October is National Reading Group Month and it was launched by Women’s National Book Association in 2007.
NRGM augments the WNBA’s mission to promote the value of books and reading. Through this initiative the organization aims to foster the values reading groups encourage: camaraderie, enjoyment of shared reading, and appreciation of literature and reading as conduits for transmitting culture and advancing civic engagement.
WNBA Chapters all over the country will hold events this month in celebration of reading groups.
Here in New York our NRGM event will be held this Thursday, October 6th at Pen + Brush.
Time: 6pm – 8pm
Location: Pen + Brush Gallery, 29 East 22nd Street, New York, NY 10010
Tickets: Members are free. Non-members $5-10
The theme of the panel is re-imagined classics. Panelists include Lyndsay Faye (Jane Steele), Catherine Lowell (The Madwoman Upstairs), Elizabeth Nunez (Even in Paradise) and Dinitia Smith (The Honeymoon)! Sam Raim will moderate the panel. He is an associate editor at Penguin Books, where he edits original fiction and nonfiction for Penguin Books, as well as reissues, translations, and anthologies for Penguin Classics.
Each day this week, WNBA-NYC blog will highlight each panelist with a book description and a few get-to-know-you questions.
Today we will be getting to know:
Title: Jane Steele
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
A sensitive orphan, Jane Steele suffers first at the hands of her spiteful aunt and predatory cousin, then at a grim school where she fights for her very life until escaping to London, leaving the corpses of her tormentors behind her. After years of hiding from the law while penning macabre “last confessions” of the recently hanged, Jane thrills at discovering an advertisement. Her aunt has died and her childhood home has a new master: Mr. Charles Thornfield, who seeks a governess.
Burning to know whether she is in fact the rightful heir, Jane takes the position incognito and learns that Highgate House is full of marvelously strange new residents—the fascinating but caustic Mr. Thornfield, an army doctor returned from the Sikh Wars, and the gracious Sikh butler Mr. Sardar Singh, whose history with Mr. Thornfield appears far deeper and darker than they pretend. As Jane catches ominous glimpses of the pair’s violent history and falls in love with the gruffly tragic Mr. Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: Can she possess him—body, soul, and secrets—without revealing her own murderous past?
A satirical romance about identity, guilt, goodness, and the nature of lies, by a writer who Matthew Pearl calls “superstar-caliber” and whose previous works Gillian Flynn declared “spectacular,” Jane Steele is a brilliant and deeply absorbing book inspired by Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre.
WNBA: What are you currently reading?
LF: I’m currently reading a book called HIS BLOODY PROJECT by Graeme Macrae Burnet, which was long listed for the Man Booker Prize but hasn’t come out in the US from Skyhorse yet. It’s great because it’s about a triple murder committed during the dark days of Scottish tenant farming, and while I really appreciate the atmosphere and historical detail, I appreciate even more the way the author wove together fictional police reports, newspaper accounts, a confession by the culprit, psychological evaluations, etc. You get a lot of very unreliable views of complex people, and the true story just sort of blossoms. Dark and lovely.
WNBA: What was the very first classic you read? Did you like it?
LF: I couldn’t possibly remember–my parents brought me up on the stuff, so yes, I loved classics. Early ones, let’s see–well there were the classics written “for children” like THE SECRET GARDEN, PETER PAN, BLACK BEAUTY, etc. Then there were the ones anyone and everyone can enjoy, like THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON, all the great adventure tales. But I loved Shakespeare at a very young age, and it doesn’t get more classic than that fine fellow, so it’s a tricky question. I came to the classics omnivorously.
WNBA: When did you discover your passion for writing?
LF: When I was a teenager, I started realizing that all these cooped up feelings actually made more sense if I shoved them into characters who were walking around in imaginary worlds. They weren’t “me” exactly, but they helped me express aspects of my life that I couldn’t talk about in other ways. They helped me express emotions that are largely intangible.
WNBA: How would you describe your writing process?
LF: Um, chaos? Well, I do quite methodical research because I write historical fiction, and I always know what the main trick up my sleeve is going to be. But I don’t outline and I very much let the characters evolve until they’re speaking to me and making objections when I ask them to go in the wrong direction. I’m a hot mess during the first draft, and then I absolutely adore the editorial process, both the edits I inflict on myself and the ones from my professional colleagues. I forget who said this, but a sculptor has to chisel the work out of the stone. A writer has to first create the stone, then sculpt it–the sculpting part is my favorite.
WNBA: What is your favorite color?
LF: Royal blue. Oddly, always has been. Never changed. I’m using it as the accent color for my new office. I’ve written five novels and a score or so of short stories on my kitchen table–I deserve an office!