As a writer, I am always looking for ways in which to fine-tune my craft. From professional groups such as Romance Writers of America (which I highly recommend) to educational seminars that teach how to avoid common first-time writing blunders, there are myriads of lessons to be learned, and there is always room for improvement. Not only is having the right tools an essential part of the process, but also having the desire to succeed is critical to a writer’s success.
This month’s Jen’s Jewels Corinne Demas touches upon this very topic in her latest release THE WRITING CIRCLE. It’s a fascinating story about a group of eclectic writers who come together on a literary journey like none other. From their diverse viewpoints comes a unique story with an unexpected twist. Emotional yet engaging, this novel is a must-read for every person who has ever contemplated becoming a writer.
As part of this interview, Hyperion Voice has generously donated five copies for you, my favorite readers, to try to win. So, don’t forget to look for the trivia question at the end. I hope you are enjoying the last days of summer. Happy Reading!
Jen: The path to publication a writer has taken in order to achieve her goal can be as interesting as the novel itself. So that my readers may have a better understanding of the woman behind the words, please share with us a brief overview of your educational and professional background.
Corinne: I went to Hunter High School in New York City, (it was all girls at the time) then on to Tufts University, where I majored in English and took a lot of creative writing courses, then on to get a PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia. I did my thesis on the short story, one of my favorite genres. I taught for ten years at the University of Pittsburgh, and ever since, I’ve been teaching literature and creative writing at Mount Holyoke College; so, I’ve never left school!
Jen: No stranger to the publishing business, you have written a memoir, short stories, and even children’s books. Your latest endeavor is a fictional novel titled THE WRITING CIRCLE. How did you arrive at the premise?
Corinne: I’ve always been interested in the way groups work-how a new member fits in, what happens when someone betrays the group-and since writers are the people I know best, I decided to focus on a writing group.
Jen: The story follows a group of eclectic writers each with his or her own struggle in life, whether it is professionally or personally. Nancy, the main character, is the newest member who has her doubts about joining the group. Is her reluctance to belong due to her insecurities in the merits of her work, or is it simply her fear of not measuring up to her counterparts?
Corinne: Both. The group she’s joining has several high-profile writers in it and Nancy is worried about laying her raw work before them, especially since her new novel is based on her father’s story, and close to the bone. Of course all writers have some insecurity!
Jen: Bernard, the biographer, serves as the unofficial leader of the group due to his varied history with its members. Even his ex-wife Virginia, the historian, belongs to the writing circle. Why does he choose to bring Nancy in the fold? Is it simply an act of kindness, or does he have an ulterior motive?
Corinne: Bernard is rarely simply kind. He knows Nancy is an astute reader and critic, and he thinks she’d be an asset to the group as well as beneficial to him. He values her feedback. Nancy is also a genuinely nice person, so he imagines her participation will be without conflict. (How wrong he is!)
Jen: As I mentioned, Virginia wears two hats…Bernard’s ex-wife and fellow club member. Why does she choose to keep Bernard close to the vest? And, how has their post-divorce relationship affected the rapport with their children?
Corinne: Virginia is genuinely fond of Bernard and respects him as a writer. As I say in the novel: “. . . now that she was no longer married to him . . . the love she felt for Bernard was undamaged by frustration. Everything she didn’t like about Bernard was Aimee’s [his second wife] to deal with. No marriage counseling could have ironed out all their difficulties as a couple as neatly, as successfully as their divorce and realignment had done.”
Virginia’s rapport with their two grown children has always been excellent. Bernard has been on the outs with his son, and even though he and Virginia have an amicable relationship, it hasn’t helped.
Jen: Gillian is the snooty world-famous poet who feels her opinion matters most. Why has she chosen poetry as her means of expression? And, in what ways does her superior attitude resemble a mask in which to hide behind?
Corinne: Gillian believes poetry is the superior genre-the most intellectual, the most artistic, so of course she chose to be a poet. She’s also not interested in other people, just herself, and a fiction writer has to be interested in other people and their stories. You’re right that she hides behind a mask-but don’t tell her that!
Jen: Chris is a divorced dad who writes thrillers. Seemingly, he is always one step behind when it comes to the group due to his troubled personal life. Of all the club’s members, which person does he most identify with and why?
Corinne: Poor Chris, there’s no one whom he really identifies with. He makes the most money as a writer of anyone in the group, but he feels no one respects him because he’s a genre writer. He looks to Nancy, the new member, with hopes she might become an ally.
Jen: Adam is the youngest member who is pursuing a career as a novelist. Not surprisingly, he latches onto Gillian in a state of awe and admiration. Does he believe that his desire to emulate the successful poet is an effective way in which to achieve his literary goals? Or, does he single her out simply due to his inability to define his own path?
Corinne: You put that well, yes; Adam is definitely “in a state of awe and admiration.” He finds Gillian beautiful, seductive, and mysterious, and has fallen under her spell. He’s a devotee of her poetry, but my guess is that his infatuation is sexual as much as intellectual.
Jen: Which member is the most talented of the group and why? And, which member is the weakest link and why?
Corinne: What an interesting question! Everyone in the group is working in a different genre-except Nancy and Adam, who are both novelists-so we can’t really compare their talent. Gillian, Virginia, Bernard, and Chris are all at the top of their game. Nancy hasn’t published a novel for years, and Adam is as yet unpublished, so they might seem like the weakest link. But what seems to be the case doesn’t necessarily prove to be true.
Jen: Interestingly enough, within the storyline you raise the issue of the potential risk of an author having ideas stolen by fellow writing circle members. In light of this, are you a big proponent of writing circles? Why or why not? And, are you a member of one?
Corinne: Plagiarism is a hot topic in the literary world these days, and it’s a subject that certainly comes up in my novel.
I’ve belonged to a number of writing groups, and belong to two, now-one where we share manuscripts, the other where we just gather for coffee and offer support. Writing is a lonely profession, and I’ve loved being part of a community of writers. My writing critique group (who are all thanked in the acknowledgments for THE WRITING CIRCLE) listened to me read aloud drafts of this novel, chapter by chapter, and offered me wise advice.
I think writing circles can be beneficial at any stage in your writing career, but of course it will depend on finding a group that it is both supportive and smart.
Jen: Let’s switch gears and talk about your website. Please take us on a brief tour.
Corinne: Because I write for both adults and kids, www.corinnedemas.com offers two different directions from the home page. Each of my twenty-five books has its own page, which includes reviews and relevant background information. For my children’s books I have “behind the scenes,” as well as profiles of the illustrators. My website includes biography (you can even see photographs of my miniature donkeys), a bibliography, and contact information. The great benefit of my website is that my name is spelled correctly!
I hope readers who enjoy THE WRITING CIRCLE will join the Facebook fan page and follow me on Twitter. You can link to both through my website.
Jen: Will you be heading out on a book tour? If so, where can readers find a list of dates and locations?
Corinne: I just finished a book tour, but will be doing a reading September 22 at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Massachusetts, right across the street from Mount Holyoke College. Details about that event and other future appearances are all listed on my website under Events.
Jen: Do you participate in author phone chats? And if so, how would my readers go about arranging one?
Corinne: Yes! Contact information is on my website.
Jen: Are you currently at work on your next novel? If so, what can you share with us?
Corinne: I just sent the manuscript in to my editor at Hyperion. The novel is about a family–two sisters and two brothers–who inherit an old house on Cape Cod at the death of their eccentric mother. The working title is The Married House, but that may well change. Part I of the novel takes place on the wedding day of Sofie, an entomologist, the youngest of the clan. She’s getting married at the seaside house the week before it goes on the market, and has invited all her siblings, with hopes the wedding will bring peace among them. But instead of settling their differences, something occurs at the wedding which divides them even further, and Sofie uncovers a well-buried secret which not only changes the way she sees her family, but the way she sees herself. Part II of the novel takes place twenty four years later at the same house, at another family wedding. Startling changes have taken place in the family, and a new secret comes to light which turns everything upside down.
Jen: Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with my readers. I truly loved the depth of your characters and the way in which you tied the storyline together. Bravo! I highly recommend it to all of my readers. Best of luck with its success!
Corinne: It’s been a treat being your guest. Many thanks for your penetrating reading of my novel and your thought-provoking questions. And thank you for all you do to help connect books and readers.
I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Corinne. Please stop by your favorite bookstore or local library branch and pick up a copy today! Better yet, how would you like to win one instead? Okay, be one of the first five readers to e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with the correct answer to the following trivia question and you’ll win:
Name the snooty world-famous poet in THE WRITING CIRCLE.
Next month, I will be bringing to you my interview with Melissa Clark, author of the New York Times column “A Good Appetite.” You won’t want to miss it.
Until next time…