“It was time to stop looking backward. . . . He opened the new journal and its blankness sent a ripple of fear through him.”
~ from The Brevity of Roses
The middle ground, I’ve been there: hesitant to let go of the past (if I let go, will I forget? And, then what?), unable to embrace the future (so many possibilities…too many possibilities!). It is only when I am completely present in the moment – when I throw caution to the wind and ignore logic and follow my gut – that I wind up moving in the exact direction meant for me.
Linda Cassidy Lewis spins a tale of redemption from the middle ground for the characters in her debut novel, The Brevity of Roses. Jalal, Meredith, and Renee have little in common, except that each is tethered to the weight of a painful past. Incidental decisions, like a left turn instead of a right, bring the characters together. Unexplained connections urge them forward, to new life and to healing. Linda gives her readers a well-designed book and a story with unforgettable characters.
I’m honored to host Linda here today for an interview, where she talks about turning a short story into a novel and about coincidences in writing and life. At the end of the interview, leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway: a soft-cover copy of The Brevity of Roses. Random.org will choose the winner on Tuesday, July 19th, at noon.
CC: Linda, in your interview with Kasie West, you say that THE BREVITY OF ROSES grew from a short story. As you worked to expand the story into novel length, did the rest of the plot and additional characters unfold with ease?
LCL: I wrote Brevity in total panster mode. The original short story was a skeletal version of chapters 2-7 in the novel. Before I finished polishing that story, I saw a mental picture of Jalal, despondent and alone in his house. I knew I had to explore that. At the end of writing the second story, I wrote a long letter to Jalal from Kirsten, the younger woman in his story (a character 180 degrees from Renee).
Soon after, I revised that letter into a separate third short-short. At that point, I viewed Brevity as a novella, a trilogy of sequential stories. I set it aside, for later revision, but I couldn’t quit thinking about it. Additional scenes for each story played out in my head. Meredith “told” me I had misunderstood her feelings about her first husband. I “heard” Jalal’s father explain the cause of their conflict. Renee appeared, revealing Kirsten as imposter. I started revisions and ended up with a novel.
CC: In your novel, the story of Jalal and Meredith reflects a philosophy that there are no coincidences in life. Chance encounters are often the catalyst for change, if we, like Jalal and Meredith, embrace those moments. Have you experienced coincidences in your own life that later proved to be much more pivotal in your journey?
LCL: I believe we only see “coincidences” in our lives because, most of the time, we live on an underground level, like ants. If our view were from above it all—the Eye of God view—we would see life from beginning to end and recognize the interweaving, the synchronicity of it all. Since you mentioned Kasie West, I’ll share how my “chance encounter” with her has been pivotal to my writing journey. In 2008, I attended my first critique group. That same night, Kasie also attended for the first time. I don’t remember that we spoke directly for the first couple of meetings, but I loved her critique comments to everyone in the group. Eventually, she became my chief go-to person when I needed another pair of eyes. And she became my lead cheerleader. She never let me give up on Brevity—and I wanted to do that many times. In my acknowledgments, I thank her for the “pushes and pulls that took me to the finish line.”
CC: You published this novel on your own (creating the artwork for the cover as well!). Since publication, what has been the best part, and the most challenging aspect, of being an Indie Author?
LCL: The best part, of course, is when a reader tells me they loved the book. That will never get old. The biggest challenge is finding ways to connect with more of those readers … and developing the patience to wait until that happens. Promotion is not something I have a natural affinity for, so the whole process after publication has been a challenge.
CC: What are you reading these days?
LCL: I’m reading Dancing in the Shadows of Love by Judy Croome, a writer from South Africa. It’s beautifully written, poetic, delicious. Next on my list is David Malasarn’s The Wild Grass And Other Stories. I’ve read a couple of excellent stories from it and can’t wait to read more.
CC: What advice would you offer an emerging writer?
LCL: In the past, I’ve glibly said, “Don’t listen to advice.” I apologize. Certainly, there is good writing advice out there. The trick is not to be a slave to it. If you try something, but it doesn’t work, it’s the wrong advice for you. I suppose my best advice is to write from your heart. If you don’t love what you’ve written, neither will anyone else.
Linda Cassidy Lewis was born and raised in Indiana and now lives with her husband in California where she writes versions of the stories she only held in her head during the years their four sons were growing up. At Out of My Mind, she blogs about her writing experience—typos and all. THE BREVITY OF ROSES is her debut novel. You can follow Linda on Twitter and like her on Facebook.
DON’T FORGET: leave a comment for the chance to win a copy of The Brevity of Roses!