Monday, April 12, 2010
Fabulous New Fiction: 2k10 Debut Author Jame Richards
Jame Richards' debut novel THREE RIVERS RISING is, well, just plain gorgeous. I read it in one sitting - unable to put down this lyrical yet tension-filled novel. I'm delighted to share Jame and her novel with you.
Congratulations on the publication of your novel, THREE RIVERS RISING. The verse form you chose is challenging! Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?
Thanks, Janet. THREE RIVERS RISING has three different storylines all intersecting at the point of the Johnstown Flood in Pennsylvania, 1889. The main storyline is forbidden love like Romeo and Juliet.
I was inspired by a documentary about the flood. The wealthy industrialists had a resort in the mountains with a dammed-up reservoir and the movie put the image in my head of the debutantes all in white, strolling on the boardwalks with their parasols, and lounging on the porch of the clubhouse. Meanwhile, a few miles away in the valley, millworkers were facing the heat and grime of creating steel. This image stayed with me for years—I just knew a Romeo and Juliet story was meant to spring from it, one that would appeal to the heart of a rebel—but I didn’t attempt to write it until I felt confident enough as a writer to control the story.
How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?
Three Rivers Rising is my first book for any market, my first complete, happy, publish-worthy manuscript. That’s not to say that I don’t have odds and ends from many years of learning the craft. I think (hope) I’ve finally found my niche—I’ve been writing YA historical fiction in verse for about five years.
It does take years, doesn't it. Can you describe your complete path to the publication of THREE RIVERS RISING?
Everything changed for me and writing when I held Patricia Reilly Giff’s MAGGIE'S DOOR in my hand: imagine me practically jumping up and down, “This is it! This is what I want to do!” A little Internet stalking revealed that she lives nearby and teaches workshops. I had to bring something to the class, so I sat down and wrote a few pages of Untitled re: the Flood. (Yeah, it was a hard one to title!) She really liked it and that’s when things started to click for me. I can’t say it happened overnight, but the right things fell into place.
I revised several times with Pat, then signed with my agent and did another big BIG revision. While we were waiting to hear from editors, the book won an award for unpublished writers (PEN New England Children’s Book Caucus 2008 Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award). When I called my agent to tell him, he said he had a few leads to follow up on—I don’t really have a “Getting the Call” story, more like lots of little phone calls and emails. When all was said and done, I got to work with a dream editor who has the uncanny ability to see inside my brain and make the words on the page match the story in my head.
What a great story. And I love your title, by the way. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
1. Write the book you want to read.
2. You don’t have to start at the beginning, but you do have to start. (What you start with as the beginning will probably change anyway.)
3. Learn restraint. The most effective writing is concise.
4. Revising is a whole other art form. This is where heaps of talented writers get left along the roadside.
5. Read. Every day. You learn the craft by reading works you admire, and you fill the well of inspiration, which you need for your own work.
Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?
Most of my plans usually involve French fries and diet cola, hmmm…but I still dream of going to Ireland someday, maybe even renting a place for a while, and visiting the Aran Islands to research a far-in-the-future project. Do you think they have fries there now, you know, with the whole potato thing?
I have no idea, but please come back and let me know! Do you have any new writing ventures underway?
My next manuscript is about one of the many young Irish women who came to the U.S. in the wave of immigration to work as domestics, known as Bridgets. There’s talk of fairies and visions, witches vs. wise women, and tea leaves and typhoid.
Ah - the Irish connection! Do you have a website where readers can learn more about THREE RIVERS RISING?
Check out www.jamerichards.com, blog included.
Thanks for having me, Janet! This was a lot of fun. Great questions!