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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How a Writer who Doesn't Officially Exist Turned Me into a Crazed, Pinterest Party Mom

Erin Hunter does not exist.  I’m glad, because if she did, I’d probably hate her.  Hate is a strong word, I know, but as a wannabe author who has yet to have her first novel published, I cringe at the sight of entire library shelves full of books by a single author.  Now, I’m not talking about any author, big-name or otherwise, who has been writing for fifteen or twenty years or more.  I expect that within that length of time, any writer worth his or her weight in printer ink and cheap copy paper will have had the chance to churn out a volume or two.  John Grisham?  No bad feelings, there.  But I’m talking about Erin Hunter, who, starting in 2003, has written a semi-sized truck-load of books within a relatively short period of a few years.   Knowing what I do about how slow-going things can be in the publishing world, I couldn’t help feeling more than a little put out.  I mean, how the heck does any writer manage to publish a total of 53 novels, 16 manga, 6 “Field Guides” and 8 eBooks within a measly eleven years???

Well, in the case of Erin Hunter, I found I didn’t have to feel quite so intimidated.  Erin Hunter is the pen name of not one, but four writers who mainly live in England.  These four women, along with an editor, churn out the uber-popular “Warriors” series that initially caused me such angst. 

Whew.  Boy, was I relieved to learn that Erin was a fake!  Why?  First of all, because my daughter loves Erin’s (aka “her” x 4) books.  Second:  I secretly enjoy reading “Erin’s” books myself.  That’s why!    

Okay, so these books are about cats.  That’s right.  Warrior cats.  Laugh all you want.  I know I did the first time my then 3rd-grader brought her first Warriors book home.  In “Into the Wild,” Rusty the house cat leaves his comfortable home and joins with a “clan” of cats who live in the forest and becomes a warrior like the rest of them.  He ends up earning his “warrior name,” (Fireheart) and eventually ends up ruling his clan as leader, becoming Firestar.  Hoo boy.   Well, as cringe-worthy as this may sound, it’s really not all that bad.  Throughout the series, you meet many well-developed characters in the form of rather human-like “warrior kitties” as I like to call them.  These kitties tell stories about courage, survival, betrayal, trust, loyalty, good and evil, and learning to believe in yourself.  You even get a few not overly gag-inducing love stories that ring true.  And, there are more than enough fight scenes for any reader who craves action. 

All I can say is that the books are well-written, and they’re written by someone(ahem, plural) with an obvious affinity for nature, all things feline, a love of mythology and an interest in the spiritual beliefs of early cultures who prayed to their ancestors and sought direction from the stars.  If your child wants to give the books a try, the Warriors series just might be what gets him or her hooked on reading.

Here’s where my life turned all Pinterest-y. 

My fifth-grader is still hooked on her beloved warrior kitty cats.  I swore I’d never do it, but…I did.  I turned into the crazy, Pinterest Party Mom who planned her child’s birthday bash with a theme, down to the last detail.  Hence, the “fresh kill pile,” the “moon pool water,” (which won’t make sense unless you’ve read the books), the strawberry mice, the goldfish and the pile of “bones,” along with the cake decorated with warrior cat clan symbols.  Wow.  I’m so embarrassed.

But my daughter loved it.  And I love her, which is why I did all this in the first place.  And I don’t hate Erin Hunter, as much as I’d like to, since she’s four writers, (plus editor), not one. 

All this got me to thinking.  Why not a party for myself, or my husband, based on some of our favorite books?  Next year, I’m voting for Harry Potter-themed party.  Bring on the butterbeer! 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Emotion vs. Action Plots and Why Sandra Bullock Rocks!

I don’t go to sci fi movies armed with a wad of tissues, ready for the waterworks the way I do when I watch the latest tear-jerker screen adaptation of a Jane Austen novel.  I basically assume that my dignity will be intact when I leave the theatre after watching a good intergalactic shootout.  Aliens?  Light sabers?  Pass the popcorn, please.  No Kleenex for me, thanks.

Then, I heard that a sci-fi film had scored ten (!!) Oscar nominations, including nods for music, special effects, best actress and best picture.  Those involved in making this film walked away with seven of those little golden statues.  This was, according to the perky Hollywood entertainment reporter, a Very Big Deal because usually, sci-fi films are scorned by the Oscars.  The film is “Gravity,” starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. 

Now, I’d heard of it, but had never even considered watching it, because, well, it stars George Clooney.  I won’t go into my many and rather childish reasons; I’m simply stating this fact in order to explain why I never intended to see that film.  Ever.  But, my curiosity was peeked.   I mean, special effects in movies are pretty spectacular all around, now, thanks to how everything is computer generated.  So these effects, I thought, had to be outstanding.  Presence of “The Clooney” or no, I decided to watch the film.

The effects were, in fact, amazing.  The action was relentless and nail-biting, and lo and behold, (spoiler alert), Clooney’s character dies.  Oh, yeah!  But something even greater happened.  The writing was fantastic in this film!  Not only were we, the viewers, taken on quite an adrenaline ride, but we were given a solid, substantial emotional plot via Sandra Bullock’s character, Dr. Ryan Stone, a woman struggling with the loss of her only child.  While the action intensified and the stakes grew higher and higher, Sandra’s character struggled not only in a physical sense, but in emotional and psychological ways as well as she was forced to confront her grief.   And as events came to their climax, the emotional plot came to fruition.  Sniff.  I scrambled for my tissue box. 

So well done!  As someone who has enjoyed many sci-fi movies in my day, and who has also been forced to watch quite a few “B grade” action movies, I was impressed.  The filmmakers did something that I’ve been trying to do in my own writing.  I try to weave elements of the emotional growth of my characters into the action of the story, so that I demonstrate how they grow and change, based on not only events but their reactions to those events and their choices.  For gifted writers, that may be easy, but for me, it’s not. 

So, back to that “tear-jerker” comment I made previously.  Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice” is considered brilliant for so many reasons, including how well she demonstrates the emotional growth of her characters, woven throughout the action and events of her story.  Take Lizzie  Bennett 's and Mr. Darcy’s story and throw them into the future and the emotional elements of that story still ring true.  So, I have a suggestion.  Someone in Hollywood take note:  I want to see yet another remake of “Pride and Prejudice,” but this time, it takes place on a starship.  Mr. Darcy in space?  It could happen.  Just don’t cast George Clooney in this movie, please.  Unless his character dies.