Still working on that…

Still working on that e-mail backlog; also in the back of my head, plotting out two stories for the dissertation novel. I know, I know, I said I was done. But I want a story to come third, providing a connecting link between the two families; it'll be from the POV of Samiksha's father, I think, when he's deciding whether to send his eighteen-year-old daughter to Oxford to study. I think a Catholic nun (from the convent in Sister Mary) will play a major role, linking the two families.

Another story I'm thinking of adding, to come...um...seventh from the end of the book, would be a letter from Samiksha's brother, whose son (born in '68, so roughly the same age as the Sri Lankan-American cousins in the last third of the book) has joined the guerrilla fighters. Probably a series of letters. I want to highlight the contrast, and hopefully also the accidental nature of people's lives; because one sibling chose to come to America, and another stayed in Sri Lanka, how different their children's lives may end up, how different their concerns are... I'm a little worried that people will come away from it thinking, "Hmm...if I stay in a third-world country, then my kids will get caught up in war; clearly America is better." But hopefully I can avoid giving that impression.

I keep thinking I'm done with this book, and then I'm not. Oh well -- at least I'm still having fun with it. :-)

Bob likes the revisions to "Seven Cups", btw, though he's still a little worried (as am I), that the first story in the book is the most overtly sexual. Haven't come up with a good solution to that, though, unless I really toned down the sex in that piece. Which, I have to tell you, would be hard to do. Still pondering...

3 thoughts on “Still working on that…”

  1. a few thoughts – I know you initially thought of the stories in a non-sequential sequence, could a small amount of that resolve this? (i.e. are there a few of the stories that might fit better not in time-order but in a different structure?

    alternatively are there smaller, but related stories/pieces that might fit and ease a reader into the story (and thus make sex on page 5 less jarring?) – you mentioned perhaps letters as a form for some of the stories, can any of them serve a role early on as well?

    As a reader, I will admit that the first chapter often does a number of key things for me.

    First – it is usually what I look at when choosing whether or not to buy a book, the first chapters and perhaps a random passage (if I don’t already know from reviews/friends that I would like the book)

    Second – it frequently sets the tone and my assumptions about perspective, structure, explicitedness etc for the rest of the book – a strongly sexual scene early on would likely feel like it is missing something – and would make me think that that would be the ongoing tone for the rest of the book (the phrase “where’s the foreplay” comes to mind), as well early on as a reader I’m still getting my bearings, figuring out who is who – whether I’ll have a single narrator’s voice to follow, or whether there will be many voices, whether it is one single story or many bundled up together – so the story is not about a person but say a family over generations (as I think your’s is)

    Some of these expectations are also set (for me at least) but the back blurb – i.e. something like “the tale of 3 generations of Sri Lankan families” would immediately prepare me to expect many voices (most likely) and a long sweeping story arc (in contrast something like “the story of a single day (ala 24)” would prepare me for something very different.

    Hope this helps,

    Shannon

  2. If Seven Cups is the story I think it is, is Bob worried that it’s overtly sexual, or that it’s overtly queer? It’s a lovely, powerful story, and I’ve always admired it. I think that if I read a novel that started with it, then I’d be looking for that kind of imagery to come up at least once more in the novel. As an opening scene it wouldn’t put me off in the least; it would probably hook my attention, in fact. But then, that’s me.

  3. It definitely isn’t the queerness that’s a problem, it’s the overt sexuality. It reads like erotica, and the rest of the book (19 other stories) really doesn’t. So it’s troublesome in two ways — it may turn off readers who aren’t looking for an entire erotica book (which this isn’t), and it may set up false expectations for readers who do buy it, having read the first few pages and thinking the whole thing’s erotica…

    I’m going to play around with the ordering some more — it’s actually not strictly chronological right now, and I’m going to try making it so, which would make the new story first, and “Seven Cups” second. Makes me a bit nervous, putting a lot of weight on a piece I haven’t written yet. But maybe it’s the right solution — the main problem with it is that we lose the nice bracketing of having Medha’s stories be first and last in the collection (her as a young girl in 1948, and as an old woman in 2000).

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