Thoughts on Horror & Story While Watching THE BABADOOK

I just watched THE BABADOOK, this Australian horror movie streaming on Netflix about a

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

creature that comes alive from the pages of a children’s book–one you’d never borrow from your library because it’s a creepy vintage popup book and also it’s fucking evil. It made me think a lot about stories and what makes them scary. Here are my thoughts.

1. Especially in the horror genre, creating atmosphere is so important. A romantic comedy can have some dramatic moments, a science fiction some comedic ones… but the atmosphere in a horror movie or novel should create a sense of the creepy throughout, even where there are no monsters. The family in THE BABADOOK has a tragic, bloody backstory, and their home is full of dim halls and shadowy corners.

2. Part of this atmosphere often includes a silence that permeates scenes. This makes those unnatural sights and startling noises that eventually come all the more unsettling.

3. When we hear noises out of nowhere, or see images grotesque and frightening, we’re scared because it’s unexpected. This element of shock also makes humor and romance work: the punchline we didn’t see coming, the kiss after a fight. And especially in horror, that shock makes our adrenaline run.

4. The best shocks are the ones that are the most unnatural and strange. In THE BABADOOK, this is the monster repeating the weird “Ba-ba-dook!” as his calling card. Our brain is further unnerved as we try to suss out its meaning.

5. Even with the strange and unnatural, we must recognize something human in a horror story. The mother in THE BABADOOK is someone I recognized: as the mother of a boy with social and emotional challenges, her simultaneous expression of exhaustion, love, frustration, and fear felt very real to me as a special needs parent. We must recognize and care about characters to care what happens to them.

5. Along with the shocks, there is often also a slow build in stories as we feel characters (and sometimes ourselves) descending into a sort of madness. It looks like a man in a tophat is at the foot of our stairs, but maybe it’s just clothing hanging from the coat rack. The horror outside reflects what’s happening inside ourselves.

6. In this way, the best horror movies are always about other things, internal things. It’s not monsters or ghosts but something else that it’s all about, that we really fear or need to work through. This is true in THE BABADOOK, where the mother must face her internal demons as she fights the creature who’s entered her home.

7. Maybe all horror stories are about other things. Demented clowns and dolls are scary because they represent the perversion of innocence. Zombies frighten us with the reminder of our own ugly mortality, Frankenstein with our monstrous and fallible ability to create. Fright is internal, after all, the monsters only emphasizing the fear within.

Writers Who Read: Lisa Barr

The Writers Who Read series continues this week with author Lisa Barr.

LisaBarrPhotoWho are you?
Hi — I’m Lisa Barr, author of the award-winning debut novel FUGITIVE COLORS, a suspenseful tale of stolen art, love, lust, deception, and revenge on the ‘eve’ of  WWII. I’m also the editor and creator of the popular parenting blog, GIRLilla Warfare, and a working journalist for the past 20 years. I always say I’ve covered everything from “terrorism to cleavage.” I’m also happily married, a mom of THREE teenage daughters (talk about REAL drama) and two dogs. I’m addicted to coffee (my home motto: ‘Give me the coffee and no one gets hurt’). I also treasure my time with my besties, biking, and love (as in, must-have) a great Cabernet.

What are three beloved books you first read before the age of 12?
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (and pretty much EVERYTHING else by Judy Blume), and Fear of Flying by Erica Jong  (I read it at 10 years old; snuck it from my parents’ bookshelf).

What is one book you are always recommending to friends and family (and maybe the local barista) as an adult?
There are so many books I love, but I always recommend keeping your own journal (that’s NOT on your phone), that you actually have to write down your thoughts and feelings inside a beautiful hard-covered blank-paged book. I have kept a diary since I was nine … and the first line is “I love David” (a young boy from my fourth grade class … ahhhh those curls, those dimples). How ironic that I married a man named David years later (another story, a better story). Your journal is who you are, and truly it is THE book that will always be remembered and treasured.

What is your book kryptonite–those unique elements in a book, beyond just great writing and three-dimensional characters, that make you unable to resist reading?
I love relationship-y books, romance with suspense; a delicious love story no matter the time period gets me every time. I need a happy ending, but I love it when a novel takes twists and turns to get there …

What is your ideal time and place to read? 
My ideal time to read is of course while traveling, but in my reality, it is the one hour BEFORE I pick up my kids from school — just before my Me-Time is over and Mommy-Time kicks in. I also love hearing my husband snore next to me while I read into the wee hours of night. When my world — kids, hubby, dogs — are sleeping, it is truly precious, stolen time.

Which books have had the biggest influence on your writing? Fugitive_one-6
All Judy Blume (she raised me), Ken Follett (art of suspense), D.H. Lawrence (forbidden love), William Shakespeare (everything else — love, tension, conflict, character development, the music-in-words).

How do you balance reading and writing in your life?
If you are attempting to balance motherhood, wifehood, writer life, and reading — forget it. There is no such thing as balance (a made-up concept), so I don’t even try. I take My Time wherever and whenever I can get it to read and write.

Choose your preferred book form: ebook, physical book, or audio book?
I’m Old School — I love to hold a real book, feel pages, and underline a beautiful word or phrase, and I like looking at the author photo and think about his/her life and how it impacted the novel.

Do you consciously plan your future reading–i.e., set book goals, keep a TBR list, participate in book challenges or book clubs? Why or why not?
Definitely. I make lists all the time (I’m a Yellow Sticky Note Junkie) — and I pick and choose my future reading lists, depending on what I need at that moment — lighter fare, or the deep, dark and dirty. As for book clubs etc., I’m a member of one. But I join others when they are reading my book. I pop in if they are local, and I SKYPE with book clubs from coast-to-coast. I’ve been on an extensive book tour all year, so I  have to be in a state of consciousness and planning on everything. I also am part of a fabulously talented network of authors, called the Tall Poppy Writers Group. So their books are on the top of my reading list.  For me, the TPs are literally group therapy on a daily basis — it truly helps all of us pump one anothers’ works, navigate The Biz, and set book goals. But as one who juggles Mom/Wife/Writer/And Everything Else — I give myself a break when my lists don’t pan out. Writing and reading are breathing for me — aside from my family, it is what makes me the happiest. So yes, I plan away, and I delve in, whenever and wherever I can.

Why or why not?
I just read Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline on a 12-hour plane ride over to Israel. And about to start my friend and fab writer Anita Hughes’ French Coast

You can find out more about Lisa on her book site, Twitter (@lisabarr18), or Facebook, and you can email her at lisafrydman@aol.com.

Writers Who Read: Naomi Zener

The Writers Who Read series continues this week with author Naomi Zener.NEZ HEADSHOT (2014)

Who are you?
I’m the author of Deathbed Dimes, available in both paperback and ebook online worldwide, and I write satirical short fiction on my Satirical Mama Blog.

What are three beloved books you first read before the age of 12?
1. Charlotte’s Web
2. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
3. James and The Giant Peach

What is one book you are always recommending to friends and family (and maybe the local barista) as an adult?
Lately, I’m recommending The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld. This is a Pulitzer Prize worthy novel. See my review here. Last year, my big recommendation (and I’m still championing it) was Real Happy Family by Caeli Wolfson Widger.

What is your book kryptonite–those unique elements in a book, beyond just great writing and three-dimensional characters, that make you unable to resist reading? 
Books where the writing grabs me from the first page and is replete with complex and flawed characters are ones that don’t let go of my attention. It can be historical fiction, literary fiction, chicklit, a suspenseful thriller, or a commercial satire. As long as the words jump off the page, I’m hooked. And, I can reread every book in the Shopaholic series–it’s reading candy for my brain.

What is your ideal time and place to read?
Anytime, anywhere. So long as my kids are occupied and I’m not writing or working, I will be reading.

Deathbed Dime$ Final CoverWhich books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
Comedy has had its biggest influence on my writing. The writing of Mel Brooks and Woody Allen, and the jokes of Joan Rivers, Robert Klein, George Carlin, and Jackie Mason, all had the greatest impact on the formation of my voice. I’m a satirist at heart. I read all the time for enjoyment and to hone my craft. While I don’t write literary fiction, but reading books like Crime and Punishment, A Fine Balance, The Headmaster’s Wager, The Jungle, Z, The Aviator’s Wife, etc…make me a better writer.

How do you balance reading and writing in your life?
I have a young family and legal career, so I find reading time by stealing it, whether it be on a subway ride, when running on the elliptical machine, during dinner with my husband while he watches hockey–basically whenever I can. As for writing time outside of working hours, I do so when inspiration strikes me. My husband knows I will disappear and he respects that. I’m a fast writer, so luckily I can write a lot in a short period of time.

Choose your preferred book form: ebook, physical book, or audio book?
I support all book formats, so no matter what floats a person’s boat, I’m just happy they’re reading. I must admit, I’ve never tried an audio book on for size, so I can’t comment on them. Personally, I’m physical book gal. I have bad eyes and I love the tactile quality of holding a book–physically turning its pages–so ebooks are tough for me. I do have an ereader, which will be useful if I ever go on vacation to keep the weight on my luggage down.

Do you consciously plan your future reading–i.e., set book goals, keep a TBR list, participate in book challenges or book clubs? Why or why not?
I do keep a TBR list–it currently sits at 500 books. My personal book challenge for this year is to read 100 novels. I’m not much of a non-fiction reader, but if a few slip in, I will count them towards meeting my challenge. I participate in Catherine McKenzie’s One Book One Facebook book club when I can.

What are you reading now?
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Naomi Elana Zener is the author of both Deathbed Dimes and satire fiction, which is posted on her blog Satirical Mama. Her vociferous blogging has been read and appreciated by industry bigwigs such as Giller Prize winner Dr. Vincent Lam and New York Times best-selling author and journalist Paula Froelich. Naomi blogs for Huffington Post and her articles have been published by Kveller, Absrd Comedy, and Erica Ehm’s Yummy Mummy Club. She’s currently working on her sophomore novel. You can connect with her on her website, on Goodreads, or on Twitter @satiricalmama.

 

Ten Types of Angst Book Nerds Get

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I read a lot. I love books. But sometimes this reading life makes me crazy. Here are ten ways to tell if books have driven you batty too.

 

1.) The Doorstopper Dread
Your friend recommends this incredible book he’s just read. It’s beautiful, it’s one of a kind, it’s…nine hundred pages long. Everyone knows that sometimes you never want a good book to end, but nobody mentions the darker side: how many books you could’ve read while you were finishing your supernovel.

2.) The Non-reader Conversation Void
You’ve met a new person, and she seems cool, and so you invite her out for coffee. But then, before your drinks hit the table, it comes out: she’s not a reader. You spend the rest of the meal panicking because you’re not sure how to hold a conversation without mentioning books.

3.) The Due Date Panic
You’ve waited too long to start that new Austen Project book, and your library wants it back. And you can only keep that Jeff Vandermeer ebook for six more days. You’ve got to strategize your reading for the next week like a war general, hitting a minimum pages per day at the sake of sleep.

4.) The Series Squirm
You were making a dent in your mile-long TBR pile, but then everybody started making sequels to their stories. Then came the trilogies, then the seven-book epics, and you’ve become dizzy from all the books you aren’t reading (not to mention all the cliffs you’re hanging from). When will it end?

5.) The It Book Angst
Your friend wants to know if you’ve read the latest book–you know, the one that everyone’s talking about. You haven’t, so you request it from the library–and the waiting list is a hundred people long. By the time you read it, no one will want to talk about it anymore, and in the meantime you’re missing out on timely bookish discussions.

6.) The Hardcover Blues
You want to buy the first editions of books by your favorite authors, but you’ve got to send the kids to college, too. Of course reading is worth the price of rubies, but with some books costing as much as small furniture at Ikea, your bank account isn’t the only thing that’s depressed.

7.) The Book Challenge Sweats
You signed up to read 56 horror novels on Goodreads this year, but by April you’ve only cracked one-and-a-half. You’re secretly scared that Goodreads hires people to show up at your door with a stern look and a billy club if December 31st rolls around and you haven’t met your book challenge. Or maybe they’ll send a message with an unhappy emoticons, which could be worse.

8.) The PolyBook Panic
You were rereading that classic you studied in college, but then you picked up a new science fiction novel one night. The next day, you dipped into a New Adult romance. Then things really spiraled out of control and you’re somehow in the middle of seven books all at once. Their covers stare at you accusingly, knowing full well you’ve been seeing other stories.

9.) The One-Click Overdo
If you had a dollar for every book you bought for ninety-nine cents, you wouldn’t be so poor. Every crook of your Nook is stuffed with ebooks you got on sale, and the water bill’s due next week. In the meantime, you wish BookBub would shut its mouth.

10.) The Social Bookus Interruptus 
You’re really glad to have a night out with the girls. Really. Except you’re in the middle of the most fascinating memoir, and you can’t wait to read what happens next. Don’t even try to pretend like no one will notice if you’re in the bathroom for a half-hour.

What about reading makes you crazy?

Writers Who Read: Clea Simon

 

Kittens Can Kill coverThe Writers Who Read series continues this week with mystery author Clea Simon (who I think we can all agree has one of the best book titles in this series!).

Who are you?
I’m a Massachusetts-based author. A former journalist, I wrote three nonfiction books before turning to a life of (fictional) crime. I now have 17 traditional mysteries (think “whodunits”) out in three series, two of which are ongoing. My most recent books are Kittens Can Kill (Poisoned Pen Press) and Stages of Grey (Severn House).

What are three beloved books you first read before the age of 12?
C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and Robert Graves’s The Big Green Book. These gave me a proper respect for animals (and social equality) and also the lasting belief that there is magic in the real world.

What is one book you are always recommending to friends and family (and maybe the local barista) as an adult?
Recently, it’s been Geoff Dyer’s Jeff in Venice/Death in Varanasi, for the same reasons as the above! Though Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety is my all-time favorite of the last decade, even more than Wolf Hall, which I also loved.

What is your book kryptonite–those unique elements in a book, beyond just great writing and three-dimensional characters, that make you unable to resist reading?
Oh, maybe British social satire of the Austen/Trolloppe sort? And Elizabethan historical fiction – thank you very much, Hilary Mantel and CJ Sansom.

What is your ideal time and place to read?
A rainy Sunday afternoon, on my sofa, with the fire going.

Which books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
I think the books of my childhood – Tolkein and Lewis and The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame).

Choose your preferred book form: ebook, physical book, or audio book?
Physical book. I read a study recently that said that when we read on screen, we tend to skim – skip words – and I felt quite validated.

Do you consciously plan your future reading–i.e., set book goals, keep a TBR list, participate in book challenges or book clubs? Why or why not?
I always have a huge TBR pile on my nightstand and another in my office, but it keeps getting interrupted by random purchases, loans from friends, and assignments to review. I read for pleasure, and occasionally (reviews) for work, so I don’t do challenges or clubs.

What are you reading now?
CJ Sansom’s Lamentations, which is good fun – but I just picked up Nina McLaughlin’s Hammer Head, a memoir of a writer who became a carpenter, so that’s jumping to next on the list. I know and admire Nina so much!

Clea Simon has a home page at http://www.CleaSimon.com but she can also be found on Facebook  and Twitter @Clea_Simon. Her books can be found at Amazon, BN.com, and all the usual outlets.

Writers Who Read: Aline Ohanesian

The Writers Who Read series continues this week with Aline Ohanesian.

Who are you?
Aline Ohanesian, author of Orhan’s Inheritance (Algonquin Books, April 7, 2015)

What are three beloved books you first read before the age of 12?
My parents weren’t big readers. I remember reading Nancy Drew mysteries because a family friend gave me a boxed set. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas were both early favorites.

What is one book you are always recommending to friends and family (and maybe the local barista) as an adult?
I have a few I like to recommend. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, A Known World by Edward P Jones and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. World’s End by T.C. Boyle. Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. And Three Apples Fell From Heaven by Michelline Aharonian Marcom. I could go on and on but I’m sure the barista probably regrets asking me at this point.

What is your book kryptonite–those unique elements in a book, beyond just great writing and three-dimensional characters, that make you unable to resist reading?
I love historical fiction that is literary, written in multiple points of view.

What is your ideal time and place to read?
Every place, anytime. Reading is my oxygen. I get really blue when I’m not reading.

Which books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
That’s hard to say because I read so much. I admire certain writers more than others. I’d include the books I refer to others, listed above. Zadie Smith, Hilary Mantel, Louise Erdrich, Barbara Kingsolver. I just realized they’re all women. I read men too. I promise.

How do you balance reading and writing in your life?
I probably read three times more than I write. It’s part of the process for me. I write in the early morning and stop around noon or 1 pm. The rest of the day, there’s always a book I can read nearby.

Choose your preferred book form: ebook, physical book, or audio book?
I prefer physical books but do own an iPad and use it when I travel.

Do you consciously plan your future reading–i.e., set book goals, keep a TBR list, participate in book challenges or book clubs? Why or why not?
I don’t do any of that because reading is like breathing. It doesn’t require a whole lot of conscious planning for me. I’m always reading.

What are you reading now?
I just finished Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. It’s historical, literary and is told from multiple points of view. It was marvelous. I’m going to read The Animals by Christian Kiefer next. I’ve heard such good things about it and we share an agent.

You can find out more about Aline or Orhan’s Inheritance on her website or Twitter.

What Does It Mean When We Read a Book Fast?

I’ve had a few books in the past year that I’ve read at warp speed–unable to put the book down to find out what happens next, reading it at every free moment, finishing it within a day or two. IMG_1249 (1)

I’ll often give these books a better rating because I figure since I read them fast, they were great reads I enjoyed. And that’s probably true–something about those books kept me turning pages, which is a complement to any author.

The problem comes when I assume that I’m not enjoying books I read slowly.

Right now I’m reading Daniel José Older’s collection of ghost noir stories, Salsa Nocturna. And I’m loving it. I love how unique it is–I didn’t know ghost noir was a thing, but he nails it. I love the complex characters, the supernatural world-building, the creepiness. I love the lines that can be both beautiful and profane, and have that lovely ring of truth to them.

And I’m reading it slowly. Maybe it’s the writing style, maybe it’s my mood. But it’s okay. Because I’m realizing that while there are books I rip through, there are also books I savor, that I let drip down into me over weeks and even months.

Reductress Articles

I’ve written a couple articles for Reductress this past week. If you don’t already know the site, it’s a satire of women’s magazines with the tagline “Women’s News. Feminized.”

I’ve long loved Reductress, so I am thrilled to be able to write for it. Here are the two pieces that came out recently. Trigger warnings: profanity, raunchy subjects, Olive Garden references.

5 Dysfunctional Relationships You’ll Miss in Your 30s

How To Write From Your Heart So Your Professor Will Fuck You

Enjoy!

 

Guest Post: Why I Write Romance for Women Over 40

Author Betsy Talbot

Today I welcome a guest post from romance author Betsy Talbot, author of the new Late Bloomers series. Welcome, Betsy!

I became a romance writer in Morocco at the age of 43.

Before you start imagining vibrant images of this exotic country, the echo of the call to prayer sounding throughout the streets five times a day, or a profound experience with a Berber family in the desert, let me tell you first how I ended up there.

Back in 2010, my husband and I left the US to travel the world. In the two years prior to leaving, we sold everything, including our house and car, and quit our good jobs. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? It didn’t feel that way at the time, reeling from the very close health crises in two people we loved…both of them in their mid-30s.

This kind of close call will cause a reasonable woman to reflect on her past choices, and it will prompt a less reasonable woman like me to take charge of her future. Warren and I decided in 2008 that we would travel the world for one year, which is how we ended up on a plane to South America with no earthly possessions but our backpacks in 2010.

Over the following years, we traveled through South America, North America, Antarctica, Europe, and Asia. All the while, we grew a large readership at our website, Married with Luggage. Readers often asked if we’d share our tips on saving money, getting rid of our belongings, having the nerve to follow our dreams, and traveling together. This was the start of our nonfiction business, which published four books on those subjects.

Our lifestyle was romantic – traveling and working together around the world – but the subjects of our books were not. Finance. Decluttering. Logistics. These unsexy topics led to a very sexy life, but it was hard to stay motivated to write about subjects we had long since mastered. I wanted a new challenge.

We wrote a book called Married with Luggage: What We Learned About Love by Traveling the World. This was part travelogue, part memoir, and it spurred in me the desire to talk more about love and relationships and what can happen after 40. I’ve learned a lot through our lifestyle and through the interesting and exotic people we meet, and I had to find a way to share it. I just didn’t know how.

We arrived in Spain in December 2013. In a tiny whitewashed village in the south, we fell in love with the blue skies, friendly people, and red wine. Was it time to stop traveling, to put down roots? We knew we still had much of the world to see, but having a home base was appealing. The little white house on a winding street in the pueblo was our new oasis, a place to rest between travels and write more books.

But what kind of books would we write?

As our 100-year-old house was being renovated, we took a month-long trip to Morocco with some friends. As magical as it sounds, it was a working vacation since all four of us make our living with writing or online work. Every evening, we gathered in the common area of our rental house and cooked food, mixed drinks, listened to music, and talked about everything under the sun.image

One night, the talk turned to writing and which genres were most popular. Romance came up, and we all wondered if we could do it. The four of us are what you would call slightly quirky, and our ideas matched our personalities. Before the night was over, we challenged each other to write and publish a romance novel by year’s end.

I missed the deadline to publish, but I did finish the book by the end of the year. And what I found as I went was that romance was the genre that fit my creative need. I could write about love, travel, friendship, and following your dreams. The crazy stories I’ve lived or learned could be adapted to become romance novels.

Most of all, I could show that being a woman over 40 was not a death sentence in terms of romance, adventure, and accomplishment.

That night in Morocco, sipping gin and tonics and dining on a fragrant and savory lamb tagine, I became a romance author. I began writing the very next day, mapping out the five-book series titled The Late Bloomers. The first book is Wild Rose, and I’m so proud of her story.

I haven’t left my nonfiction publishing roots behind. I’m still very deadline driven and business focused, knowing in advance the plot, publish date, and cover of each book in the series.

The five women of The Late Bloomers are as vibrant to me as the blue sky of Morocco, their voices as clear as the call to prayer, and their stories just as enthralling as any exotic encounter I’ve had.

Truth be told, I hated being in Morocco. But I love what it gave me.

Get your copy of Wild Rose, the first book in The Late Bloomers Series, by clicking here. To get a FREE Late Bloomers short story, sign up for Betsy’s newsletter, a twice-monthly email filled with exotic tales and unconventional ideas about life and love.

Betsy Talbot is a 40-something traveler and author. When she’s not traveling or penning books about love, adventure, and self-discovery, she is hiking, learning flamenco dancing, and drinking wine in a tiny whitewashed village in Spain. Her latest project is The Late Bloomers Series, a 5-book romance series about women in their 40s. Because women with experience make the best characters…in life and on the page. Get a new Late Bloomers short story for free at BetsyTalbot.com.
 
About Wild Rose:
Successful landscape designer and single mother Rose Quinn races to Italy to save her 19-year-old daughter Rachel from making a huge mistake with an older man – the same mistake Rose did at the age of 20. When secrets are revealed on the shores of Lake Como, Rose faces her own lifelong misconceptions about love and the illusion of control with handsome Mateo, relying on her lifelong best friends the LateBloomers to see her through this transformation.
Check out the book on GoodreadsAmazonKobo, or iTunes.
About The Late Bloomers Series:
After a lifetime of friendship bordering on sisterhood, five 40-something women from Arizona each embark on their own adventures in love, travel, and discovery around the globe. Knowing themselves far better than they did in their 20s and 30s, these seasoned women are ready to take on the world. If 40 is the new 20, these women are just getting started.

Writers Who Read: Gabrielle Selz

The Writers Who Read series continues this week with author and storyteller Gabrielle Selz.image002

Who are you?

Gabrielle Selz, I’m a writer and live storyteller (The Moth). I am published in The New York Times, The L.A. Times, Newsday, and MORE Magazine, among others. I just published a short piece in The New Yorker (my dream to publish there!) titled, “The Art of Mending.”

My debut book, UNSTILL LIFE: A DAUGHTER’S MEMOIR OF ART AND LOVE IN THE AGE OF ABSTRACTION was published by W.W. Norton in May, 2014. Briefly, it’s about growing up in the art world of 1960s and 70s and set against the unrestrained bohemians of New York and Berkeley. Unstill Life is an unforgettable portrait of a turbulent era and a moving story of my search for a steady place in a world where the boundaries between life and art often blurred.

Donna Seaman from Booklist gave it a starred review writing, “Selz’s memoir of aesthetic fervor, discovery, selfishness, sacrifice, sorrow, and abiding love is compelling testimony to art’s uplifting and, at times, diabolical power.” It was also listed as a best book of 2014 in the San Francisco Chronicle.

What are three beloved books you first read before the age of 12?

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (It is also the first book that made me cry.)
Silver Pennies, A Collection of Modern Poems for Boys and Girls, Edited by Blanche Jennings Thompson
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

What is one book you are always recommending to friends and family (and maybe thte local barista) as an adult?

Used to be: Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
Now it’s Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

This year I loved reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel & All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer.

I don’t have a one book!

What is your book kryptonite–those unique elements in a book, beyond just great writing and three-dimensional characters, that make you unable to resist reading?

I have a strong weakness for any book where the character, male for female, has a great longing. I also like historical figures in fiction. When everything I think I know about a figure from history is turned on its head.

What is your ideal time and place to read?

Bed. I binge read in bed. Best time is during the evening/night. I think there’s even a short story collection called Women and Their Beds!

Cover Art-2Which books have had the biggest influence on your writing?

Depends on the project. For my memoir, I read lots of memoirs, art history books, and books on writing.

I suppose though, if I had to choose overall, it would be Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, and John Cheever, The Complete Short Stories, I also go back to Alice Munro a lot to see how she compacts so much emotion and incident in few pages. Miles City, Montana is a story where so much happens in such a little space. It’s perfection!

How do you balance reading and writing in your life?

I read more between writing projects and when I’m starting them. Less, in the middle of a project. I don’t think there is a balance, but this is what works for me.

Choose your preferred book form: ebook, physical book, or audio book?

Physical book. I like the object itself. The weight. I read ebooks when I travel. I only do audio if it’s a long trip and I’m driving. I have found with audio books, that stories work better than long form novels.

Do you consciously plan your future reading–i.e., set book goals, keep a TBR list, participate in book challenges or book clubs? Why or why not?

No, it’s intuitive. Unless of course I’m doing research. Even then, I’ll begin with a reading list, but it’s open to allow me to follow whatever spark appears.

What are you reading now?

How to Be Both by Ali Smith
Loitering: New and Collected Essays by Charles D’Ambrosio

You can find out more about Gabrielle on her website.

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