Saturday, March 7, 2009

So Many To Choose From

I've been thinking about this topic for a few days now and I have to admit I'm in total agreement with my fellow Novel Girls. Like Lesley, I love King Arthur. I love the heroism and adventure of these stories, and found them so enthralling when I was a little girl. I can remember picturing King Arthur and his loyal knights battling their enemies atop their noble steeds. He is such a romantic figure and is undoubtedly one of my all time favorites.

Like Jillian, I also love Olivia. When I first found these books in my local bookstore I was delighted, because my daughter's name is Olivia and she has a brother named Will. I was pregnant at the time with my third child (a boy) and debated naming him Ian, like in the Olivia books, but opted instead for Benjamin. Whenever we go to a bookstore with the kids and we see this book on the shelf, I point it out to my daughter and say, "Look Olivia, it's a book about you!" She is never amused.

Lisa's favorite characters are also ones that I adore. I think Scarlett O'Hara is one of the greatest literary figures of all time. She is brave, fragile and passionate, and at times, a walking contradiction. I also agree that Wilbur is a standout literary character, even if he is a pig. I can't tell you how many times I have read the book and watched the movie (the original one) and cried my eyes out. I just finished reading the book to my kids a few months ago and when I got to the part where Wilbur learns that Charlotte is going to die, I had to pause and walk away, so they didn't know I was tearing up.

And like Maureen and Tracy, I too LOVE Bridget Jones. I have read a lot of books, but I have never laughed as hard as I did when I read Bridget Jones' Diary. It was hilarious to read about a literary character that mirrored so many of my own issues and concerns. If you haven't read this book yet, go out and get it. It will be worth the money.

In addition to all these fabulous characters I also have a fondness for: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Christie Huddleson, Scout, Boo Radley, Hugo Cabret, Peter Pan, and Robert Jordan, as well as a bunch more I will think of once I've finished this post.

Happy reading!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Hic Jacet Arturus Rex Quondam Rex Que Futurus...

This topic is easy.
Favorite literary character?

King Arthur.
No contest whatsoever. When I was 12 or 13, I picked up a paperback in a convenience store on the way down to Montana on a family holiday. It was called FIRELORD and it was written by Parke Godwin and it was about King Arthur.

And I. Was. Hooked.

Read it in one go. Made myself carsick.
Then went back to the first page and did it all over again immediately thereafter.

Narrated in piercingly vivid, funny, tragic, achingly human first-person by the king himself as he lies dying in Avalon ("listening to the monks chant in the chapel... no complaints, but one does wish the love of God guaranteed an ear for music - they do not speed the hours...") it is my favorite book of all time. Arthur is my favorite character. Followed very closely by his best friend in that same book, Bedivere. That novel, that character, shaped my very life. It is not too far a stretch for me to say that it is the reason I write.

Of course, the cool thing about falling in love with that character is that I discovered I was not confined to simply that one book. Goodness knows, there have been one or two Arthurian stories written. One or two thousand that is. Every couple of years. I oughta know. I wrote one myself!

And while all of those Arthurs had one heck of a tough act to follow after Godwin's rendition (in my mind, at least), there is some truly wonderful stuff out there, containing such a wide and wonderful assortment of Arthurs that I never get bored! Everything from Gildas to Geoffrey to Malory to the Mabinogion to TH Whyte to Tennyson's poetry (where Arthur is the shining soul of virtue, still capable of being wounded and wounding - the scene where he leaves Guinevere in the convent for the last time it heartbreaking!) to more modern fare like Mary Stewart's Crystal Cave series to Jack Whyte's Eagle's Brood series (most of which takes place before Arthur is even born - but is fascinating nonetheless!) to Tim Powers DRAWING OF DARK featuring a reincarnated Arthur who is a medieval Irish mercenary to ARTHUR, KING where he is a World War I fighter pilot, to (my most recent Arthur read) Philip Reeve's HERE LIES ARTHUR (where Arthur is a brute and a tyrant and still interesting!).

My shelves are stuffed with Arthur books - fiction and non - and I never tire of reading and researching this utterly compelling character. But once every year or two, I always find myself pulling one of my copies of FIRELORD off the shelf (yes - I have several) and rereading it for my favorite Arthur.

But... let's get one thing straight, though. The King Arthur movie? That kinda sucked.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Some Pig!

There are so many books and characters I love, that I’ve been having a hard time trying to figure out which ones to write about for this post. But seeing as I spend a good majority of time reading books to my kids these days, I decided to write about my new favorite character in children’s literature, Olivia, from Ian Falconer’s Olivia series. You can check out Olivia’s very cool website here.

In case you didn’t know (or haven’t read every Olivia book at least 75 times like I have!), Olivia is a pig. And pigs are my favorite animal. I don’t know why, but I’ve always really liked them. I used to collect pig figurines when I was younger, and I’m a sucker for a famous pig. Miss Piggy. Babe. Wilbur. And now, of course, I’ve added Olivia to my list.
But Olivia is not just any pig. She’s a pig at the age of 6 ¾ who is smart, independent, creative, stubborn, and a world class negotiator, who always bargains with her mother about the number of books she gets to read before bed. In fact Olivia reminds me a lot of myself (and my son, too!).
And Olivia has dreams. Big ones. At the end of Olivia Forms a Band, Olivia dreams of herself sitting on the Supreme Court, right next to Sandra Day O’Connor, in the chief justice seat, of course.

In fact, although she’s the star of a few picture books and a brand new kids’ TV series on Nickelodeon, Olivia embodies pretty much everything that my favorite adult literary characters do, too. Gloria Steinem said of Olivia, “At last, a pig with self-esteem!” And I couldn’t agree more. Olivia is not just a pig with moxie, but dare I say, she’s also a feminist? What’s not to love?
And now for the winner of The September Sisters contest. I used to pick, and the winner is. . . Stephanie! E-mail me at with your address, and I’ll get the signed book out to you!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

It's a close race but my final answer is . . .

Katie Scarlett O'Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler from Gone With The Wind, of course. She's my all-time favorite character in all of literature. Like Maureen, I'm having to mimic Tracy as well. Although I can't always agree with Scarlett, there is something about her universal to all women. She might be a spoiled, selfish, back-stabbing southern-belle, but on the other hand she's strong, courageous, independent, charming and wickedly funny. She's the character you hate to love or love to hate, however you want to look at it. A guilty pleasure, so to speak. One can't help but be amazed by her courage in the face of danger when she rides out of the fire during the burning of Atlanta, yet be out-raged at her audacity where upon she steals and then marries her sister's beau. Scarlett's an intricate weave of rebellion, determination and self-preservation. A writer's dream.

My second favorite might surprise you. But when I think back over all the books I've read in my life, this one still remains one of the most memorable. Charlotte's Web. I can't choose between the characters, though, as to which would be my favorite - Wilbur or Charlotte. Wilbur's sweet, shy demeanor makes him lovable from the start and Charlotte's warm, nurturing guidance gives her an indelible imprint in the history of Children's Literature. Wilbur's heart break over the loss of his dear friend is as memorable today as it was the first time I read the book.

Adriani Trgiani, as I have reported here before at The Novel Girls, is one of my favorite authors. I first fell in love with her while reading the Big Stone Gap series. Ave Maria Mulligan, her heroine, is another of my all-time favorite characters. She's a thirty-five-year-old self-proclaimed spinster, the local pharmacist, the co-captain of the Rescue Squad, and the director of the town's outdoor drama. Funny and very independent, Ave Maria thinks that life has passed her by, only to learn that the best is yet to come. She keeps her self busy, avoiding a look inside until she is faced with her past. Hope springs eternal is the mantra of Ave Maria Mulligan. If you haven't yet had the pleasure of getting to know her, waste no more time in discovering her warmth.

Until next week, happy reading. And remember, support your local indie bookstores. They could really use your help!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Top Three!

When I love a book, I'll come back to it many times. I know some people only read a book once, but when I truly connect with a character, he/she becomes real to me--almost like a real-life friend. And I'll read their story over and over, despite knowing all of the plot twists, the resolution and the character arc. Because, for me, there's something so comforting in coming back to an old literary friend.

So, in no certain order, here are my Favorite Literary Characters:

1. Bridget Jones, Bridget Jones Diary--Sorry to steal this one from Tracy, but I think she'd be on a lot of people's lists. Her character was so nuanced, so REAL that I'd start laughing uncontrollably while reading, thinking, "Oh My God. I am so HER."

2. Claire Webster, Watermelon-- Immediately after giving birth, Claire's husband dumps her. So she moves back to Ireland with her newborn daughter to stay with her wacky family. Naturally, craziness ensues, but Claire's voice was so strong--funny, heartbroken and smart--that it was really the selling point for me. This book helped to remind me that writing could be just that--funny, touching and hilarious. After many years of reading "heavy" stories like A Tale of Two Cities and As I Lay Dying in formal education, it was a wonderful reminder that great writing can be funny and light, too. As a tribute, I named my main character in A Bump in the Road after Claire.

3. Gemma Doyle, A Great and Terrible Beauty--I didn't come upon this trilogy until recently. As in, like a month ago. Immediately after reading AGTB (in 24 hours), I went back to Borders and bought the next two books in the series. Set in Victorian England, the books are about Gemma and her friends rebelling against social norms in very "magical" ways. Sassy, funny and not at all into being a "proper" lady, Gemma pulled me into the story and carried me through all 1,000+ pages of the three books. A very modern girl in a decidedly oppressive world.

If you haven't read any of those books, RUN! RUN! to Borders or B&N or Amazon and get a copy. You won't be disappointed!

Monday, March 2, 2009

My Favorite Literary Characters AND Winner of A Taste of Magic! favorite literary characters. This topic is one I could write forever on, but seeing as I don't have the time (and likely, you don't either), I'm going to list the first four that come to mind, in the order they come to mind. Ready? Here goes...

1. Scarlett from Gone With The Wind: Talk about being a multi-tasker! Not only is Scarlet beautiful (and more than a little spoiled), but she juggles kids, husbands, war, famine, a family business, and unrequited love. Call her what will you will, but this character had an impact on me, so it's no surprise I thought of her first.

2. Elizabeth Bennett from Pride & Prejudice: I adored Elizabeth the first time I read Pride & Prejudice and I still love her. She's spunky, says whatever she wants, and gets the guy in the end. What's not to love?

3. Bridget Jones from Bridget Jones Diary: Another spunky woman who gets her guy at the end, but she's also funny, sassy, heartbreaking, a little crazy, and well, let's just say I identified with her pretty much immediately.

4. Nancy Drew from The Nancy Drew Mysteries: Surprised you there, didn't I? Wow, I loved my Nancy. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. Smart, brave, pretty, and she always solved the mystery!

As I look at the above list, other characters pop into my head: Frodo, Laura Ingalls-Wilder, Harry Potter, and Trixie Belden...and then more, and more, so it's a good thing I stopped at four! There are many characters I've laughed with, cried with, celebrated with, and truly felt as if I knew them in real life. For me, those are my favorites, because they live on well after the book is read. What about you? Who are some of your favorite characters and why?

NOW, the moment you've been waiting for! The winner of a signed copy of A Taste of Magic is...drumroll please...WRIGHTY! Huge congratulations, Wrighty! Send me an email at with your address, and I'll get your copy sent out!

The winner of The September Sisters by Jillian Cantor is...oh, wait. You'll have to wait until Thursday, when Jillian makes the announcement! :) I'm about halfway through my copy of The September Sisters and all I can say is: whoever wins will be very happy to get this book in their hands!

Have a GREAT week everyone!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The End of Release Week & The Last Chance to Win

Here's one last little interview with Tracy and Jillian as they answer Carolyn's questions:

How has your family (husband, children, parents) reacted to the publication of your book?

Tracy: Everyone has been incredibly supportive and excited for me! My two older kids are reading it, and my two younger ones think it's "really cool I wrote so many words."

Jillian: They're all super-excited! I let my husband read an early copy I got from my editor, even though he'd already read it, because he was so excited about reading "the real thing." My parents each ordered their own copy from Amazon because they didn't want to share!

Have any of them marched into a bookstore and bought all the copies?

Tracy: Not into physical bookstores, but my aunt ordered several copies and has since passed them out to all of her friends. She's had a great time reading the story at the same time her friends are.

Jillian: No -- but everyone's been ordering them on Amazon and then e-mailing me when it ships, and then when it arrives. My sister even sent me a picture of herself getting the book (although she made me promise not to post it anywhere!)

Are they telling all their friends, neighbors and distant relatives to go out and buy your book?

Tracy: LOL! Everyone is telling everyone, which is wonderful. I definitely have my family's support.

Jillian: Yes! My husband works in a middle school, so he's been spreading the word to all his students. And my dad sent out an e-mail to everyone in his address book -- a few hundred people!

Have you gotten any surprising reactions from people when you have told them that you are a published author?

Tracy: People tend to think it's really cool, and while I haven't had any surprising reactions, they've all been terrific! This past week I've reconnected with several friends from my high school days and in all cases, none of them were surprised to discover that I spend my days writing.

Jillian: Everyone I know has been really excited for me and excited to read the book, which is awesome. And I do mean everyone -- even my doctor was gushing about it and wanted me to display some books in the waiting room!

What one person were you looking forward to telling the most?

Tracy: Hmm, really...everyone I wanted to know found out when I made the sale. I couldn't wait to tell my husband, naturally, and then my best friend, and then my parents. It's been a lot of fun!

Jillian: I told everyone when I made the sale, too. But, of course, then, the absolute first person I wanted to tell was my husband!

Today's your last chance to enter our contest. We're giving away signed copies of A TASTE OF MAGIC and THE SEPTEMBER SISTERS. Just leave a comment on this post or any of the other ones from this week. Each comment gets you one entry into the contest.