My Favorite Female Writers

  
Happy International Women’s Day!

To celebrate, I’d like to pay something of an homage to my favorite female writers. The following women are everything I aspire to be as a writer. Also, from what I’ve heard, they’re pretty cool people, too.

Jennifer Niven Starting off this list with my newest fave. I’ve only read one of her books so far, and loved it, so suffice to say I’ll be reading her other stuff just as soon as I get my hands on it.

Marisa de los Santos I haven’t read her in a while—been on a YA kick for the past year or so—but she’s an absolutely gorgeous writer who you should check out. Start with this book.

Stephanie Perkins Her books are these beautifully-written, entertaining looks at young love. I talk about my love for her books here.

Maggie Stiefvater I fell in love with this series and can’t wish for the last book to come out. Also, she’s a rockstar on Tumblr.

Lauren Oliver Everything this woman writes is pure gold. And I’m pretty sure she’s like, my age. 

JK Rowling Self-explanatory. Not only am I huge Harry Potter nerd but this woman continues to inspire me with everything she says and does.

Tana French Otherwise known as the writer of some of my favorite books of all time. She is, quite simply put, the most beautiful writer I’ve ever encountered. Her character studies are unparalleled. Also, she’s Irish! (I love Irish people). You can read me gushing about her here.

Any other amazing lady writers I’ve missed? Let me know!

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What Draws You Into A Story?

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I haven’t decided what my next Learning from the Masters lesson will be. So for today, I’m asking a very important question…

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The Best Series of All Time (according to me)

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Since getting embroiled in yet another series I love, I’ve been thinking about my favorite series (plural) of all time…

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MK’s Book Reviews: The Likeness

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In which I attempt to put my feelings about my favorite book of all time into words.

I discovered Tana French one summer day while wandering around Central Park on my lunch break. I picked up In The Woods because it sounded interesting (also, the cover was cool). I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I reviewed that amazing book here.  (Do not go past the jump as there are SPOILERS and that book is so wonderful you must read it unspoiled.)

In The Woods is the story of Rob, a 30-something detective in Ireland, solving a case with his partner Cassie. Full disclosure: I’m not necessarily a detective novel person. But these books are so much more than simply detective novels. They’re psychological thrillers, in-depth character studies, devastating, realistic portraits of humanity, all composed of the most beautiful prose I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

And God the taste of undercover on my tongue again, the brush of it down the little hairs on my arms. I’d thought I remembered what it was like, every detail, but I’d been wrong: memories are nothing, soft as gauze against the ruthless razor-fineness of that edge, beautiful and lethal, one tiny slip and it’ll slice to the bone.

In The Woods ends on a somewhat ambiguous note, to put it mildly. So when I was told there was a sequel told from Cassie’s point of view, I obviously picked it up ASAP.

Except The Likeness isn’t exactly a sequel. You can read it without reading In The Woods–but don’t. So much of what happened in that book affects Cassie’s behavior in this one, and to skip that one is to miss out on so much of the beautifully woven threads that make up The Likeness.

I will have to get spoiler-y to talk about my love for this book but I will save it for after the jump.

So why should you read this book?

The Goodreads summary is brief:

Six months after the events of In the Woods, an urgent telephone call beckons detective Cassie Maddox to a grisly crime scene. The victim looks exactly like Cassie and carries ID identifying herself as Alexandra Madison, an alias Cassie once used. Suddenly, Cassie must discover not only who killed this girl, but, more importantly, who she is.

So the plot of this book requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. Cassie finds the body of Lexie, who is identical to her in every way. So in an effort to find out who killed Lexie, Cassie goes undercover as her. 

And she succeeds.

I would like to think that if some other person were to step into my life as me, the people I love would notice. So yes. Suspension of disbelief. But this book is so good you just don’t even care.

Tell me this beginning doesn’t hook you:

This is Lexie Madison’s story, not mine. I’d love to tell you one without getting into the other, but it doesn’t work that way. I used to think I sewed us together at the edges with my own hands, pulled the stitches tight and I could unpick them any time I wanted. Now I think it always ran deeper than that and farther, underground; out of sight and way beyond my control.

This much is mine though; everything I did. Frank puts it all down to the others, mainly to Daniel, while as far as I can tell Sam thinks that, in some obscure and slightly bizarro way, it was Lexie’s fault. When I say it wasn’t like that, they give me careful sideways looks and change the subject–I get the feeling Frank thinks I have some creepy variant of Stockholm syndrome. That does happen to undercovers sometimes, but not this time. I’m not trying to protect anyone; there’s no one left to protect. Lexie and the others will never know they’re taking the blame and wouldn’t care if they did. But give me more credit than that. Someone else may have dealt the hand, but I picked it up off the table, I played every card, and I had my reasons.

Lexie lived with her best friends, four other students in a rambling old mansion outside of Dublin. So Cassie moves in with them. And gets so caught up in their world, their strange, flawed, intertwined lives, that solving the mystery of who killed Lexie nearly becomes secondary to her.

“That kind of friendship doesn’t just materialize at the end of the rainbow one morning in a soft-focus Hollywood haze. For it to last this long, and at such close quarters, some serious work had gone into it. Ask any ice-skater or ballet dancer or show jumper, anyone who lives by beautiful moving things: nothing takes as much work as effortlessness.”

People have compared this novel to The Secret History and it’s true there are a tremendous amount of similarities. Brilliant, eccentric students, a dead body, secrets, etc. But the difference is that every character in the Secret History is such a horrible human being to the point where you struggle to believe they could even exist. In contrast, Daniel, Abby, Rafe, and Justin are real, they’re funny, they’re lovely, they’re devastatingly flawed. Like Cassie, I fell in love with each and every one of them. I wanted to climb inside this book and live there.

“And then there’s its hair,” Justin said, pushing the vegetables across to me. “Don’t forget the hair. It’s horrible.”

“It’s wearing a dead person’s hair,” Rafe informed me. “If you stick a pin in the doll, you can hear screaming coming from the graveyard. Try it.”

“See what I mean?” Abby said, to me. “Wusses. It’s got real hair. Why he thinks it’s from a dead person—”

“Because your poppet was made in about 1890 and I can do subtraction.”

It’s the relationships between these people that really get to you. (The Irishness of them all is pretty cool, too.) Above all, this is a story of friends who love each other. It’s the kind of love that generally gives way to family and spouse love as people grow up and get married and have children. Friendship love. Tana French has said:

I’m fascinated by friendship … I think it’s possible to be a healthy, fulfilled human being without a partner or children, but I’m not sure it’s possible to be a whole, healthy human being without good friends, so I’ve always been interested in the intensity of friendship and the dangers that can come with that. Great friendships are incredibly powerful, passionate things and I think it’s explored less in fiction than the danger that might come in romantic or family relationships.

And it’s simply this–friendship–that makes this book so powerful. That–and how easily it can break.

When you’re too close to people, when you spend too much time with them and love them too dearly, sometimes you can’t see them. Unless Daniel was bluffing, he had made one last mistake, the same one he had been making all along. He was seeing the other four not as they were but as they should have been, could have been in some softer-edged and warmer world.

If you haven’t read this book, go do so immediately. (After reading In The Woods.)

If you have read this book and want to hear me blather about it some more, read on…

SPOILERS BELOW. DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THIS BOOK.

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Learning from the Masters: Kissing Scenes

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So in my contemporary YA work in progress, I’m finally finally at the point where the people I want to kiss, do.

Yay!

I wrote a draft of that scene. And then reread it. And it was … meh.

I wanted the literary equivalent to fireworks, only less clichéd. I did not produce that. And though I know that great things are rarely achieved on the first try, I knew I needed help before having another go.

Whenever I get stuck on writing something, from kissing to opening lines to closing lines, I go back and consult the work of the experts that came before me.

Otherwise known as re-reading my favorite novels. It’s a rough part of the process, but so necessary.

So! Here I present some of the best kissing scenes I’ve come across. I’ve removed character names so as not to spoil anything for anyone–you must read all the stuff leading up to the kiss in order to really appreciate it!–but I’ve included links out to where each scene is from at the bottom.

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Friday Things

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TGIF!! (How I wish that lineup of sitcoms was still on…)

Here are the things that made my week:

1. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: print out your manuscript to edit it. It’s the secret to seeing the forest for the trees and it’s changed my life.

2. To continue the theme of my Tana French obsession, I found this interview, and I love love love this quote:

I’ve realized that I write a lot less about romance and parent/child relationships than I do about friendships. I think I keep coming back to this idea because in some ways, friendships are even more essential to a human being. You can be a perfectly healthy person without having kids or having a romantic relationship — you can live a full, happy, healthy life. I’m not sure you can do that without friends.

My FAVORITE thing to explore in my own writing is unconventional relationships between people (more on that below).

3. A life-changing (or at least money-saving) thing I’ve been doing: making my own vegetable broth. I just put all my veggies scraps (think potato peels, carrot peels, garlic skin) in a bag in the freezer, then when there’s enough (about 1/2 a large ziploc) I put them in a big pot of water with some salt and pepper and once it reaches a boil, simmer for an hour. Then I strain and discard the vegetables. Voilà free broth!

Reading: The Girl on the Train It’s good in that it’s really well-written and suspenseful, really drops you right into the action. But I have the same problem with it that I had with Gone Girl, and also with The Secret History–I do not like a single character in it. So while I’m definitely reading voraciously to find out what happens, I don’t particularly care if any one of the main characters or supporting characters ends up getting arrested (or killed). It’s a legitimate technique, sure, but in general I prefer stories where there’s at least one character to root for (maybe Evie, the baby? I have no issues with her.)

Watching: Mad Men. Season 7 Part 1 finally came to Netflix. I love that show. Why can’t everything on TV be so well-written? The penultimate episode “The Strategy” was my favorite, entirely because of the Don/Peggy scene near the end. This is the kind of unconventional relationship I’m talking about–not romantic, not family, not even quite friends, really, but something else, and I absolutely love them together.

Listening to: The Les Miserables Pandora station. Sometimes I like to pretend I’m Eponine while in the shower.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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