It’s official: The holiday season has begun.
So, I’m reflecting. And thinking ahead. All at the same time.
Halloween is past; the candy has all been eaten. (You’re supposed to eat it all by midnight or it turns into a pumpkin, right?) Now, it’s on to Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Me, I’m looking forward to settling in for a bit.
October was a busy month of travel. It started with a few days in Maui and ended with a trip to the East Coast. Eight plane trips later, I’m staying put for a while. A couple of weeks, at least.
The trips were all great. Maui was relaxing and allowed me to read a couple of books I’d been meaning to get to (when you work with books for a living, sometimes it’s hard to fit in anything you don’t have to think about promoting <g>). And the East Coast trip allowed me to combine business and pleasure.
When you grow up in the New York metro area (New Jersey for me) you tend to think of your experiences as the norm—like growing up anywhere, I suppose. Fall should be ablaze with color, the air should be crisp, and the weekends should be filled with hayrides and bobbing for apples and pumpkin picking. And cities? They should be huge—the kind of huge that is dwarfing to even the most self-assured individuals— and packed with people. They should by noisy, smelly, a bit dirty, and an odd juxtaposition of bright lights and gray backgrounds.
Oh, how I missed New York City.
So, after I had my fill of New York-style pizza (aka, real pizza) and bagels with authentic vegetable cream cheese, I headed into the City for a couple of meetings. From New Jersey Transit to the subway system, I rode the rails from Jersey to Chelsea to Brooklyn and back. My meetings were very productive, and it was great to be back in the hustle and bustle of a burgeoning city.
I’ve traveled widely, and there’s just no place quite like it.
Perhaps that’s why authors write about it so much.
For example, I’m finishing work on the Advanced Reader Copy for one of Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s new novels, The Enemy Within (due out in April 2014), and it’s set in part in Manhattan. Based on Kris’ acclaimed short story “G-Men,” it’s an alternate history mystery that looks at a world in which J. Edgar Hoover was murdered shortly after Kennedy.
The first line of that novel, “The squalid little alley smelled of piss despite the February cold,” takes me right back to New York every time. I know, it should be a bad thing, a piss-scented alley. But the stench is merely a memory tool for me. There is so much more to New York than the grime and grunge.
That’s part of Kris’ genius, in case you hadn’t put your finger on it. As a great author should, she draws in all of your senses to her fiction. You can smell the scene, taste it, feel it, see it, hear it. And if you are homesick for a place, great fiction can transport your consciousness there in a heartbeat.
The legendary Terry Brooks was in our neck of the woods a few weeks ago, and he was asked a question about some of the settings in his books. The audience member was convinced she knew the exact park he based his fictional one on because she knew it so well. Terry let her down easy (no, that wasn’t, in fact, his inspiration) but explained to the audience that he gets that kind of question all the time. When he does, he knows he wrote it right, because you should always allow the readers’ imagination the chance to fill in some of the details and make it their own.
That’s what great writers—like Kris and Terry—do. They give us enough information to not only read but also experience their story, and then make it our own.
This reader, for one, is looking forward to the memories and new experiences all of our talented writers transport me to next.
All from the comfort of my own home base.
Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer.