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Corinne-Demas
Posts: 99
Registered: ‎04-07-2010
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Re: Questions for Corinne Demas

This discussion about the characters' homes is so interesting to me--

I hadn't really planned on having their homes be symbolic-- it's more that I placed them in settings that seemed right for them-- the kind of homes that they would choose to live in-- and of course I hoped it would help the reader see the kind of people they are.

--Corinne

 

See_Jane_Read wrote:

Hello Corinne,

 

Thank you so much for allowing us to preview your book and welcome to our discussions.  I've never had the opportunity to talk with the author about their work before, so this is very exciting!  My question is in regards to your writing process.  On another thread a discussion took place about how many of the characters' homes reflect their personalities.  One astute poster (forgive me for not citing their screen name, I can't seem to find the post again) to paraphrase commented that Gillian basement smelled of mold which was like Gillian, attractive on the outside but rotting on the inside.  I wondered if you were intentional about including these details about the characters' homes to serve as a metaphor for their personalities?  or do those types of descriptions just arise naturally from the picture of the character that you have in your head as you write?

 

 

 

Author
Corinne-Demas
Posts: 99
Registered: ‎04-07-2010
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Re: Questions for Corinne Demas

Glad to hear this!

 

--Corinne

Author
Corinne-Demas
Posts: 99
Registered: ‎04-07-2010
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Re: Questions for Corinne Demas

Dear Gisella--

What a rich response this is! I feel so fortunate to have such thoughtful readers.

I'm so happy you took the time to read Eleven Stories High: Growing Up in Stuyvesant Town, 1948-1968.  You certainly now know a lot about me-- and understand some of what fuels me as a writer.

 

I still do love writing short stories, as well as novels-- and you can see that there are many smaller episodes within the larger story of The Writing Circle.  The big story I wanted to tell,  though, simply couldn't fit in a short story-- it was too complex, and there were too many (essential) characters, and too much time that needed to be covered. 

I hope you enjoy What We Save For Last

 

--Corinne

 

 

Sunltcloud wrote:

Dear Corinne,

 

One of the things I do when I encounter an author I am unfamiliar with, I look up the author’s background and, if possible, other writing. You’ve made it easy for me, you’ve provided my favorite reading material: a memoir. Reading your story of growing up in Stuyvesant Town, I speculated on the reasons you’ve become a successful writer. Eleven Stories High gave me a few clues for your love of detail.

 

I grew up in a village where life reached my living room window with great immediacy; hunched-over men in drab clothing on their way to work at the leather factory, women carrying baskets with loaves of bread and bottles of milk, my best friend reluctantly pushing her baby sister’s carriage to grandma’s house, the boy next door getting the strap.

When it snowed the narrow, tall staircase of our 400-year old house became a danger zone. In summer our gooseberry bushes and apple trees were a delight to plunder.

 

I had previously not imagined a worldview from the eleventh floor and I realized that it takes sharp observation skills (what are they wearing today and how are they wearing it) to connect to the street level. Add to this a high school teacher mother, the resources of an immigrant family, and a school that inspired competition, but demanded fairness, I think you had to become a detail oriented writer.

 

There has been some discussion about words that had to be looked up when reading “The Writing Circle.” Maybe even a hint that those words are superfluous (yes, I looked up “superfluous” to make sure I am using it properly.) I would like to, respectfully, disagree on this point and direct readers to your bi-lingual family background. I know from my own experience (I am German) that the meaning of words, the closest interpretation, is an important factor when the language of the “motherland” is retained within the family circle. Whether you speak the old language or not, your reminiscences make it clear that phrasing an observation correctly is of importance. Add to this the fact that words are the essence of the writer’s craft, why would you not search for the most precise expression or extend your vocabulary beyond the familiar. 

 

As for the long list of characters we are introduced to in the beginning, I have to admit that I too was at first a bit overwhelmed. It is probably due, in some respect, to the limitations of the e-reading concept that drives nook. Once software has been perfected and one can jump between pages rather than chapters and bookmarks, it will be easier to flip through. My method of retention includes lists of characters that I can add to and refer back to; once I have a printout sitting in front of me I feel more tuned in.

 

I was also slightly uncomfortable, at first, with some of the more intimate details. This might or might not be due to my age. I simply don’t know. But I have to admit that those details are believable; I just don’t like the images they evoke. For instance: on page 93 we get the image of “hair unwashed.” Why not just “hair unkempt?”

 

Other phrases make me think about the difference in perception. For instance, I wonder: does a bad snapshot really change things? (page 93 also) I am a photographer and I want to pierce through the reality of the bad snapshot to find the truth. Is the truth different in a perfectly staged studio shot? On the other hand, I prefer the “reality” of a frown to a forced smile. Whenever I shoot a staged scene (diorama) I shoot the process - something out of place or unfinished. When I take pictures of flowers I show a dropped petal to indicate the continuum. So you have given me a gift here: something to ponder.

 

My question to you is the following: do you prefer writing short stories (I just bought “What We Save for Last”) or writing novels? I suppose complexity of character development is necessary for a novel, and yet there must be a certain amount of satisfaction when content can be whittled down to bare necessity for short fiction.

 

With all this said in my long-winded ways, I wish you the best of luck with “The Writing Circle” and thank you for allowing us to read it first.

 

Regards,

Gisela

 

 

Author
Corinne-Demas
Posts: 99
Registered: ‎04-07-2010
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Re: Questions for Corinne Demas

Dear Bonnie--

So glad you're enjoying the book!

 

I had to develop each character fully enough in my mind so that when the characters came together I would know how they would act and what they would say.  Once I've created them, it's almost as if they are alive, and I can't really change their personalities.  I have to be true to them.

 

--Corinne

 

 

 

Bonnie_C wrote:

Hello Corinne,

The way your characters have been introduced to readers has been referred to in other posts as "layering", which is an accurate description.  I felt it was a natural progression of getting to know the players of the story.

 

Did you also go through a "layering" process as you developed these characters?  Or were they more or less complete in your mind when you set down to write the book?

 

Congratulations on a most enjoyable book and best wishes for its success.

 

Bonnie

 

 

Inspired Correspondent
Adeline79
Posts: 63
Registered: ‎03-17-2009
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Re: Questions for Corinne Demas

 

Corinne-Demas wrote:

It occurs to me that it might help readers to think of the form of this book as replicating the way we get to know people and figure out situations in real life. We get partial stories and have to piece things together to make sense of the whole. 

 

--Corinne

 

 

I commented in one of my other posts something along these lines. It felt to me like we (the readers) were a new member of the writing group (like Nancy) and were learning about all the other members bit at a time. That is definately how it happens in real life. We get little bits of information as we go. We may overhear a conversation, or have someone tells us about another member of the group and we make our own observations and assumptions also. So I thought that this technique you used worked well for the novel!

 

http://thereadingjourney.blogspot.com
Inspired Bibliophile
thewanderingjew
Posts: 2,247
Registered: ‎12-18-2007
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Re: Questions for Corinne Demas

That was a wonderful response. Thank you.

twj

Sunltcloud wrote:

edited by twj...

TWJ, I hope I was able to make myself clearer.

 

 

 

 

Author
Corinne-Demas
Posts: 99
Registered: ‎04-07-2010
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Re: Questions for Corinne Demas

Thank you for your welcome and your questions, Sherry

 

Yes, I do feel as vulnerable as any of the writers in the Leopardi Circle when they lay their work out before the group-- and there are so many of you!  I'm aware that every book can't appeal to every reader--what I hope is that my novel will find its way into the hands of those readers who will appreciate it. And that's the beauty of this program-- it empowers readers to spread the word about books they like, and the success of a book no longer rests in the hands of a few reviewers.

 

Although The Writing Circle is not a story drawn from my personal life, I've been so close to these fictional characters for so long, it feels personal now!

 

--Corinne

 

Sherry_Young wrote:

Corrine,

 

Welcome to our own version of a Writing Circle - in this case not all of us are writers, but avid readers.

 

Do you feel a bit like any of the characters in the Circle through this discussion on First Look?

 

We've had some discussion questions about the authors and the content of their writing being personal to them. Is this novel something you closely relate to personally?

 

Thank you for sharing with us!

Sherry Young

Indiana

 

 

Author
Corinne-Demas
Posts: 99
Registered: ‎04-07-2010
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Re: Questions for Corinne Demas

Larry-- that's an interesting question!

I wasn't pressured at all to keep The Writing Circle to a certain length, but there are certain conventions about length that guided me.  And some of it is a matter of taste.

Actually I'm delighted that you want to know more about what happens with the characters-- I could probably write an entire novel more about each of them! 

I'll be interested in hearing what everyone thinks about the ending.

 

--Corinne

 

wrote:

Corrine,

 

Are you as an author pressured to keep your books less than a certain length?

 

I notice in the novel Adam is criticized for the verbosity and weight, in pounds of paper, of his novels, both the previously unpublished ranch family one and his current project.

 

The reason I ask is because I felt the ending of "The Writing Circle" was a little abrupt. I wanted to know more about what happened to the characters, especially the one responsible (who I will avoid naming so as not to spoil it for people who haven't read that far yet).

 

 

Author
Corinne-Demas
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Registered: ‎04-07-2010
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Re: Questions for Corinne Demas

I'm so glad you thought so !

 

--Corinne

Adeline79 wrote:

 

Corinne-Demas wrote:

It occurs to me that it might help readers to think of the form of this book as replicating the way we get to know people and figure out situations in real life. We get partial stories and have to piece things together to make sense of the whole. 

 

--Corinne

 

 

I commented in one of my other posts something along these lines. It felt to me like we (the readers) were a new member of the writing group (like Nancy) and were learning about all the other members bit at a time. That is definately how it happens in real life. We get little bits of information as we go. We may overhear a conversation, or have someone tells us about another member of the group and we make our own observations and assumptions also. So I thought that this technique you used worked well for the novel!

 

 

 

Author
Corinne-Demas
Posts: 99
Registered: ‎04-07-2010
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Re: Questions for Corinne Demas

 

I've been thinking about your interesting questions--

I didn't want readers to think Nancy's mother disliked her children, or that she is an inherently unhappy person, but rather to see her as the kind of artist who wants to portray life as she thinks it really is, rather than produce a pretty version of it.

I'm happy that the novel is provoking a larger discussion about art-- it's certainly a question that is debated all the time, in fine art at well as literature. (Think about the Realists versus the Romantics!) 

 

You're on target about Nancy's career. Writers can distort or embellish "the truth"-- as well as make something up from scratch. And surely that must be part of the pleasure of it!

 

Thanks for all your input!

 

--Corinne

 

thewanderingjew wrote:

Hi Gisela,

I enjoyed reading your post and your insights. I wondered though, don't you think that unwashed and unkempt bring two distinct images to mind.

Unkempt implies untidy or a bit messy or perhaps not combed well. To me, unwashed implies dirty and perhaps laziness about one's hygiene. It feels like a far more negative image.

I had the feeling when Nancy referred to the "bad snapshot" creating an image that wasn't true, she was referring to the fact that her mom did that with her drawings. She created Nancy in a "bad" light, with her hair unwashed, in a way she didn't want to see herself. She probably looked a little seedy. It gave her a poor self image.

If the "picture had been good", than Nancy wouldn't have looked unpleasant. Nancy was trying to impart the feeling that her mom evoked in her when she painted her...and it was very negative. Unkempt might not have provided the same impact.

 

For Corinne Demas, my question is:

1-Did you choose the word unwashed to make the negative image more emphatic as in "the great unwashed" an expression that is derogatory and implies that Nancy is not unique but part of the masses or is an ordinary child?

2-Did you mean to imply that her mom did not really like her children and portrayed them as deficient?

3-Did you see her mom as someone so unhappy that she sees the world as a glass that is half empty and that she is unfulfilled as well?

4-Nancy has chosen a career in which she, also, can create imperfect "pictures" or skewed images as she creates characters? She can also correct the imperfect "pictures" of her life as she uses her dad as the model for the character in her novel. Is it coincidental or did you give her that career by design?

 

 

Sunltcloud wrote:

Dear Corinne,...

edited by twj


I was also slightly uncomfortable, at first, with some of the more intimate details. This might or might not be due to my age. I simply don’t know. But I have to admit that those details are believable; I just don’t like the images they evoke. For instance: on page 93 we get the image of “hair unwashed.” Why not just “hair unkempt?”

 

...edited by twj

 

 

 

and went back to there's been a bit of discussion about

 

Author
Corinne-Demas
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Registered: ‎04-07-2010
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Re: Questions for Corinne Demas

          Several of you have raised questions about point of view, and I thought you might be interested in knowing why I chose a limited omniscient 3rd person narrator rather than a first person narrator (or narrators).

          I love to play with point of view as a writer (as you could probably tell from the part when Gillian switches the point of view for Adam’s selection). Each point of view offers opportunities and creates problems.  A standard approach for a novel like this  would be to use multiple first person narrators, since no single character knows all aspects of the story. And the appeal of letting each character tell a part of the story in her or his own voice is that it not only enables readers to get inside each character’s mind, but also offers stylistic variety. First person narrators have that richness of subjectivity, but, alas!,  they’re limited by it as well.  I knew that some of the characters in The Writing Circle might make fairly reliable narrators (Nancy, for instance) but what about a character who is obtuse (Bernard)? or naive (Paul)?  With first person narrators you also run into the issue of false self-consciousness.  A third person narrator can describe Chris’s actions or expressions, for instance, even at moments when Chris might not be aware of them.

          The addition of the selections from the Leopardis’ work (my editor, Sarah’s, brilliant suggestion!) I hope gives you something of the individual voices (at least their authorial voices),  and I’ve included a lot of dialogue, so you would have a sense of the characters without the narrative lens.

 

--Corinne   

 

Distinguished Wordsmith
maxcat
Posts: 4,011
Registered: ‎11-01-2006
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Re: Questions for Corinne Demas

Corrine, I think this is a question on people's minds now that some of us finished the book. Who is Blanche? As someone suggested, Gillian might be thinking about a time when she slept with the professor. Is this true, a delusion of hers?

 

Thanks, maxcat

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
Author
Corinne-Demas
Posts: 99
Registered: ‎04-07-2010
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Re: Questions for Corinne Demas

Thanks so much for putting this question on the table.

 It's so interesting to me to hear what you readers are thinking-- and I keep discovering things about my own novel that I hadn't realized were there.

What I imagined was that Gillian sleeps with Professor Jacobson after they've had dinner (there's a suggestion that it's in trade for him approving her thesis.)

He calls her Blanche because he's created a romantic vision of her.  (The name Blanche means "white, fair one"- it's a name of French queens)  He's not really seeing her, the real young woman ( a student!) but is engaged in his own sexual fantasy. I thought, perhaps, readers might feel some (just a little?) sympathy for Gillian in this scene-- might see it as an older man (who has power over her) taking advantage of her.

 

--Corinne

 

 

 

 

 

 

maxcat wrote:

Corrine, I think this is a question on people's minds now that some of us finished the book. Who is Blanche? As someone suggested, Gillian might be thinking about a time when she slept with the professor. Is this true, a delusion of hers?

 

Thanks, maxcat

 

 

Author
Corinne-Demas
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Registered: ‎04-07-2010
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formatting issue

Dear Readers--

 

I've recently discovered that there is a formatting issue for The Writing Circle with most of the electronic reading devices you're using. I'd heard some comments in earlier discussion which aroused my suspicions that the font you saw for the selections of the Leopardi Circle's manuscripts was the same as the main text, and now I've learned that when e-books are converted for Nook and Kindle, they don’t differentiate type unless it’s italicized.  (Was this a problem with Blackberries and computers as well?)   No wonder it was confusing for some of you when those selections flowed right into the narrative!  I'm so sorry.  In the printed book, all of those selections are set off in a distinctive, smaller typeface, so you can immediately tell that they're not part of the narrative.  Guess there are some things that old-fashioned books still do better than those new devices!

 

--Corinne

 

Inspired Bibliophile
Vermontcozy
Posts: 5,276
Registered: ‎10-20-2008

Re: Questions for Corinne Demas

Good Morning Corinne..I like not knowing everything,my imagination goes wild,I like the Drama that your book eluded too.It was a  Brilliant move on your part to catch us off guard.It started becoming very visual to me,and thats when I knew I liked what I am reading....I posted your book on Heather Webbers Thread on Mystery.She of course is a Writer, surely she belongs to Writing Groups.In fact her 'Group has a wonderful Blog http://www.killercharacters.com She is also close to Susan Conant and Her daughter,Jennifer Conant-Parks..Great Culinary Mysteries....and a Great family History...             ..I love Heathers "Set in Boston ",Smart ,Paranormal/slightly Romantic/ Books...It helps Balance out my reading material.....I will also make sure my local bookstore here in Vt will have some copies..I am still posting.. Glad we have you here all week..Thank you Corinne for an ending that I was not expecting ,looking forward to your next Novel... Susan Vtc....

Kindness,I've discovered,is everything in life...Issac Bashevis Singer
Inspired Bibliophile
thewanderingjew
Posts: 2,247
Registered: ‎12-18-2007
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Re: Questions for Corinne Demas

Hi,

I was wondering, is Blanche a reference to Blanche Dubois in Tennessee William's, A Streetcar Named Desire?

twj

Author
Corinne-Demas
Posts: 99
Registered: ‎04-07-2010
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Re: Questions for Corinne Demas

Dear Susan--

Thank you so much for your support of The Writing Circle.

I'm just finishing a new novel which I will be sending to my editor, Sarah, by the end of the month, so this is most heartening to hear!

 

--Corinne

 

Vermontcozy wrote:

Good Morning Corinne..I like not knowing everything,my imagination goes wild,I like the Drama that your book eluded too.It was a  Brilliant move on your part to catch us off guard.It started becoming very visual to me,and thats when I knew I liked what I am reading....I posted your book on Heather Webbers Thread on Mystery.She of course is a Writer, surely she belongs to Writing Groups.In fact her 'Group has a wonderful Blog http://www.killercharacters.com She is also close to Susan Conant and Her daughter,Jennifer Conant-Parks..Great Culinary Mysteries....and a Great family History...             ..I love Heathers "Set in Boston ",Smart ,Paranormal/slightly Romantic/ Books...It helps Balance out my reading material.....I will also make sure my local bookstore here in Vt will have some copies..I am still posting.. Glad we have you here all week..Thank you Corinne for an ending that I was not expecting ,looking forward to your next Novel... Susan Vtc....

 

 

Author
Corinne-Demas
Posts: 99
Registered: ‎04-07-2010
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Re: Questions for Corinne Demas

I hadn't thought of that!

But perhaps Professor Jaconson had her in mind!

 

--Corinne

 

thewanderingjew wrote:

Hi,

I was wondering, is Blanche a reference to Blanche Dubois in Tennessee William's, A Streetcar Named Desire?

twj

 

 

Inspired Bibliophile
Vermontcozy
Posts: 5,276
Registered: ‎10-20-2008
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Re: Questions for Corinne Demas

I thought of that as well,twj ,the Blanche reference...I wonder if this is the last we will hear from The Writing Circle?Susan Vtc

Corinne-Demas wrote:

I hadn't thought of that!

But perhaps Professor Jaconson had her in mind!

 

--Corinne

 

thewanderingjew wrote:

Hi,

I was wondering, is Blanche a reference to Blanche Dubois in Tennessee William's, A Streetcar Named Desire?

twj

 

 

 

Kindness,I've discovered,is everything in life...Issac Bashevis Singer
Contributor
brndygrl98
Posts: 9
Registered: ‎05-03-2010
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Re: formatting issue

Hmmm...my copy is on the Nook and there is definately a distinct difference in font and spacing during the scenes from the club meetings.  I had no problems at all.