than the last.

Twenty plus years and counting.

I have no intention of turning back.

p.s. Do you ever get lost in your head? Are you a writer, a photographer, an artist, a musician, an engineer? Tell me what you do and what that feels like in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved