Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Exploring New Facets

I recently read Tristi Pinkston's new book Agent in Old Lace and since I've known Tristi for quite a few years and enjoyed her historical novels, I invited her to introduce herself to my readers and tell you about both her older books and her new one. I won't review her new novel here since I'm reviewing it for Meridian next week , but I will say it took me by surprise since it's contemporary. It also has a father/daughter sub plot which fits in very well with this month's current contest.

My first three novels are historical fiction, and I know I’ve surprised many of my readers with the recent release of “Agent in Old Lace,” which is a contemporary mystery and very different from anything I’ve written before. Jennie said that as she read “Agent in Old Lace,” she felt as though I was taking a needed break from historical fiction, and that’s true. I spent hours researching my first two novels, first immersing myself in the Japanese internment camps and the atomic bombs and then the atrocities of the Nazi concentration camps, and while I didn’t use even 10% of my research in my final novels, the images were burned into my brain and I needed to write something light to reset my switches. That’s when I wrote “Agent in Old Lace,” although it didn’t come out in chronological order and I did write one book after it which was published before it.

It’s been a lot of fun for me to explore this other dimension of myself, although a part of me does feel like I’m cheating on historical fiction, which will always be my first love. I enjoy researching, although I do find myself a little frustrated when I miss something. I appreciate the chances for learning and growth that have come my way as I’ve learned about things that happened decades before I was born. I have every intention of continuing to write in the historical fiction genre, but you know, I like testing out these new waters. Contemporary fiction is challenging me in different ways, and I also feel as though my brain power has been freed up somewhat to concentrate on craft and mechanics and improving my overall writing skills. I’m learning when to leave out the words “that” and “was” and “just” and “little bit,” and I’m learning about dangling modifiers and all those other things that creep in when we least expect them. If you’ll pardon the pun, I feel like a whole new chapter is opening up for me.

I think this is valid for any person who is involved in a creative endeavor, be they authors, artists, quilters, singers—what have you. We all need to step outside ourselves once in a while and try something new. It might work, it might not work, but it’s a valuable experience because it helps bring our art form into focus for us and we can more clearly see our strengths and our weaknesses. It also refreshes us and prepares us for the next leg of the journey. I’ve always enjoyed writing but right now, I can honestly say that writing is really fun. I’m having the time of my life. I’ve rediscovered all the reasons why I started writing in the first place. You know what, I think I’ll go now and work on my next chapter. Thanks for hosting me, Jennie—it was fun to hang out with you for a little while.

Thanks Tristi! Having felt the need for a break from my own historical novels which resulted in High Country and my fall release Shudder, I understand your need for something lighter. Comments on Tristi's blog will count toward this month's contest. Remember you can leave a comment on each blog I post between June one and noon on the fifteenth. You can visit Tristi's blog here.


L.T. Elliot said...

Jennie, my lil' sister just adores the heck out of your books. Just thought I'd say that.

Tristi, I loved hearing about how you felt like writing this freed up your mind to hone your craft. (Although, judging from your other works, how on earth can you get much better?) =]

Tristi Pinkston said...

Trust me, L.T., there's no such thing as totally perfecting the craft. There's always so much to learn and I just hope I get to 1/10th of it before I die. (I plan to live a long, long time .... )

Thanks for the compliment, though, and I totally agree with you - Jennie's books rock!

Randy and Lisa said...

I love to read historical fiction, and feel that Tristi's book on the Japanese and the atomic bombs was very well done. My Grandfather was a Navy Photographer, who was involved with the making/dropping/and after study of the atomic bombs, and I grew up hearing about his experiences.
Even though I enjoy reading historical fiction, there are times when I just want to read a novel for pure enjoyment, and "escape" the world. I love to read Jennie's books, and am looking forward to reading Tristi's latest.
Each book I read from certain authors, most actually, seems to improve. I feel that the more a writer writes, the better the writer becomes. Both Tristi and Jennie prove this adage very well.