Tag Archives: authors

They’re watching us.

In the Spotlight

I’m a natural born nerdy geek, which is why my profession chose me. I’m a teacher. I’ve always been one, even when I was in school. Few other things give me the amount of satisfaction I receive when I see a student’s eyes light up with understanding. To see my students implement what I’ve taught them is a joy to me.

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Important elements of teaching include encouraging the students not to give up, impressing on them not to settle for less than what they can achieve, and showing them that they can do far more than they think they can. I tell about my failures in order to show them how the failures contribute to the successes.

Author Spotlight

One of my goals in teaching is to produce more effective teachers, though not necessarily in classrooms. Parents, friends, and co-workers are teachers, too, though some do more harm than good. In fact, I am not everyone’s favorite person. Ha! I’m not usually their favorite teacher, either. I can be a hard taskmaster.

Imagine my surprise Monday when I walked into school and was met by excited students and teachers directing me to the “Authors in the Spotlight” wall put up by the fourth graders. I was truly amazed that two of the eighteen students in that class had chosen me and featured my books. I was in exalted company: Dahl, Riordan, O’Connor, Morgan, Park, and others.

I’ve taught these children for five years. They know I’ve published seven books because I’ve donated my books to school auctions, and I’ve shown the students my Amazon page. I wanted them to know they could publish and control their own work.

I was very happy to be featured, and I was truly glad that I have always written clean fiction. There is nothing there I would be embarrassed about my students reading, though my books aren’t children’s books. Just another reason to keep my material PG and PG-13.

The children are always watching.

Why, Oh Why, Don’t I …

The ladies of the guild have been talking and we’ve decided we would like to let readers peek behind the curtain a little. We already do that somewhat by putting up our free stories. These are usually first drafts that may or may not make it into a finished novel. Sometimes we write a one off piece to celebrate a holiday or such, and these will continue. We would also like to let you see how we as individuals make decisions about what we write.

I figured I’d start because I’m the one who started this blog and through various degrees of coercion got the others to help me keep it going. Being the pushiest, I thought I’d jump in with why I choose not to write explicit sexual content using Jane Austen’s characters.

If I wanted everyone’s good opinion, I’d tell you I have such a high regard for Jane Austen that I could never compromise her characters for my own profit. I would feel uncomfortable compromising until my checking account balance began moving farther and farther to the left of the decimal. I know myself, if I’m not vigilant, my morality begins to work on a sliding scale.

A good deal of the reason is that most of us writers don’t really write sex scenes as well as we think. That’s a topic for another day, but in my opinion, you readers do a heckuva lot of heavy lifting when it comes to sexually explicit scenes. I’m egotistical and don’t care to share the spotlight.

Another reason is that I know for myself, sex scenes can get in your head and they crop up at the most … intimate of times. Now, I know I don’t want my husband thinking about other women when we are martially engaged. That being the case, I’d be a flaming hypocrite if I got in the habit of bringing Captain Wentworth to bed with me. (Oh my, what will the search engines do with THAT?)

One of the biggest reasons I don’t write explicit scenes is that most readers of Austen-based fiction come by way of the movie adaptations and not the novels. I came to the novel by way of the 1995 version of Persuasion so I understand this perfectly. Each of these movies has a group of actors who signed on to play characters in a movie, not become playthings for my imagination. What you do with them is your own business.

In the past, I’ve said that the actor Ciaran Hinds is my ideal Wentworth. By default Amanda Root is my Anne. I know many of you prefer Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth and Sallie Hawkins as Anne. The who doesn’t matter for my example, just the fact that many of us fill in the blanks of what the characters look like with actors.

If I write an explicit scene, most of us will “see” Hinds and Root or Jones and Hawkins. I’ve already said it is problematic for me. If it’s not for you, fine. Now here’s where I make a decision. I may have a little pre … snuggle conversation and some kisses that leave one or the other breathless, but I like to drop the curtain before anything else happens. Again, you all have to do some heavy lifting but without my choreographing the scene.

One day I realized the actors in Austen adaptations are people.

If Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root each read a script and sign a contract which requires them to strip down so they can pretend to do the horizontal mambo before cameras, that’s their business. (I think they should not as both are too darned old to be showing all the sags and bags of middle age.) If I write them in a sexually explicit scene, they had no choice and I am using them to further my career while giving them no compensation.

I know to many this is a fine line they don’t even see. Some of you may think I’m looking for kudos, but you’d be wrong. The older I get, the more deeply I know that being faithful in these small things makes being faithful in larger stuff a trifle easier. And it makes for a better writer.

This can be a volatile topic so we do ask that you bring your best reasoning to the question, don’t call anyone names, and use your indoor voice, please.

Take care–Susan Kaye

Just One More Try

I just finished a book that doesn’t unseat THE WORST BOOK I’VE EVER READ, but it does come close. These lost hours make me wonder how many chances I should give an author before banishing them from my thoughts forever.

Kindle makes this decision tough. I can’t resist cheap books and so I downloaded this last one for a couple of dollars. It’s the author’s first–there are four more–and since I have some contact online with the author, I wanted to sample their work. The writing is serviceable, there is no elegance to the prose, there is also no character growth. There is some conflict but it doesn’t come until the book is 80% over. There is sex. As Lizzy says of Mr. Collins’s conversation, there is plenty of it to be had. Unfortunately, like the rest of the book, it too is boring. (I don’t like to read sexually explicit books as the images tend to migrate to other areas of my life. I was grateful that these scenes were so clinical and cringe-inducing that skipping was a pleasure.)

My recent rule-of-thumb is to give a writer about 50 pages and if I’m not hooked by then, so long. I gave this author the whole enchilada because I know them and was curious. As usual, I learned a lot. Bad books teach you a lot of things that good books don’t.

I’m not inclined to read anymore of this author’s work. The genre is one I’m not crazy about, their writing is, as I said, serviceable, and I’m not sure I want to pay full price for other books on the chance that there is no improvement in craft.

Are you generous and hope to get in one the leading edge of an author who may be ragged right now but is going places? Or, like me, you figure you’ll take your lumps and move on?

I’m curious. Let me know.

Take care–Susan Kaye

Learn more about …

Laura Hile. Jane Greensmith interviews Laura on her Reading, Writing, Working, Playing blog. You can also win a copy of So Lively A Chase for leaving a comment.

Let the unmasking begin!

Take care–Susan Kaye