Today, I am excited to share with you the haunting cover for my friend and fellow Playlist Fiction author, Jennifer Murgia's newest book. Jennifer has a gift for writing page turners full of suspense. She describes herself as "writing dark and moody things", which cracks me up, because she is one of the sweetest, loveliest people you could ever meet. Here's the inside scoop on her upcoming novel.
Raised by an old fortune-teller within the dark veil of the Bavarian Black Forest, Rune has learned two valuable lessons: only take from the forest that which you can use, and never, never look anyone in the eye in the village. For something terrible happened in the forest long ago... and now, the whispers of a long-dead mother with a vengeful secret have come haunting.
Forced to flee all she has ever known, Rune soon learns of a legacy she is bound to--one that is drenched in fear--a birthright that stretches beyond the grave to the trees where Rune is no longer safe.
Jennifer Murgia has been writing since she was nine years old. After receiving recognition for her poetry, she went on to use her talents to bring characters to life in fiction novels that are authentic, intriguing, and personal. She currently resides in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.
Today I'm talking with Laura Anderson Kurk. If you know me, then you probably know by now, she and I are kindred writing spirits. Although she lives in Texas, and I live in Ohio, there are times when I grab my phone and start dialing before I've even thought about it, because I NEED to talk to her. And almost daily there are instances, when my fingers fly across my keyboard consulting, celebrating and commiserating with her over "writing stuff". Tomorrow she releases Perfect Glass, the sequel to her novel, Glass Girl. You will fall in love with it! Today we discuss how Perfect Glass came to be, so tomorrow you'll be ready to dive into a book that will absolutely absorb you.
You write Perfect Glass from two point of views, Henry and Meg. Was this difficult?
When I first wrote Perfect Glass, the entire story was from Henry's POV. I loved it. My agent and editor didn't. They felt the book would be enjoyed by more readers if I added Meg's voice. That's why you'll find the switching narration. And now that the book is done, I see how much stronger it is to have both points of view. Both stories show the development in Meg and Henry and allow readers to see Meg through Henry's eyes and to see Henry through Meg's eyes. Getting to write Henry's words as he describes Meg's beauty and how much he loves her, was my favorite part of writing this book.
Readers wonder if writing from multiple POVs is difficult. The difficulty (as you know) is in making sure you're staying true to each character's voice and tone. Readers are sensitive to the pitch of a narrator's voice and if they sense something off-key, it pulls them out of the story. Making sure I had the voices just right was the trickiest aspect of writing this book.
How did you stay in character?
I wrote Henry's entire story first and lived in his head for a few months. Then when I had it perfect, I wrote Meg's entire story. That way, I didn't have to force myself in and out of character. I think that would've made me crazy. Once I had both stories the way I wanted them, I joined them. Chapter by chapter, I wrote in connecting elements that made the two stories interlocking. The common ground came in the fact that both Meg and Henry are learning what it means to love people who are considered unlovable. They're both learning to put away selfishness and grow up. They're both struggling with ego, but learn a lot about themselves. The novel's epigraph is an old quote (paraphrased) "calamity is the perfect glass in which we can truly see and know ourselves." The calamity Henry and Meg each face becomes the mirror that lets them finally see themselves clearly.
Was one of their voices easier for you to write?
Believe it or not, I'm more comfortable writing Henry. I have a theory about this . . . I think it's because there's more of me in Meg and I've never been great at understanding the nuances of my own personality. Meg -- holy cow. She's just complicated and because she's a lot like me, it was hard for me to see her objectively. That dilemma actually lends a lot of truth to Meg's character, though, so I think she comes off as honest and raw and real. As an observer, I've known so many guys who are like Henry. I've studied them. I know their mannerisms and speech patterns. I know how their brains work and what affects them. So I was able to construct Henry with a really objective eye.
Meg and Henry are dealing with a long distance relationship. While Henry is out of town, a new student, Quinn (who is clearly interested in Meg) arrives. If you were Meg, which boy would you choose and why?
Oh, there's no question my heart would remain with Henry. But...can I be real? I have a weakness for boys who understand literature and poetry and songwriting. Boys who get Whitman and can talk to me about the Harlem Renaissance in easy conversation. In the same way, Quinn is definitely interesting to Meg. He reminds her of the urban, sophisticated kind of guys she knew in Pittsburgh. And he reminds her more importantly, of the brother she lost. She wants Quinn in her life, but she knows Henry is her future. Henry opened a new world up for Meg, and she's head over heels in love with him.
Most high school stories would be incomplete without the school dance, including yours. There is so much hype surrounding homecoming, prom, etc. Do you have a distinct high school dance memory?
Oh my lands. Yes, I do. Dare I dredge it up and share it with your readers? What to do...what to do...
I was a late bloomer. A wallflower. Not noticed by guys. Ever. But for some reason, my junior year, the best looking but most dangerous boy in my class took an interest in me. He would laugh now hearing how I describe him. He was tall, blonde, cocky, and WILD. At least that's my memory. He made me so nervous. I was timid, rail thin, and naive. You know, the girl who'd never been kissed.
He asked me to prom and I almost didn't say yes because I thought I'd die of nerves. My best friend talked me into saying yes. I was nervous the whole night and, when he drove me home, I was so afraid he'd try to kiss me goodnight that I almost threw up in his car. In fact, I had dry heaves sitting in his passenger seat. Loud, dry heaves that went on and on. Is there anyway to recover from that? Nope. You gotta live with that nightmare the rest of your life. No sanctuary from a dry heaving past.
What's your dream prom dress?
I'm not a follower of fashion, to be honest. I like when I see girls who dare to look different because it seems like, these days, every girl is trying to look like the same person. When I see a girl brave enough to look a little indie or alternative, I silently cheer for them in my head. (not out loud because indie types do NOT want to be noticed in that way.) My favorite formal dresses are always very vintage. I dress Meg and her friend, Abby, in vintage dresses for Winter Dance. I just think it's important to look like a class act, because you'll stand out in the sea of too tight, too short, too low cut dresses. And take care that you don't look like you're headed to a pageant, either, with the overdone makeup and stiff hair. Imagine how that looks from a guy's perspective. I think guys probably prefer soft makeup and natural, soft hair. Anything more and you just look plastic.
If I were seventeen and shopping for prom, I'd be looking for a dress like this.
I love the relationship Meg has with a painter in this story. I understand your mom is a painter. How much of her did you pour into this book?
My mom does paint and she's really good, but it's a hobby for her. So some of Jo Russell's thoughts and attitudes came from my mom, but the deepest and greatest parts of Jo Russell came from one of my best friends--Mara Schasteen. The book is dedicated to Mara. Our lives intersected in Texas when we were young moms together. I can't begin to tell you how indelible an impression Mara made on my heart and soul. We survived a lot of things together, but more than that, we met each other in a place where we were starved for beauty and art and kindness. We were able to enrich each other in a lot of ways.
Mara is a brilliant painter. I want people to see the world through her eyes. It's a beautiful, wondrous, God-filled place. I describe one of Mara's paintings in Perfect Glass. Henry dreams that Meg has painted it.
Much of the artistic words and phrases and technical aspects of painting that you find in Perfect Glass came from Mara. She's the one who described the wet dog smell of a studio full of primed linen canvas. She's the one who once pointed out that everything in the world has just a touch of ultramarine violet in it. It's not that I interviewed her. These are things that came to me from having a relationship with her and knowing her heart and her art. Jo Russell, the artist in Perfect Glass, is seriously one of my all-time favorite characters I've created. I could live in her world for a long while and never get bored.
What have you learned about the art of writing from Mara's and your mom's art?
I've learned all art is the impulse to create. That's an impulse given to all humans by the original Creator. Even Eminem was given the impulse to create by God. He may not realize it or acknowledge it, but that's where he got that desire.
From fine artists, I've learned that beauty is there for the taking and it's everywhere -- even in the things that look ugly at first glance. I've learned inspiration comes in the act of creating.
I've learned writers build stories in exactly the same way fine artists build a painting. If you watch an artist, you think they're crazy when they first start working on a canvas. They're staring at a waterfall and painting random crooked lines. But if you watch a while, it clicks. And you finally see what they've seen in their heads the whole time. Then it builds and builds. Mara says her favorite part of a painting is when she's almost done and she's adding the magic. Suddenly things move and shine and shimmer. Suddenly eyes look alive and faces look warm. Suddenly nature looks energetic like you could walk right into her trees. All this happens with calculated brush strokes.
It's the same with writing. I start with the bones, spare and barely there. Then I build the muscle and fat and skin. Then I add the curves and the meeting places, where parts of story meet like parts of a body meet. And finally I add the magic - the precise rhythm and heart of the story. The singular words that make a reader stop breathing for a second so she can hear me. That connection right there, between me and a reader, is beautiful and tender. It's a shared experience. Readers don't often realize that they're giving me as much as I'm giving them. Just imagining their thoughts as they read my thoughts blows my mind.
To experience Laura Anderson Kurk's magic first hand, download Perfect Glass by clicking on it's title or cover.
“Hello, I’m Paul. Fancy we get out of this rubble and find someplace quieter?” I was greeted at the Apple store by the usual friendly smile in a royal blue t-shirt, this time with a British accent.
“Sounds great,” I nodded, eager to escape the din of crazed shoppers clamoring for iPhone 5s.
Paul led me out of the store, down the escalators and to a small café table on the fringe of the food court. “We seem to get a decent signal here.” He pulled out a chair. “What did you have in mind to work on today?”
“PowerPoint.” I opened my Mac with a soft thud. “ I mean, I know how to use PowerPoint, but I want to learn the cool stuff; the animations, inserting my music into just the right places, you know, to make my presentations more impactful.”
Paul slid his Buddy Holly glasses up his nose and frowned. “Don’t do PowerPoint. That’s a Microsoft product.” He lowered his voice to a whisper, “Even if I knew how I wouldn’t be allowed to train you on it. Apple has a similar product you could purchase, but to be honest, if you’re already utilizing PowerPoint I’d stick with that.”
Speechless, I looked at my computer screen for answers. It felt like an apple had dropped into the pit of my stomach. The smells of French fry grease and teriyaki chicken wafted my way. I drove an hour to get to the Apple store. I’m sitting here, just sitting here now. It will take me another hour to get home. I forfeited my time intentionally to learn a specific skill. Three hours of my time.
I looked up to Paul, pleading, as if my needs could overrule store policy, “When I made the appointment on line, I wrote in the notes section I wanted to train on PowerPoint, that’s why I came.”
Paul launched into a crisp explanation of regulations and compatibility and offered to help me with something else. But I didn’t want help with something else. Maybe because I so desperately wanted my excursion to have some value, or maybe because Paul was from Liverpool, and I have always and always will love the Beatles, or maybe it was a dare, but I challenged, “Okay, Paul. Since I’m here. Show me something spectacular I can do with my Mac.”
“Do you have pictures?” He asked in his brisk accent. “Because I’m a photographer, and you can do some truly brilliant things. Let’s take a look.” Paul clicked on my iPhoto pulling up shots of scenery I’m using as the setting for my new book. As he propelled into a tutorial on adjusting saturation and shadows, goose bumps climbed up my arms. Now, I knew why I was here, why God brought me to this place.
“You’re a photographer?” I sat up in my hard metal chair. “Do you ever shoot in film? Or only digital? Because, I’m an author.” I confessed, something I rarely share with strangers. “And the character in the book I’m writing is a photographer. Do you mind if I ask you some questions?”
And just like that my failed appointment turned into a golden opportunity. Paul and I spent our hour not on PowerPoint, but chatting about filters and tripods and dark rooms. It was the perfect interview I could have never planned. I went to the mall searching for help with my computer skills. Instead, God gave me phrases, and terms and tidbits that only a true photographer would know, adding authenticity and depth to my newest novel.
You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need Philippians 4:19 MSG
And I could tell, oddly, it made Paul’s day too. He glowed as he discussed his passion for photography with me.
God always knows exactly what I need. He always provides, even when I get frustrated and bothered and annoyed, and can’t see what He’s up to. I left the mall warm, content and excited with the sensation of absorbing the sun’s rays on the beach. I was bursting with gratitude and awe for the plans God has for me, and how He brings them to fruition.
What hiccup did you run into today? How do you think God will use it as part of His amazing plan?
What’s in your fall wardrobe? Have you picked up any cool pieces that will give you an updated look? Soft suede boots? Warm tunics? A cool tote? A military jacket? A bottle of Essie polish in warm fall hues? How about in the back – are there some outdated styles, something that never quite fit right?
Ever since I first read C.S. Lewis’ Narnia chronicles when I was about nine, I’ve been banging on the back of wardrobes, just in case. Just in case, I slip into someplace magical, just in case an adventure awaits me inside, just in case I could meet Aslan face to face. I’m currently reading The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe for maybe the twentieth time. I’m simultaneously reading Everything by Mary De Muth. Fate would have it as I reached page 100 on Everything, DeMuth begins talking about “the wardrobe”.
“Once they’ve (the Pevensie children) committed to Narnia, they embark on an entirely new journey that will change them from the inside out and readjust the way they look at the outside world. God-initiated healing is that way. He brings us, if we dare, to a new place, but it’s not a familiar place. And in that outside-of-our-comfort-zone spot, He woos our attention, shows us our past in light of His viewpoint, and sets us back on our feet again to have new adventures.” Everything by Mary DeMuth
What’s inside your wardrobe this fall? How about in the closet of your heart? Reach back far. What is smushed on bent hangers between the clothes you rarely wear? A broken friendship you were never able to heal? A conflict you’re avoiding? Regret? Self doubt? A decision you’d rather not make? Something you need to fess up about? Something you need to let go of?
What’s waiting in there that you need to face? Take it off the hanger and put in the donation pile. Hand it over to God. You do not need to wear it anymore. It doesn’t fit the you God created you to be, and it doesn’t flatter you.
Let it go.
Open the door to God’s magical wardrobe and give him all the outdated, misfit garments of your soul. It’s necessary to clear them out to find the warm coat He has waiting just for you on the back peg. Now that there’s room, take a few more steps; breathe in the crisp smell of freshly fallen snow. Dare to trust a robin or a faun or anyone offering you genuine love and company and wisdom. Avoid those who seem too good to be true, who offer you power, status and all you can eat Turkish Delight. Instead journey further up and further in until you meet God right where He loves you the most. Ditch the things of the past that were never made for you, and enjoy the warm folds of his embrace. Come back recharged, realigned, ready to move forward in your real life, a little less concerned about this world, and feeling a little more self-stylish.
“Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it.” Ephesians 2:7-10 MSG
Trust in him. Open the door. Let go of the hurt. Let the healing begin. Your adventure awaits you.
What are you having a hard time donating to God?
1. Happiness is contagious.
When I walked in the park and everyone was waving giant Mickey Mouse hands and blowing bubbles and grinning for photos, it made me skip and smile and wave and say “please” and “thank you” and want to stay in that happy spot forever. I overheard a little girl say, “Mommy, the thing about Disney is, everyone is smiling and that makes everyone else want to smile.”
As I walk through life, I will strive to carry some of those Disney smiles over into every day – to pass on some waves and skips and watch the wave of happiness flow.
2. A little bit of magic goes a long long way.
Rushing past Cinderella’s castle on the way to a certain ride I saw an extravaganza. Mickey and Minnie laughed. Princesses waltzed. Captain Hook swooshed his sword, all with music and fireworks. It felt like a surprise party being thrown for me. No matter how many times I looked at park hours, reviewed rides and attractions, no show could have delighted me more than this. Later I bumped into Peter Pan, literally. There he was sitting crisscross applesauce on the ground, playing with a leaf. He asked my son if he knew how to crow. They stood up together and “caw caw cawed” at the top of their lungs. Despite all of my scheduling and planning and reserving and double-checking for our trip, I could never have arranged a better meeting of my five-year old's hero.
How can I surprise someone today? Something little? Something big? An email, a note, a treat? I’m thinking already, but can’t tell. It would ruin the surprise, but I can’t wait to delight someone when they least expect it.
3. Even when we’re doing exactly what we want with our lives, we need to take breaks.
Do you love your school? Your job? Your boyfriend? Your best friend? Your family? If you are blessed enough to say “yes” to even one of these questions, you still need to take breaks from that thing, to appreciate that job/school/relationship/etc..
Eighty-degree sunshine tickling my shoulders on a January afternoon, music in the air, rides swirling around me, I could think of nowhere I’d rather be. But after walking from Frontierland to Tomorrowland to Fantasyland and back to Tomorrowland in time to use my FastPass, and after winding my way through stanchions, shooting lasers at aliens and spinning in tea cups, I realized it was 2:00 p.m. and we hadn't eaten since 7:30 a.m. (because we wanted to be at the park when it opened). WE NEEDED A REST -- to sit and sip something cold and snack on something salty and reenergize and take deep breaths. It’s the same with life. I need to inhale and exhale and savor where I’ve been and what I’ve accomplished. I need to spread out my map and figure out where I'm going next.
4. Even when something is fantastic, there is always room for improvement.
As a child I went to Disney. It was an incredible vacation I remember the details vividly. The monorail seemed like the coolest possible mode of transportation. I actually got to work the controls on the Dumbo ride. The Haunted Mansion made me almost pee my pants. Pinocchio hugged me during the parade. Today the monorail, Dumbo ride, Haunted Mansion and Pinocchio are all still there, but Disney didn’t decide to stop at magically memorable. Now you can meet Rapunzel from Tangled. Now a Jack Sparrow so realistic, it's eerie, peeks out of a barrel on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride . There are fast passes to move lines faster and Epcot and Animal Kingdom and and... Disney didn’t stop at good or great or even spectacular. They continue changing, improving and growing. I need to keep going to – to never settle for good enough.
5. Savor the moment.
I started planning our trip to Orlando in September. I spent hours on Expedia. I ordered tickets and booked hotels and reserved plane tickets. I counted down to the right month, week, day, hour till take off. And then, like the bang of fireworks at the closing ceremonies each night at the park, the trip flashed brilliantly, and was over. I vowed not to let it get away from me. I walked leisurely through the park, stopping and enjoying the miracles around each corner, read the giant pages of the Pooh bear book on the honey pot ride, bought ice cream bars shaped like mouse ears and let the cool vanilla ice cream drip onto my tongue. The trip is over, but not the memories. Just as I still remember the details of my visit to the Magic Kingdom as a kid, my kids will remember theirs.
What am I doing today that I can savor? A snuggle with one of my children, a rich, hot coffee in the morning, a sunset pink and orange clashing with the gray winter sky. What will you savor today?
Laura L. Smith