“Easy”

NOTE: Ah, the “perils” of blogging. Yesterday, for the first time in the life of this blog (six years and counting), when I meant to save a draft I hit “publish” on an unfinished post which also had only a “working title.” Where my brain had drifted for those seconds, well, I suppose it had to do with what you will see in the last part of this post: a new book.

[The inside of author George Bernard Shaw’s writing hut. Situated in his garden at his Ayot St. Lawrence, Hertfordshire, home, it also had a camp bed – seen to the right. Photo by me, 2016.]

Realizing within moments what I had done, quickly I deleted the post. Some of you may have gotten the email about the publication, which led to a full link to “nowhere.” Well, below is the post now, finished. LOL!

/ / /

When I took up writing, I knew already from my years as a college teacher in New York what my 18-21 year old students had liked to read when it came to history: they loved people and drama they could relate to and they loathed memorizing big events and dates.

I sensed that reading was also changing: as readers we were all increasingly distracted and our attention-spans were seemingly shorter than previously.

Having taught non-native-English speaking international students too, I witnessed how some aspects of English especially baffled them: knowing my novels would be available most anywhere, I wanted my books also to be accessible (insofar as reasonable) to a non-native-speaker who had reasonable proficiency.

I attacked those three issues in this fundamental way…

[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995, Copyright, 2013. On Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]

I decided overall to write about people, relationships, and (often youthful) adventures.

My first three “modern” novels (that above is from my very first) are also written deliberately in an “easy to read” style. Not only to set the “narrator” clearly apart from dialogue (an “artistic” choice of mine), but also to help with reading comprehension I opt for a “formal narrator.” For example, I avoid contractions. So while I, say, may use “didn’t” in characters’ conversations, it is always “do not” in the “narrator.”

As is evident above in fictionalizing youthful and college experiences of someone I once knew to introduce a major character, I aim also to keep “narrative” crisp, including trying to keep to short paragraphs.

[Excerpt from Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, 1813.]

Obviously I did not write that excerpt above; but seeing it there reminds us how English has evolved over the centuries. Jane Austen (1775-1817) also wrote in a style – particularly note her choices for the locations of commas – meant to be read aloud; remember, there was no television or internet in those days. Pre-radio (c. 1920), reading aloud before the fireplace in the evenings was a common form of family pre-bedtime entertainment, so “popular” novels – as hers were meant to be – were written not just to be read silently but also to be spoken.

My two most recent novels are naturally written in a similar “period voice” – I tend to proofread (especially dialogue) aloud, so I think they read well aloud too (and I sure hope they do if they are ever to be audio “books”). Of course I have to use “conversational” 1700s-1800s-era English. And while I opt also for a somewhat “old-fashioned”-sounding narrator to avoid jarring a reader with modernisms and so always keep them “in the time,” again I avoid contractions, compose mostly short paragraphs, and try to continue to write in a relatively “easy to read” style:

[Excerpt from Conventions: The Garden At Paris, Copyright, 2017. On Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]

An example there also of an author slipping something rather “autobiographical” into the fiction. LOL! In university (a long long time ago), I struggled in political science with reading sections of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s (1712-1778) Confessions in the French original. (Don Quixote in Spanish was another nightmare.) So having myself battled with books in French and Spanish over the years, I understand how frustrating it must be for a non-fluent-speaker trying to read an English book.

[Codicote, Hertfordshire, where we then lived, seen from a distance. Photo by me, August 2016.]

Incidentally, as is common in historical fiction (I do it), in Pride Austen mixes real locations, like London and, to its north, the London-bordering county of Hertfordshire, with places she invents. “Meryton” is one of her fictional English towns. As a Hertfordshire Life writer noted in 2017:

Re-reading Pride and Prejudice, I have to say that Meryton bears a strong resemblance to Hertford. But it also feels remarkably like Harpenden. And what about Ware? It’s easy to let the imagination run away.

You can visit all of those places. We have lived not far from them and been to them all. They are not cities by any means, but they are rather busier places now than they were in, uh, 1813. LOL!

Oh, and I could not wait until “June.” I gave in:

[Photo by me, February 12, 2020.]

I have begun – based on what I had in mind – outlining what will be “book three” of the “historical extravaganza” commenced in 2017 with Conventions: The Garden At Paris and added to recently with Tomorrow the Grace. This third will open in “1806” or so – again looking back from “1840.”

But naturally that outline is without those spoilers’ inkings out I did pre-posting that photo above, of course.

So I have a hobby again until probably 2022 or so! LOL!

Have a Happy Valentine’s, and a good weekend, wherever you are. 🙂

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