Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What We're Reading Wednesday: Where Real Life and Fiction Intersect (Part 3)

I've been so busy the past few days (so, sew busy--making three matching satin flower girl dresses for my middle son's upcoming wedding...but more about that another time).  I haven't been blogging, you might have noticed, or even reading other more productive bloggers' blogs.  I've just been hunched over my trusty Sears Kenmore sewing machine, stitching and zig-zagging to beat the band, or standing at my ironing board, tirelessly pressing seams flat; but I'm finished now, and happy with the results of my labors--and I'm in the mood to write.

And what better way to jump back into the blogging fray than linking up with my fellow book lovers over at Housewifespice, where you can go and see what everyone's reading today?  There is no better way, obviously.  Sometimes you find out all about some tomes you never even heard of before, so WWRW is a great place to discover noteworthy titles that you might not otherwise come across in your travels through Barnes & Noble.
I am actually working on way too many books at once this Wednesday, as you can see...
I'm only reading snippets of this and snippets of that, because like I said, I've been a sewing ninja lately.  But I recently finished Michelle Buckman's Death Panels: A Novel of Life, Liberty, and Faith, which I told you about here at the link-up last Wednesday.  It was good, but it didn't affect me nearly as strongly as some other books with similar themes have done in the past, books like Brave New World, 1984, The Lord of the World (by Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson, published in 1907)--and even Glenn Beck's fairly recent Agenda 21.  Maybe it's because the themes treated here have been done so well so many times already, or maybe it's because there is so much non-fictional horror taking place routinely in our modern world, that fictional accounts such as Death Panels no longer have the power to shock a reader like me.  Don't get me wrong: it's a well-written book and it outlines the tragic consequences in store for people who live under a tyrannical government with unlimited power in a world where the culture of death mindset is firmly entrenched.  It's a pretty terrifying look at what might be not that far down the road for our nation if we're not careful.  But it's also an uplifting look at the way good people can rise up to stop this kind of madness.  However, I still prefer the aforementioned futuristic tales--although you might read this one and think it does Brave New World and the like one better.

I'm still working my way through Henri Gheon's  The Truth about Therese: An Unflinching Look at Lisieux, the Little Flower, and the Little Way, a book I started quite a while ago.  It's a great book so far, and not a long one; but I seem to keep putting that one down and getting myself all wrapped up in others.  I am determined to finish it ASAP so that I can tell you what I think.  In this book, one is supposed to find the "real Therese, beneath the sugar roses and puffy clouds, behind the platitudes and pet-names that took all the salt out of her heroic story."  The author set out to reveal the "heroic grandeur" that lay behind her smile and all the "pretty-pretties," to show us the true reason she was canonized.  I am anxious to finish the book so that I can become better acquainted with this amazing saint, who died at 24 but has the distinction of being a Doctor of the Church.

I am also reading a book by one of my author e-friends, Victoria Carmichael.  I did a review of her sweet novel All the Blue of Heaven (which I  mentioned here at the link-up a while back), and since then we have been in touch back-and-forth on Facebook.  I ended up sending her a copy of Finding Grace for review, and just recently my husband and I returned from a week-long trip and--lo and behold--there was a package from her in our built-up stack of mail containing a copy of her novel Season of Hope.  When I wrote to thank her and ask her why she'd sent it, she said she'd received her box of author copies from the publisher and she thought of me, so it was just "for fun"!  (I continue to be amazed by the generosity of the authors I've "met"--both on-line and in the flesh--since FG came out.)  Season of Hope was published by Harlequin, and let me tell you right now that I have avoided that H-word my entire reading life, because I am a book snob of the highest order (I've avoided Danielle Steele and Stephanie Meyer with equal determination).  But it is well-written, without a speck of inappropriateness, and there is not one character in it who even remotely resembles Fabio--and I must say that I am enjoying it.  I liken it to a well-acted light romantic comedy at the movies--a PG one; it might not win the Academy Award, but it makes you leave the theater with a smile on your face.  This title is one in a series called "Love Inspired," and it is indeed quite inspirational and filled with Christian messages.  The characters are routinely shown praying to God for guidance and help--which is something I never thought I'd find in a Harlequin romance.  So shame on me for judging books by their covers.  Carmichael has another title in the "Love Inspired" series called Season of Joy, and I just might have to pick myself up a copy.  Oh, and she's also penned a novel called Purple Like the West, which has Catholic characters in it.  I might have to give that one a look-see as well.

My friend Victoria (who also writes under the pen name Mary Jane Hathaway) is quite a prolific author.  I can't imagine writing even one more book right this minute, much less multiple books.  I have some loose ideas for a sequel to Finding Grace, but so far I just can't bring myself to put in the kind of time and effort I know it will take to complete a gargantuan task such as that.  (For some talented people, writing a new book probably isn't a gargantuan undertaking; but for me, sadly, it is.)

Finally, another special author friend, Amy Bennett (the first person who left a great review on my Amazon page--that is, the first person who was not a family member or a friend, or who hadn't been asked by me to consider doing a review of my book), just did a book exchange with me and sent a signed copy of her new suspense novel End of the Road.  I can hardly wait to sink my teeth into it, and to post a review on her Amazon page.


Okay, gang, this is a long (seemingly endless?) post already.  But I'm going to finish it up with installment #3 in the "Where Real Life and Fiction Intersect" series, wherein I give you the low-down on which elements of Finding Grace are just the teensiest bit autobiographical and which ones are completely fictitious (you can read installments  #1 and #2 here and here, if you're interested).  Recently, my husband and I were in our hometown for the funeral of his uncle, and we ran into our high school biology teacher (a woman I admired, and upon whom Grace Kelly's Latin teacher is very loosely based).  She told my husband that she'd seen my mother not long ago and that my mother had told her that my book is our story--as in the story of my husband and me and our high school romance.  Now, I don't want to give any spoilers for those of you who haven't read FG and might do so one day (fingers crossed!); but Grace Kelly and Tom Buckley's story is a far, far cry from ours.  My mother is not a liar; but as my husband told our old bio teacher, "If that's what she said, then she hasn't read it."  (I'm pretty sure this is the case, actually.)
I admit that when I set out to fashion a love interest for my heroine, I couldn't help but create a boy who resembled the one with whom I fell in love at the tender age of 15 and who has been my husband for going on 33 years now.  He's always been the only man for me, and therefore obviously my main character would be drawn to the same type!  So Tom Buckley is tall, handsome, athletic, smart, kind, funny, a good son, a devout Catholic--and he has a large space between his two front teeth.  These are all attributes he shares with my husband, who was my high school sweetheart.  Tom is patient, spending hours teaching athletically-challenged Grace how to ski; my husband did this for me when we were dating.  Tom is the high school class valedictorian; so was my husband (and the quotes from Tom's valedictory speech were taken from my husband's actual speech, with his permission).  But even with all of those similarities, as I got into the writing process Tom became a completely unique person to me (as did every other character who started out resembling someone I really knew).  And Tom is the baby in a family of 4 boys, unlike my husband, who is the second oldest in a family of 8 kids.
I wish I was more like my sweet little Grace Kelly, but trust me, I am not that good!  We do share some qualities: like Grace, I'm a bit klutzy and tend to spill things, I worry about saying the wrong thing and hurting someone's feelings, I suffer from a sometimes crippling lack of self-confidence, and I desperately want to figure out how to become a saint; but although I did grow up in an old house around the corner from the university campus in Plattsburgh, I didn't grow up with 5 older brothers.  Those 5 handsome, smart, athletic, momma-loving Kelly boys are loosely based on my own beloved sons.  And Grace's mother's tendency to favor the boys over Grace is based on a fear I used to have that, because I loved my sons so fiercely (and of course, boys was all I knew), if I'd had a daughter I might not feel the same way about her.  Having three granddaughters has set my mind at ease about that (oh, has it ever!), but when I wrote about Peggy, that's what I drew from.

There are a lot of people, incidents, and conversations in FG that were inspired by real life but were tweaked to fit my story.  After I'd been writing the book for about 3 years or so, I bought a copy of Jon Spence's Becoming Jane Austen, which I found on the Barnes & Noble clearance shelf.  Here are a couple of quotes from this incredible book that just jumped out at me, because--at the risk of putting my humble self in the same sentence with a literary giant like Austen--I thought, "Yes!  That's it!  That's what I'm doing here!"

"Jane wrote her early pieces for the amusement of her family and friends, and she put in shared jokes, teasing jibes, and allusions to real events in their lives."

"Austen is never autobiographical in the crude sense of recording what happened to her or to people she knew.  But a real situation was sometimes her starting point and developed in her imagination as something quite separate from the 'real'."

Case in point: on the day of my high school junior prom, I went over to the gym in the morning to help with last-minute decorations, and I fell backwards off a ladder.  I blacked out for just a moment, and I was left with a painful egg on the back of my head.  So Grace and I both attended our proms with eggs on our noggins, escorted by handsome gap-toothed dates.  But Grace never fell off a ladder--and if you want to know how she bumped her head, you'll have to read the book.  [Wink, wink.]
And with that little teaser, I think I'll sign off...finally, right?

Now head on over to Jessica's, if you haven't already.


  1. My apologies to all the early readers of this post! It went out with WAY too many typos! My blog editor (the gap-toothed guy himself) just read through it and found a bunch for me!

  2. I love learning more about the background stories of Finding Grace! I greatly enjoyed reading it and now learning more about the inspirations for the characters make it all the more special. Thank you so much for sharing all of this, Laura! God bless!

    1. You are the best cheerleader! I still cherish that review you wrote for The Catholic Young Woman. :)

    2. *smiles* I couldn't do the book justice, but I'm glad you liked the review.

  3. Okay, I'm going to get this Finding Grace. I know too much backstory. Also, I'm compiling a list of romance book appropriate for young teens. Perhaps Finding Grace would fit the bill?

    1. It's not for really young and/or blessedly innocent ones. Although there are no scenes of embarrassing sexual intimacy in the book, it deals in part with the tough subject of teen pregnancy and the difficult consequences of the choices young women faced with that make; a mom would probably want to read it first to know if her daughter was ready for it. I think it 's appropriate for readers 8th or 9th grade and up, and possibly a little younger, depending on the reader.

    2. And by the way, Jessica, I kind of downplayed my excitement with that last comment. The fact that you're even interested in getting my book now and recommending it for teens--WOO HOO!

  4. Why do I keep forgetting about Finding Grace?! Must read ASAP.

    1. I am excited that you are even thinking of it. If you do read it, I 'd love to know what you think. :)

  5. I love reading about how your story developed, and I think a sequel is an excellent idea!!!