Friday, September 25, 2009

That Old Fiction Magic

Now that the kids are back in school, I’m hoping to get back into the blogging groove. Friday, I was called for jury duty which, along with instilling me with a feeling of civic pride, gave me time to delve into THAT OLD CAPE MAGIC, the latest novel by Richard Russo.

For those of you who don’t know, Russo was one of my writing professors at Colby (along with Jennifer Finney Boylan). Both taught me everything I know about writing. Russo brought a sense of humility and respect to the classroom, taught us never to be genre snobs, and always found something genuinely kind to say about everyone’s work. Later, when I was trying to sell my manuscript for THE GREATEST MAN IN CEDAR HOLE, Russo took the time to help me with the process, even though by then he had already won the Pulitzer Prize for EMPIRE FALLS everyone and their uncle wanted a piece of him.

One of the things I’ve loved most about Russo’s novels, and have tried my best to emulate in my own writing, is his good, old-fashioned storytelling. His works are epic and cozy at the same time. When you crack open one of his books, you can almost feel him sitting beside you, saying, “Hey, listen. I’ve got this great story to tell you…” Russo fans know what I’m talking about, but for the uninitiated, I recommend starting with THE RISK POOL, NOBODY’S FOOL, or EMPIRE FALLS.

THAT OLD CAPE MAGIC seems promising so far, too, with Russo’s humor in top form.

I’m happy to say that as far as my new novel goes, it’s finally starting to take off. How do I know? I was in the middle of writing a scene the other day—a scene that was about to end with my main character making a specific choice—and out of the blue, my character did the complete opposite of what I wanted him to do! Cheeky bugger! His action was so strong and so surprising to me that I had no choice but to follow. What grew out of his choice was something suspenseful and funny, something I don’t think I would have come up with on my own. It’s moments like these that make the writing process so fun. It makes me feel like I’m the Blue Fairy and my character is Pinocchio—he now has a life of his own. I can’t wait to see where he takes me.