Today is the October meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group
, hosted as always by our favorite Ninja Alex J. Cavanaugh
. It's also the day that many writers are posting contributions to the IWSG Anthology
! I'm not contributing to the book but I will definitely look forward to reading all the entries.
My IWSG post is going to be very short as my insecurity this month is the same as it was last month - blogging. I had hoped to get back into a rhythm of some kind last month but ever since my mom was diagnosed with cancer my heart is simply not in it. We've had a lousy few weeks and my energy has gone out the window. I've been very lax about other social media as well but lately I find when I am not helping my mom I just want to spend time reading or engaging in other quiet activities that don't require much effort on my part.
I do have my novella The Turnagain Arm coming out next Monday, October 6, so I am happy about that and hope it will help me get some of my energy back. I'm excited to share the story and a related giveaway next week!
For now though I'm happy to be hosting Elizabeth Hein, who is here today talking about her new book How To Climb The Eiffel Tower
. If you're not familiar with Elizabeth's blog Scribbling in the Storage Room
I highly recommend checking it out.
Take it away, Elizabeth! :)
pleasure to be here on Julie Flanders’ blog today. When I sat down to
write something for Julie’s blog, it seemed natural to talk about the
sense of place within a novel. Julie’s books take you places like
Martha’s Vineyard and Alaska and make you feel like you are there right
alongside the characters.
novels are set in the fictitious town of Magnuson, North Carolina.
Magnuson is nowhere in particular, yet shares the features of several
cities in North Carolina. For those of you who have not had the pleasure
of visiting my adopted home state, North Carolina is unique. Just a few
miles outside the cities that dot the interstates, life is still rural
and rooted in tradition. In the cities, you’d find high-tech biomedical
parks, cutting edge research hospitals, and banking hubs. It is a place
where you can get a plate of barbecue cooked in a century old pit one
day, then eat the trendiest of prix fixe meals the next.
Magnuson was the perfect place to set How To Climb The Eiffel Tower
because I wanted Lara Blaine, the narrator of the story, to live in a
place without a tremendous amount of history. Lara works in one of the
many financial services companies and lives in one of the thousands of
town houses that popped up in old tobacco fields during the last few
decades. The city didn’t exist before the nearby river was dammed to
provide electricity or the advent of highways. The handful of farming
families were pushed out by the onslaught of newcomers that came to work
in the new industries that grew in the state during the 60’s. Lara
could disappear in the sea of people from somewhere else, yet still feel
a sense of connection to the North Carolina that she remembered from
her early childhood.
is also the home of the Ellery Cancer Center which was based on Duke
Cancer Center, where I was treated for cancer in 2002, with touches of
the Carolina Medical Center and the Baptist Hospital. Ellery plays a
large part in How To Climb The Eiffel Tower. The entire facility
is color-coded with each department having its own color. The waiting
rooms are all decorated in that color and the department staff all wear
that color. The system is there to help patients find their way around
the maze of hallways, yet it also makes Ellery feel impersonal and
somewhat surreal. For instance, at one point Lara gets confused as to
which way to go until she figures out that she needed to follow the
colored tiles in the floor to get from department to department. I
wanted the setting to reflect Lara’s sense of being detached from her
illness yet completely surrounded by it.
how much do you notice a sense of place when you are reading? What are
your favorite settings to read about? Fellow writers, do you think about
setting before plot, or do you come up with your plots and then figure
out where they will happen?
Blaine believes that she can hide from her past by clinging to a rigid
routine of work and exercise. She endures her self-imposed isolation
until a cancer diagnosis cracks her hard exterior. Lara’s journey
through cancer treatment should be the worst year of her life. Instead,
it is the year that she learns how to live. She befriends Jane, another
cancer patient who teaches her how to be powerful even in the face of
death. Accepting help from the people around her allows Lara to confront
the past and discover that she is not alone in the world. With the
support of her new friends, Lara gains the courage to love and embrace
life. Like climbing the Eiffel Tower, the year Lara meets Jane is tough,
painful, and totally worth it.
Hein grew up in Massachusetts within an extended family of
storytellers. In 2002, Elizabeth was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a
cancer of the blood. During her extensive treatment, she met dozens of
other cancer patients and developed close relationships with several of
them. These friendships were the inspiration for How To Climb The Eiffel Tower.
She learned that a cancer diagnosis is a life changing experience, yet
it does not necessarily change a life for the worse. Prior to the new
book’s publication, Elizabeth was invited to attend the Southern
Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) conference and has received
excellent advanced reviews on her break-out new book.
Hein writes women’s fiction with a bit of an edge. Her novels explore
the role of friendship in the lives of adult women and themes of
identity. Her first novel, Overlook, spotlighted a housewife
dealing with a cheating husband and the pressures of keeping up
appearances. Elizabeth has published several short stories and is
currently writing a novella and beginning to write a historical family
saga about how love and identity effect four generations of women. She
and her husband now live in Durham, North Carolina.