Anyone who knows me personally or knows my work also knows that I’ve been writing nonfiction for over thirty years. I started my career as a health and medical writer. After moving into medical communication and working as an academic and consultant, my writing focused on communications. I occasionally was able to mesh health and communication in my writing. Some of you still use my textbooks – I know this because I still get royalty cheques!
Now, as a recovering academic, I spend the bulk of my writing time writing fiction. Today, I launch my latest novel, “The Inscrutable Life of Frannie Phillips.”
I never really intended to write this book. In fact, when I finished The Year I Made 12 Dresses that launched six months into the pandemic, I thought I was finished with the main character, Charlotte (Charlie) Hudson. Not so much. Have you ever had a character whisper into your ear? Keep talking in your head? Generally, bug you until you had to write about her again? That’s where Kat’s Kosmic Blues came in. But it seemed she wasn’t finished there.
So, today, I launch The Inscrutable Life of Frannie Phillips and here’s my little launch party where I tell you about writing this book…
And here’s more info…
I’ll now return to my usual blogging: sharing my writing tips, advice and general journey. You might even enjoy reading this book.
Care about people’s approval, and you will be their prisoner.
Historical fiction seems to be a trendy genre these days. I’ve written my share of historical fiction (Grace Note comes immediately to mind―I mean, if a book set in the twelfth century isn’t historical fiction, I’m not sure what is!).I’m launching my newest book today―Kat’s Kosmic Blues―and I’m wondering if it’s historical fiction to some people. The question is: when does a story qualify as historical fiction?
It seems clear that if a story takes place in the past and is fictional, it must, by definition, be “historical fiction.” But it seems that it’s not that clear at all.
The blurb on Masterclass that leads into Margaret Atwood’s class on creative writing says the following:
Historical fiction transports readers to another time and place, either real or imagined. Writing historical fiction requires a balance of research and creativity, and while it often includes real people and events, the genre offers a fiction writer many opportunities to tell a wholly unique story.
So, any novel that transports the reader to another time and place is historical―except when it isn’t. There seems to be a notion decreed by some parts of the online community that anything set 50 years ago or earlier is historical fiction. But really? If you’re sixty-five years old and lived through the period in question, then, for you, it’s not historical fiction at all. It may not be contemporary, but a story set fifty years ago won’t feel like it is in any way in the same category as, for example, The Girl with the Pearl Earring or The Thornbirds (to mention two of my favourites).
It seems then that what is historical fiction is a bit subjective. And what about a story that starts fifty-five years ago (1965) and sweeps you all the way to 1989? Historical fiction? Probably not. And that’s what I’m launching today.
Kat’s Kosmic Blues, the prequel to The Year I Made 12 Dresses, is really a contemporary book.
In these days of COVID restrictions, we really do have to find creative ways to launch books! Please join me here…
In modern parlance, I’m what might be called a “plotter” when it comes to my writing. This is in contrast to those of you who are called “pantsers,” although I’m not sure why anyone would accept that slightly dubious moniker. Anyway, plotters plan things – characters, timelines, settings and, yes, plots. Pantsers go “by the seat of their pants” evidently. I plan.
I think my planning comes from my background as a nonfiction writer. To sell a nonfiction book to a publisher, a writer has to learn to write a dynamic book proposal. An, what is a book proposal except for a big, detailed plan? That’s what it is. So, when it comes to fiction, my tendency is to take the same approach. Up to a point.
I have a new book out this past week. I think it’s the best book I’ve ever written – but, as my mother used to say, “Self-praise is no recommendation.” Thanks, Mom. The thing about this new book is that I started out with a plan, but something or someone took over. I think it might have been Charlie. Let me introduce you to her in a minute. First, I want to talk about this writing process.
I started this book with a thin outline and an idea for a character. This character would make a discovery that would take her on a journey of discovery. I just didn’t know at the time that it would be a journey of self-discovery – for both her and for me. Charlie was supposed to be a kind of wise-cracking, sarcastic thirty-something with a penchant for seeing humour everywhere she went. Sort of like Jenn, the main character in my novel Plan B. I suppose the universe must be telling me that I need to diversify my contemporary women’s characters a bit because Charlie is not much like Jenn!
(When I write historical fiction, characters don’t seem to be wise-cracking, sarcastic women – but I suppose that’s an idea!)
As I began writing this book, it took on a whole different dimension – a whole different kind of disposition. It felt different to me as I was writing, and it looked very different when the story was out there in front of me.
Here’s what happened.
The book is The Year I Made 12 Dresses: The almost-but-not-quite-true story.
A struggling writer, an enigmatic shop clerk, an old sewing machine and an inspirational journey of discovery – where every dress is more than it appears to be.
After her mother’s unexpected death, struggling writer Charlotte (Charlie) Hudson moves into her family house after her older, mostly absent sister Evelyn instructs her to empty the family home of objects and memories to ready it for sale.
When Charlie stumbles on a dusty old sewing machine hidden away among the clutter of detritus in the basement, she has no idea of the journey it will take her on, or of the secrets it might reveal about her mother, her family and herself. If only she will let it.
With the help of an enigmatic fabric-guru named Al, Charlie discovers how little she really knows about anyone – especially herself.