Since I got a Fitbit for my birthday two years ago, I’ve started walking almost every morning.
At first I was elated when I logged 2,000 steps, although I was often tired afterwards. But as my stamina increased, I set my goal for 5,000 steps daily. Slowly I’m working my way up to 10,000, not easy for someone who sits at a computer most of the day.
As I’ve increased my steps, I’ve found new places to walk. These days I have four 4,000+ step routes that I rotate, each through lovely scenery, ranging from attractive housing developments blooming with tropical foliage to wooded paths bordered by wildlife-dotted lakes.
I’m content with the diversity as well as the routine. I know what to expect, how many steps I’ll log, and how I’ll feel at the end.
Recently, for a change, my husband and I decided to take our Saturday walks through the state park behind our house. We’d walked there before, of course, but now were trying different paths. The landscape is scrubby, pines and palmetto and lots of sand, but the scenery has its own quiet charm.
Best of all there are surprises, as there always are when you vary your routine, surprises like the bobcat who crossed just in front of us on Saturday and stopped to examine us as we excitedly examined him. He trotted away after a few seconds, but what a wonderful start to our weekend. (And before you ask, this is a stock photo. We were much too surprised to whip out our cellphones.)
What do walking paths have to do with books? Well, ask yourself, are you as much a creature of habit when you read as I’ve been on my walks? Do you want the same or different? Do you read the same genres over and over? Do you have favorite authors you read almost exclusively?
During a book signing I once told a reader who liked Danielle Steel that I tackle some of the same elements, so she might like to try one of my books. She stared at me a moment, truly perplexed, then she said, “You don’t understand. I only read Danielle Steel.”
I got the message.
Novelists confront the “same or different” dilemma from the other side of the mirror. Some write nearly identical books, over and over again. Same genre. Same themes. Carbon copy characters. Inching their way out of the mold is often viewed with horror by their readers, who’ve come to expect the usual, thank you very much. These books are their comfort reads. Surprises are unwelcome. They don’t want the novelist to change the rules.
Other novelists couldn’t write the same book twice if they tried. They frequently experiment with different genres, go out on a limb each and every time with new plots about unusual characters. Sometimes readers follow their adventures, and sometimes readers leave them for more familiar territory. The novelists understand this and are willing to take chances anyway.
The Swallow’s Nest, which comes out next month, has many of the elements you’ve come to expect in my novels. It’s the story of three very different women, and as a reader you get to know each through her personal point of view. Sometimes the way they behave isn’t admirable, maybe even less admirable than you’re used to from me. But my job, as the author, has always been to help you understand what motivates each woman, to help you learn to root for her and hope she finds a measure of happiness–even when she doesn’t know where to look.
How is this book different? I’ve never set a book in California before, nor have I had a home and lifestyle blogger as my main character. But more important? I’ve never tackled infidelity quite this way or child custody ever, and I’ve only rarely written a novel in which a love story takes such a back seat. Neither have I written many stories that take place over a long time span. All these things, plus characters I had to wrestle with, made the writing both exhilarating and challenging.
So is The Swallow’s Nest more of the same? Is it one of my familiar walking paths? Or is it different enough to either excite or dismay you, like a bobcat unexpectedly crossing your path?
You’ll have to tell me. I’m happy to say you’ll have your chance after June 13th when the book officially goes on sale. In the meantime, for a taste of what to expect? You’ll find more here, and if you go to the excerpt page and scroll all the way to the bottom, you’ll see an even longer excerpt and more information courtesy of Overdrive.
Enjoy the preview.