In Which I Apologize in Advance for Ticking Off Some Readers

Today I like: Watership Down
Not So Much: Bartholomew and the Oobleck

It’s finally going to happen! The third novel in The Cracked Slipper Series, A Ring in Blue, should be out within two weeks. I have a cover (soon to be revealed)! I’m super excited! Yippee, whoo-hoo, all that jazz! Since I need to write a book blurb for A Ring in Blue (oh, the horror), I visited Amazon and reread the blurbs for The Cracked Slipper and The Red Choker. This led me to peruse some of the reviews, which I don’t do on a regular basis. The good ones make an author’s day, but the not-so-good ones can feel like criticism of one’s children. The author gets defensive and feels guilty all at once… I love this book! But wait… did I raise it right?

As much as authors want all readers to love our work, fiction is endlessly subjective, and what sings for one person screeches for another. I’m happy to say that most of the harshest criticism of my books is positive in a strange way… because it tells me that I’m delivering my message.

The first one-star review I received for The Cracked Slipper (and thankfully one of only a few such reviews! Whew…) said something to the following effect, “This book ruins everything I’ve ever thought about happily-ever-after.”

Yeah!

The Cracked Slipper Series isn’t meant to be happily-ever-after. It’s meant to be real life for the characters, life within the constraints of their own culture and laws, both magical and mundane. Real life is messy. The relationship between Eleanor, Dorian and Gregory is full of so much moral ambiguity; even I don’t know which side I really take. After my divorce, I would often ask other divorced people, “How would your ex-spouse say you contributed to the end of your marriage?” If he or she wholly blamed the other person, I wasn’t too keen on getting to know him or her much better.

I’m not a black and white person, and neither are my characters. In Eleanor’s case, as would have been the case of say, Anne Boleyn, she is married to a megalomaniac with absolute authority. She uses the power she has, whether that powers manifests itself intellectually or at times sexually, to make the most of her situation. This is her reality, and at times, her reality really sucks.

Fair warning: it will suck more in A Ring in Blue. These are dark times for Eleanor and her loved ones and her country. In my personal experience, the hardest times force the most critical choices. Those choices aren’t usually between something “good” and something “bad.” We must often select the lesser of two evils. Those are the conundrums Eleanor and Dorian have ahead of them, but I hope those dilemmas will force them to evolve in a way black and white could not.

I still don’t know exactly how it will all turn out for Eleanor. I hope she’ll end with a great triumph in the fourth and final book… but I can’t guarantee she’ll get a perfectly packaged happy ending that will please everyone. So, I apologize in advance if frustrating, heartbreaking, morally ambiguous life gets in my characters’ way… real life with dragons and unicorns, and of course, one very snarky parrot.

On Rainbows (Beginning, Middle, End)

Today I like: Harris Teeter
Not so much: The Pig

A rainbow followed me to school a few weeks ago. Not one of those wussy splotches of abstract color against a leftover cloud, but a full on, horizon-to-horizon band of red, orange, green, blue, purple. The kind of rainbow you probably drew as a kid, all the while hoping your fat Crayola marker didn’t run out of ink before you finished that all important red band. Maybe you added a pot of gold at one end or unicorn capering beneath the purple stripe.

My kids tracked the color from the car windows, and inevitably my five-year-old son asked, “Why is it following us?”

I explained that we were following it, chasing the rainbow over the bridges of Charleston.

I noticed something about this particular rainbow, however, that didn’t quite match up with my memories of childhood doodle pads. Although it reached from one end of town to the other, in the middle, it got…fuzzy.

Like, I wouldn’t have had to worry about my marker running out of ink, because my rainbow would have been more realistic if it had gone pale in the middle.

I was chatting with a friend the other day, and he mentioned that he had problems organizing his thoughts on paper. He was referring to writing legal opinions (or some such legal something-or-other that is way off my radar screen) but I still told him to try focus on this idea: Beginning, middle, end.

I follow that pattern when I write anything, and I think it holds true for any written communication, from letters to academic writing to short stories to longform fiction. Beginning, middle, end.

It’s the middle, however, that usually gives me (and a lot of writers I know) the most trouble. You know where you’ve been, and you know where you want to go, but how do you get there?

I need to pick up my unfinished manuscript, the third book and conclusion to The Cracked Slipper. I’m in the middle, and I haven’t worked on it in roughly six months. My first case of writer’s block, something I thought only happened to other people. Jokes on me, hahaha, because I’ve realized you throw in some major life changes, and eeeeert! Creativity, stop.

So now I’m looking at an incomplete first draft of my manuscript and thinking to myself, where the hell was I going with this? What was my initial logic? I know where I want to end up, and I have a pretty solid beginning… but wait, who are these freaking new people? And places? And why are my old friends doing what they’re doing?

I can compare this pattern in the rainbow and in writing to life in general. When you start down a path, make some choice, you often have a sense of urgency. You know where you’re going… and you can see how it will all end up. Then you get in the middle of it, the reality, and everything gets muddled. The colors that kept you hopeful become muted and sometimes they fade away to smears of light. The people and places and motives around you seem a bit confounding.

But, I think, middles need flexibility. If you’re writing, you have the luxury of going back and changing your argument or your plot details and character motivations. In life, we can’t rewrite, but we can always adjust. Figure out new ways to make the colors bright again, and get back on the path.

The connection between the beginning and the end of the rainbow is still there. You’re following the same curve.

I took pictures of that rainbow and sent it to some friends who were going through ups and downs at the time. It took me a few more weeks, and some intimidating sessions in front of my computer, to realize that I could conquer that manuscript… and what’s more, I really want to. It might take longer to find the bright colors than it did with my previous novels, but the urge to work again is the biggest hurdle. I’ll get where I need to be.

Beginning, middle, end.

Twitter: Is the Honeymoon Over?

Today I like: Target
Not so much: Belk

This time last year I was singing the praises of Twitter on a daily basis. I checked in regularly to chat it up with my Tweeps…and by regularly I mean several times a day. Hilarity ensued as I commiserated over the writing life with a bunch of fabulous people from all over the world.

I remember a Tweet that resonated with my 2011 view on Twitter: “Twitter makes me like people I’ve never met, and Facebook makes me dislike people I actually know.”

So what happened in the past year? Why has my love affair with Twitter gone south? I have two theories.

Problem One: Too many Tweeps. Ever since I hit about 1000 followers, and maybe 600 or so follow-ees, it’s become a free-for-all. Gone is my tight knit circle of like-minded, genuinely interesting and interested Tweeps. They’re still there, of course, but now they’re buried in a stream of self-promoting, spammy Tweeters who don’t make any attempt to engage on a personal level. I’m sure the good stuff is still there, but it’s too time-consuming to sift through it.

I’ve been hovering at around 1300 followers, and while I know I should be pushing for more, the whole Twitter reciprocity thing makes me hesitant. There is at least a marginal expectation that one will contemplate returning the follow…until one reaches Stephen Colbert status. He has 3,700,000 followers (me included) and he follows…no one. His Twitter feed is pleasantly uncomplicated. Unfortunately for the rest of us, it doesn’t exactly work that way.

Solutions:

Unfollow, unfollow, unfollow. Sorry, people, if you tweet about nothing but your book and you do so twenty times a day, I’m out.
Make lists. The time has come to sit down and REALLY organize my Tweeps into those I “know” and those I “don’t.”

Problem Two: About six months ago I started hooking up with my favorite Tweeps on Facebook. (The fabulous Hallie Sawyer was my first Twitter-turned-Facebook-friend!) Suddenly I got more than just 140 words snippets. My Twitter friends became real people, with houses and cute dogs and cuter kids and opinions on stuff other than writing and books. Being writers, they are all still insanely witty and clever with their status updates…I got the total package. Like, if a Twitter friendship is Happy Hour appetizers, a Facebook friendship is Sunday dinner at Grandma’s.

I found it that much more fun to connect with everyone on Facebook. We all send links to our blogs and books and thought-provoking and funny articles about the writing game…but since I’ve already invested in these literary compatriots, I KNOW I’ll be interested in what they have to say. They’re all there, with no spammy annoying-ness to muddle it all up. Easier by far…and so my Tweeting trickled off, from a steady stream to a slow drip.

Solutions:

Reignite the Twitter flame by Tweeting all things writing. Focus my Tweets on bookish stuff, beneficial to both me and my Twitter friends…and have real life fun with these great people on FB.
Search out new quality Tweeps. Once my lists are organized, it’s time to dive back into the literary community via hashtag… #AmWriting, #AmEditing, #FridayReads #AmReading… all those old favorites. With the literary community expanding every day, it will just take a bit of effort to find like-minded Tweeters.

So, the lessons I’ve learned in the past year can be summed up as such:

Social media is all well and good, but it’s really the personal interaction that makes it fun and beneficial. The Twitter friends I’ve made “real” connections with are much more likely to support my work, and vice versa, than the random writers who spam, spam, spam. When it comes to the personal, I believe Facebook has an advantage over Twitter.

Second, beware social media fatigue. With the massive expectation on writers to utilize every network out there, it’s easy to stick with the one that feels easiest and most enjoyable. Twitter, Facebook, Google +, Goodreads, LinkedIn, personal blogs, group blogs…whoa. I’m going to utilize a couple and make the most of the personal relationships I can craft…rather than spreading myself too thin. Quality over quantity.

So, while Twitter has lost a bit of its luster, I’m not giving up on it yet. My new mantra will be: “Facebook is where I like people I met on Twitter, and Twitter is where I go to meet people I will someday like even more on Facebook.”

Do you find your dedication to certain social networks wanes after a while? Do you prefer the clippy Twitter friendship or the more involved Facebook one?

 

My New Appreciation for Sibling Rivalry

Today I like: Not having to get up at 6am
Not so much: Dragging my 9yo to “Kids’ Town” at the gym…it’s like, soooo lame there.

This morning I entered my older daughter’s bedroom to wake both girls. E and H, 9 and 7, respectively, have their own rooms, but have always slept in the E’s bedroom. Every night since H moved out of a crib. These days they prefer to share the double bed on the bottom of E’s bunk beds. Morning light lit their sleeping faces…two blond angels snuggled under a teal and lime green shag iCarly comforter. “Wake up, girls!” I said, as I  marveled for the thousandth time at their sisterly closeness.

“Errrr….” muttered one or the other….followed by, “Get your KNEE out of my BACK.”

“YOU get your ELBOW off my HAIR!”

Bliss shattered, I head to my four-year-old son’s room. “C, wake up, sleepy head!”

He sits up. “Where are my girls?”

Probably strangling each other, I think, but I keep that supposition to myself.

Once we’re in the car on the way to school, H and C are watching a Mickey Mouse video on my phone. C sniffs…a long, drawn out, watery little boy snort.

“EWWWWWW! Gross!” says H. “He’s snorting!”

“He has a runny nose,” I say. “I’m sorry…I think I’m out of tissues.” Damn summer cold.

Sniff, sniff…snargle snort snort…

“He’s doing it on PURPOSE!!!” wails H. She retracts the phone. C shrieks in rage, and snorts for good measure.

I intervene. “Let him see the video–and he has to snort…if not it will run down his face.”

“STOP SNORTING!!” Tears of indignation.

“I need to snort!” C yells back at her. “Let me snort!”

This litany follows me over the Ravenel Bridge, to the carpool line…wherein H brushes past C as she gets out of car…as if his boogery nose might attach to her gym uniform and follow her, snorfling all the way, into class.

A few relatively peaceful hours later I pick C up from school. “Where are my girls?” he asks.

We scoop them up and head home to make brownies. E is not in a sharing mood. She hogs the brownie mix, the eggs, the vegetable oil, the stirring spoons, the brownie pan, and 90% of the counter space. Finally I nix her from the process…which sends her retreating to the couch with her book and a bunch of unintelligible grumblings against her siblings, who each had the nerve to want to crack an egg. C and H finish the brownies, and spend several gloriously messy moments slurping brownie batter from spoons.

H gets a glimpse of Miss Huffy on the couch. She washes her spoon, dunks it in the batter…and presents the chocolate covered plastic lollipop to her sister.

Both girls eye me…I give E the nod. “Thanks,” she mutters, although I’m sure the effort is constricting her vocal chords.

Later all three head to the trampoline, and during that hour E defends C from the boy across the street, who is, “like, totally too rough with him.” H accidentally brains E with her elbow, causing E to inform her that she is, “the worst sister EVER.”

Five minutes later both girls are spinning hand in hand until they fall over…the sounds of their giggling is like a bunch of happy crickets on this early summer evening.

C informs E that he HATES HER because she is SO MEAN…and I never quite figure out why. C has an overtired meltdown, during which I explain that he has to go to sleep if he wants to go to the beach tomorrow…to which H instructs him, “Just listen to Mommy, C, and it will all be just fine, buddy.” Complete with much back patting and hair smoothing.

All three kids beg to sleep in the same bedroom, so E and H are on the bottom bunk…while C takes the top. I tuck everyone in, and get approximately five minutes of peace.

“MOMMMM-YYYY!! I NEED YOU!”

It’s a girl’s voice, but I’m not sure which one. “What’s up, buddies?” I call as I run up the steps. Maybe C fell out of the bed or something.

It’s E. She’s chapped. “C is like…humming. He’s doing it on PURPOSE.”

“C, stop humming.”

“Hmmm…hmmm…hummy hum hum.”

“See!” says E, somewhat gleefully. She’s totally validated.

“C, stop…or I’ll move you to your own room.”

“NOOOO!” C wails. “I want to sleep with my sisters!”

“Then shut up!” yells E.

“Shut up is not nice,” says H.

“You shut up, too!”

“Whoa!! Everyone…how about BE QUIET!” I say.

Several minutes of explanation about the value of sleep later (which I’m sure had no effect except to bore all three into tiredness), everyone is settled down. H pokes E, but for now it’s funny. C hums, but sort of quietly…and E puts the pillow over her head. Three in a bed…all is peaceful.

So when I review this day, a few points pop into my head. First, we’re never so honest as we are with our siblings during childhood. We have no filters, we say exactly what we mean and let the chips (or Legos, or Barbie shoes) fall where they may. We’re perfectly comfortable in the knowledge that the argument will pass…and we still love one another.

Somehow we grow up, and we lose that combination of brutal honesty and unconditional love. We stew, and pull back, and blow. We avoid and we read into things and we hold grudges. Eventually we forget how to let it all hang out, even with our brothers and sisters. Anyone who has a contentious adult relationship with a sibling knows this.

Remember when you could scream at your sister one minute and crack up the next? Remember when you knocked your brother upside the head and then held ice to his goose egg? It’s love/hate…but mostly love.

Now, I’m not saying that we adults should abandon diplomacy for interactions of a 9, 7 and 4-year-old. I do think, however, we can all learn a little bit about the nuances of love and forgiveness from my little buddies.

What Women Want…in Female Protagonists

Today I like: Getting back on the horse
Not so much: Headaches

I’m about to sound off on one of the great conundrums of our times….not healthcare reform…not Afghanistan….not gay marriage. I mean the Katniss/Bella debate.

Full disclosure: I’m coming at this from a skewed viewpoint. I love me some Katniss…do not love Bella, because Bella does not have many redeeming qualities. Of course, there’s the argument that Bella’s appeal is in her banality. She’s living the dream of every shy, plain Jane high school girl (or grown woman) who hoped the most unattainable boy in school would just open his eyes. See her as special…beautiful…wonderful. And let’s not forget about the second most attractive boy in school…two hot guys fighting over one average girl! Yes, I get the appeal…but I think as writers we have a responsibility to give our readers something to aspire to while we entertain.

That’s why I love Katniss…she’s a near perfect protagonist for the modern girl (or woman…like Twilight, The Hunger Games defies an age-specific audience) to emulate. She’s tough and smart and she’s a survivor. At the same time, she’s flawed in very believable ways. Being a survivor lends itself to selfishness and manipulation. There were times Katniss really got under my skin. The way she treated Peeta made me want to climb into the book and slap her around a bit.

I’ve talked a lot about flawed characters (see my posts on the Prince Charming archetype and my seemingly nonsensical love of Eminem). The Bella/Katniss debate gave me some new insight into crafting balanced personalities.  It all goes back to forcing the reader to like someone despite the person’s inherent flaws…and much of that can be summed up in one word: Respect.

I respect Katniss, even if she can be a selfish bitch at times. Bella, on the other hand, is not a character that commands respect, either from the reader or her fellow characters.

So this brings me to the question, what do women really want in their fictional female role models? My favorites, Elizabeth Bennett and Scarlett O’Hara, are more in line with Katniss than Bella…but I’m sure many a novel has ridden the road to success on the train of a more simpering gown. I guess I just can’t remember any that I enjoyed…

And what about us, ladies? Do we emulate Bella or Katniss in our real lives? And which archetype is more appealing to men?

I’ve been conducting an admittedly unscientific poll of those of the male persuasion…what attracts you to a woman? Overwhelmingly they came back at me with some version of confidence/independence/comfortable with herself (a nice butt seemed to be up there, too, but that’s another post).

This seems more in line with Katniss than Bella…yet still the Bella ideal lingers in our collective female consciousness. Maybe it just takes less effort to be a Bella, to sit back and let the guys do all the work and be worshipped for mediocrity. I have two girls, however, and I’m going to steer them in the Katniss direction. We all have our flaws, but if I can help it, they’ll be the rescuers…not the rescued.

Finding Room To Feel, Fictitiously

Today I like: Brown. I have this new brown dress, and brown is an underrated color
Not so much: too much quiet

I’ve had some crazy stuff going on in my personal life lately. No need to go into it, but it’s life-altering, emotionally draining stuff. I’ve had several people say to me comments along the lines of:
“Well, now you have great inspiration for you books!”
“Let it all out on the page!”
“Put all that emotion to good use.”

Now, I’m sure these people have very good intentions. From where I sit, however, I’ve realized that the idea that an artist can dump all his or her emotions into the creative process does not hold much truth. Maybe it’s different for visual artists, or musicians…but what I’ve realized is this: It takes ALOT of emotion to craft believable fiction.

It’s an emotionally exhausting process in itself. You must live inside your characters, and their feelings. You have to breath their joy and pain in and out of your own lungs. When your chest is full of your own real emotions, there’s not much space for fictitious ones.

I was definitely in my most frantic, obsessively productive writing place during a time in my life when I didn’t have much going on at all, negative or positive, in my  own emotional life. I could channel everything that wasn’t happening into the lives of my characters.

Now, I’m sort of drained, and it’s a bit harder to find the energy to create realistic emotional lives for my imaginary friends. This doesn’t mean these experiences won’t show up someday, when I’m more able to process them. When I’m in the thick of it, however, myself is more than enough.

How about you, writers? Do you agree with me, or can you channel your emotions in the here and now?

 

Here’s where to get The Cracked Slipper!

Yippee! The Cracked Slipper is out in the world. Here’s where to get it.

For Kindle and in paperback at Amazon.com
For Nook at BarnesAndNoble.com
For iPad and iPhone and everything else at Smashwords.com

Thanks so much to everyone who has helped along the way. I hope you enjoy the story as much as I have enjoyed living it in my imagination.
Please get in touch about book club events! I’m all about book club chat…and wine if your club is so inclined. 🙂
xo,
Steph
Oh, and here’s a photo that clearly illustrates my emotions today!
The Cracked Slipper Stephanie Alexander

Review of Ghost on Black Mountain

Today I like: Moving forward
Not so much: the post office

Today I’m reviewing Ghost on Black Mountain by Ann Hite. So have to start by saying…this is soooo my kind of book. Ghostly southern fiction? Bring in on. But before I get ahead of myself, here’s a summary…

When Nellie Clay marries Hobbs Pritchard, she gets more than a handsome face and a big house on the side of Black Mountain. The more she learns about her husband, the more she’s afraid of him. He’s not only heavy handed and neglectful, he’s hiding a few secrets…secrets that have to do with murder. The mountain itself seems to be warning Nelly to get away, in the form of ghostly visitors bearing murky messages. Unbeknownst to Nellie, her marriage to Hobbs will set of a chain of events that will bind her to the women around her, and the mountain itself.

Set in Depression-era North Carolina, and told in the voices of five very different women, Ghost on Black Mountain is the best kind of Southern spook story.

So like I said, this book is right up my street. I love books with speculative elements. I love period pieces. I love Southern fiction, and I’ve always been fascinated by Appalachian culture specifically. So, I was stoked to read Ghost on Black Mountain…but at the same time, since I had high hopes for the story, I could have easily been disappointed.

Ann Hite does not disappoint. She weaves the ghost story effortlessly through the narrative, so it never feels forced or unbelievable. The reader is just as surprised as Nellie when the spirits start to appear, but just as quickly accepts hauntings as a fact of life on Black Mountain. The voices of the five narrators are unique, and flow with an easy mountain inflection. Nellie grows throughout the story, almost painfully so, and the reader mourns her loss of innocence even as she mourns in herself. The other characters are interesting and fully realized, and Ann easily brings the “big picture” together with the varying narrative voices. The ending is surprising…and, not to give it away, a bit disturbing in a thought-provoking way.

Ghost on Black Mountain is truly one of the best books I’ve read in years. I devoured it in about three days…and I’d very much recommend it as a book club selection for any club that wants to step off the beaten path.

Congrats, Ann, on a great debut!

Ghost on Black Mountain was published by Gallery Book/Simon and Schuster in September 2011. Ann Hite has written short stories for numerous publications and essays. She lived in Atlanta. You can learn more about Ann on her website, www.annhite.com

The Cracked Slipper is almost here!

"Stephanie Alexander Rehmann" "The Cracked Slipper" "Stephanie Alexander"

I’m so excited to reveal the cover of The Cracked Slipper! Yippee!

The Cracked Slipper will be available SOON on Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, and Smashwords.com.

More coming this week…thanks to everyone who has been so supportive…and thank you for the patience of those who have been waiting to read it.

Special thanks to Nikki Hensley for the fabulous cover and to my agent Rebecca Friedman for being forward thinking, butt-kicking, and generally a great friend.

xo
Steph 🙂

 

Hey Writers: Can You Talk the Talk?

Today I like: tons of kids running around my house
Not so much: feeding them!

My girls are taking Chinese and Spanish at school. I can get by with the simplest French when in France (Je m’apelle Stephanie. Je suis une touriste Americaine.), and pick out a word or two in the more heavily accented areas of the Caribbean (In Haiti I understood manger and bonjour. That’s about it). So, I’m stoked they are getting this exposure now, from both a linguistic and a cultural viewpoint. Bring on the hola and the ni hao!

One thing that’s amazed me, particularly with the Chinese, is the girls’ pitch-perfect accent. Asian languages have tones the average Germanic or Romance language speaker can’t easily replicate. Ever try to pronounce the names of the menu items at a Thai or Vietnamese restaurant? There’s a reason they generally have numbers beside each entrée.

“Can I have the…Mwwnnaatrraaa….the number seven, please.”

My kids, however, at six and eight, come home singing Chinese songs with perfect enunciation. They’re not shy or self conscious about it. They spit out the numbers one through twenty as easily as my four-year-old sings his ABC’s. It’s amazing to me how easily their little tongues wrap around tones that I couldn’t replicate if I tried. I’d produce sounds somewhere between a lowing cow and a dental patient emerging from anesthesia with a mouth full of Novocaine and a few less teeth.

We all know children with bi-lingual parents. They can switch between languages in one conversation, never missing a beat or dropping a cookie. Everyone knows that the younger one is, the easier it is to pick up a language. And here’s where this idea becomes relevant for writers.

I started reading adult novels, the ones my mom brought home from the library, around age eight. While some of that subject matter was a little intense (as I’ve stated before, Stephen King’s IT gave me nightmares for months at age ten), I truly believe that early exposure to novels shaped whatever ability I possess in creating long form fiction.

In reading (adult) novels from such a young age, I was absorbing, without realizing it, the basics of good storytelling: plot, character, dialogue. How scenes flow from one to another. Foreshadowing. I was learning the language of novel-writing at an age when I could easily take it in. Make it part of my native tongue.

If I loved a book, I’d read it over and over (sometimes thirty times over the years, as in the case of All Things Bright and Beautiful, The Stand, Pride and Prejudice, and later, Angela’s Ashes and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood). This re-reading…the repetition…sealed the voices of these stories in my head, and in turn blended them into my own narrative voice.

I developed a habit, around age six, of telling myself stories to help me fall asleep at night.  Made-up scenarios, running through my head, every night. I’ve never stopped. Nowadays, as I drift off I write the next day’s scene in my mind. Character and dialogue. Intro, build up, climax, closing. Usually in the third person. As if I’m sitting in front of the computer typing away. Weird, yes…but also very effective for a writer. I’ve been practicing non-stop for twenty-nine years.

I always wonder about “writers” who say they don’t read. Reading is practice for writing. The idea of learning a new language now, when my brain is set in a very specific communication pattern, is daunting…not matter how envious I am of my bi-lingual friends. So how do those who don’t read, and have never really read, suddenly expect to be able to understand the language of novels?

If I tried to learn Chinese now, my accent would be bad. I would be self-conscious. My words stilted, unnatural. Even if I wanted to say something a certain way and knew the correct words, it probably wouldn’t come out right…and it certainly wouldn’t be eloquent.

So, if you’re toying with the idea of writing a novel, and you’ve never been a reader, stop and think. Are you at a point where you can realistically devote the time to learning a new language? Is your mind still flexible enough?

If not, there are many accomplished novel-speakers out there. Grab a book and experience the beauty of fluency.