The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Month of Fundays: Day 9 – Reread a Favorite Book

I’m so lazy today. I’ve spent most of the day in bed trying to shake the cold with rest and tea. And also reread a favorite book, that’s why we’re here after all. By 1:00 I’d managed to make it into the living room, shower and put on some actual clothes – it’s yoga/lounge attire, so comfy-I’m-running-errands-at-best clothes, but still I was slightly more presentable. The weather is cooperating with me; no humidity to speak of and the temperature dropped to about 65 or 70 degrees. This means I can snuggle in the big comfy chair with a blanket, tea, chicken noodle soup and my book. The comfy chair is REALLY big to accommodate all of my cold accoutrements.

If you are playing along, any sort of reading is good. I know people who will never reread a book or re-watch a movie. I’m not those people, if I like something I keep going back to it. If you don’t read at all, then by all means just take some time out of your day to enjoy a new book. It took me a little bit of time to come up with a book to reread. I thought about childhood favorites like Anne of Green Gables or more recent favorites like The Hunger Games, but in the end I went with Mary Stewart’s This Rough Magic. If you don’t know who Mary Stewart is, she’s a mystery/romance/fiction writer who was quite popular in the 1960s, 70s and 80s in the UK. You may know her (Mara, I mean you) as the Arthurian historical/fantasy writer because she also wrote the critically acclaimed Merlin Chronicles – 5 books (originally a trilogy) published between 1970 and 1995.

My mother first introduced me to Mary Stewart – she did so shortly after I started reading on my own. And here’s where re-reading comes in handy. When I was little and reading – and Mary Stewart’s descriptions made me want to read, and to travel – I enjoyed the general plot of books like This Rough Magic. There’s a dolphin and sailing, a love story and murder and it’s also magical because it’s wrapped up in a neat little package that is Corfu, Greece. On each subsequent reread I pick up something new, my age and life events help me see new things and focus on different parts.

What I’ve Learned As A Reader:
- Mary Stewart gave me the travel bug. Sure, I’d probably have figured it out on my own the first time I went anywhere – but her descriptions made me want to go see places in the first place.

- Mary Stewart gave me my first Shakespearian stirrings. Again, I’d probably have fallen in love with the Bard once we started reading and seeing his plays in school, but this book in particular with the quote from The Tempest at the beginning of each chapter and the themes from the play running throughout.

- Mary Stewart is the reason I first went to Edinburgh, Scotland. It is one of my very favorite cities in the world, it is strikingly gorgeous, the people are amazing, and I first stopped in the city in 1998 because I knew Mary Stewart was living there. That 1998 trip was when I discovered Harry Potter, so as a literary city I find it superior to most.

What I’ve Learned As A Writer:

- Setting things in a different location. I spent a few nights in the Isle of Skye on my first trip to Scotland. Once I knew I was going, I remembered Mary Stewart had written a novel set on the island. I was living in London at the time, and I wanted to read the book so I spent a week searching used bookstores until I found an early printing. While on Skye I walked around and looked at my surroundings, looking for settings from the book. I found them; I also found a boathouse set on the coast below a cliff with a tree lined path. I have no doubt that boathouse inspired Mary Stewart to write the scene in the book I’m rereading today; a scene set in Greece. It’s a really simple thing, but the thought had never crossed my mind. Using things you’ve seen in a new location, remembering that one thing and placing it here, in this other place. I sat there looking at that boathouse for 15 minutes participating in my own setting master class.

- Mary Stewart taught me to write about what I want to read. If I don’t see it out there it is my job to create it. It’s OK to mix genres and create your own category. The publishing world may not be a fan at first, but if you write well it will get published. When she was first published, Mary Stewart was considered a romance writer – but there’s not a lot of romance in her books. I think she categorized herself more as a mystery/suspense writer, but at the time mystery and suspense didn’t leave a lot of room for romantic entanglements. She wrote a cross-breed because those are the stories she wanted to tell and created a new genre by doing so.

- Good dialogue can be read out loud. Actually, good dialogue should be read out loud. The dialogue in This Rough Magic reads like a play at times. It is a story about two London theatre actors and interwoven with both Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Much Ado About Nothing. Mary Stewart taught me to stop reaching for my dialogue – to let the dialogue fit the plot.

Books can become good friends, rereading them is a tangible, joyful experience!

While getting the song clip for the day, I tried typing in "Mary Stewart" to see what YouTube would have. They had this AMAZING interview from the early 1990s. It made me cry - that could be the cold medicine, too. It's still AMAZING and everything I think about being a writer myself (Not at all surprising, really). And also 25 minutes long, so be warned if you click on it.

Picture: A picture of where you would choose to read for an entire day if you could. You can also just tell me the name of the book and author. What makes a book re-readable anyway? Maybe I should have put that above in the body of this post…except I have no good answer. You tell me in the comments.

Song: Well the book I’m reading was written in 1964 and the 60s make me think of The Beatles, so I’m going with “Paperback Writer” because that seems fitting today! Also, when we were little, Stacy always used to think it was “Burn the Bag Brighter” which is funnier and endlessly amusing. This is why we don’t let her forget it!

The Garden – Tending, Planting or Sitting in One

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