Complications for the Novelist: How Times Have Changed
Crazy week, this one. I bet you have those, too.
After spending four days at the Novelist’s Inc. conference, I arrived home in time to wash clothes, repack and fly to Ohio for the Buckeye Book Fair.
Three of my Facebook readers came to visit me at the book signing and I loved being with them. (Thanks Joni, Toni and Stacy for making the trip.) By the way, the author behind the table in my photo collage is Karen Harper, a friend and wonderful writer. It’s always great to catch up with her. And the dinosaur? I got to Cleveland on Halloween. That’s my youngest grandson, T. Rex.
Since the week after Buckeye was going to be crazy, too, I decided that instead of working on The Color of Light I would finish my edits on Season of Miracles, one of my romances that will soon be an ebook. It’s easier to be disrupted during editing than it is when I’m writing.
I must tell you that I love this book and always have. It has some elements and plot points that set it apart, and I think you may love it, too. In fact this book has so many Christmas scenes, I knew I had to have it at your favorite online bookstores very soon so you could read it over the holidays.
The most astounding part of editing Season of Miracles, other than discovering how happy I am that I wrote it, was the contrast between love in the 1980s, when the book is set, and romance today. Times have changed indeed.
Now lots of authors are “revising” our older books to bring them into the present. The Trouble With Joe, which was re-released by my publisher recently, underwent a little judicious editing to make it more current. Air bags were added, for instance. But when faced with all the changes I would need to make to update Season of Miracles and bring it into the twenty-first century and this decade, I knew the task was hopeless.
Try to imagine a world where none of the following were either known or thought to be important:
- The Internet
- Central air-conditioning as a fact of life
- Cell phones
- School shootings and security guards
Yes, that’s the world of the mid-1980s. Times have changed. Scary, isn’t it, how much?
Even without reading the book can you see what I would have been up against? There’s a teenage romance in the novel. Can you imagine how much introducing the internet or cell phones into the story would have changed it? Suddenly teenagers Amy and Clay would have been hanging out on Facebook together, or calling or texting each other at odd hours from anywhere and nowhere. And the sexual expectations of teens today are different. The eighties weren’t innocent, but they were more innocent. Today? Well, I’m not really sure. (And probably don’t want to know.) Clay, for excellent reasons, is very different, very much a loner. Imagine what fears that might provoke today.
The story is also dependent on history. The hero, Sloane, has written a scholarly work on the Vietnam war. I could have changed that to Iraq or Afghanistan, but he also traveled with a commune that worked at rock festivals–a very important point in this story. That couldn’t be changed unless I wanted this to be a novel with aging characters.
The moment I decided to keep the book right where it was, frozen in time, I knew I was right. This story blooms within its period. Times have changed but I didn’t miss technology. I certainly didn’t miss worrying about AIDS (although my characters really should have used condoms since the epidemic began in the early eighties.)
In the words of Rupert Murdoch (who now owns the publisher I write for): “The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.”
Well, Rupert, this time, I’ll take slow. With this novel I certainly did, and it made all the difference.
Watch for Season of Miracles soon and enjoy.
It was great to meet you Emilie and I’m glad that you mentioned you were going on Facebook or I would have missed it!
I remember Season of Miracles and still have the original in my box containing my collection of all your books. It’s such a beautiful love story and one of my favorites. I’m glad you left it as it was originally. I was amazed at the list of changes since the 1980s. I enjoyed this blog post very much.
I agree. Why change a good book set in its time? Imagine bringing the Bible into the 21st Century? Hmmmm, don’t think so!
Or stories set in wartime? Now, I don’t like reading about war, but I do about wartime romances.
Those times when young girls stayed home on Saturday nights to listen to the radio and write letters to their fellas in the military.
Don’t think texting someone on the front lines would add to that story.
Love your comment on the Bible. A man named Clarence Jordan rewrote the Gospels as the Cotton Patch Gospels and set them in Americus, Georgia. Civil rights was the theme, and he was obviously making a point. The movement he began before he died culminated in Habitat for Humanity. I’m pretty sure, though, that there was no texting in either of the Gospel versions. BTW, I always enjoy homefront stories, too.