Mediocre writer seeks Shelburne muse

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Not many novels have this effect on me and so it is no exaggeration when I say that her beautiful, tragic characters sucked me in and left me reeling as if they were real flesh and blood. On the surface, Holding On To Nothing is the simple love story of Lucy Mediocre writer seeks Shelburne muse Jeptha, but the beauty behind the writing is that Shelburne shows no love story is simple.

Both in their early twenties, Lucy is on her way to Knoxville where she plans to work her way through college. Too much alcohol le to a string of bad decisions, culminating in a pregnancy that neither of them foresaw or can afford.

Both characters have their flaws, but they also have beautiful hearts and they try to make it work, only neither can seem to get out of their own way—and they know it. She faces life with an unflinching stare and strength that made me adore her. It will make you question your own decisions and loves, your mistakes and heartbreaks and this is why we read—to face what scares us. She makes one big mistake—with Jeptha, and ends up pregnant. She owns the consequences, does everything she can to deal with the fall out.

But at the same time, she might have decided to try to make a family because she missed hers so desperately. And she gave up her dream, changed course all to try to mold herself and her life around Jeptha. What were you thinking when you created her with these dichotomies? That is a great question! I think Lucy is a really strong character who is a victim of her place, time and circumstances.

Mediocre writer seeks Shelburne muse

Her longing for that family, for that sense of belonging, is so fierce that she makes decisions that in retrospect are awful, but in the moment, feel right. There is a moment near the end of the book when she makes a momentous decision that prioritizes herself and her son. She becomes a feminist in that moment. Do you think she was angry that she gave up her dream to go to Knoxville earlier, that she waited and tried to make things work with Jeptha?

But she comes to her decision and feels solid about it, but she wants to say good because she does have some love for Jeptha. She wants to close out that chapter. In a few years maybe she would come to see it that way, but not now. Sticking to this question of feminism, you wrote Dolly Parton into the book. I love that! And to me too! For all the focus on MAGA and politics, Southern Appalachia is really under-represented or not represented accurately in the media and in fiction. Dolly tells the story of our region and of her life in a way that makes people care.

And she has never, not for a minute, forgotten from whence she came. She distributes 1. I could go on and on, but suffice to say that Dolly Parton is a national treasure. In East Tennessee, to say otherwise? So they just have the hard stuff. But in the bad? I love that. And LouEllen made a complicated peace with that.

What do you think is going on? For the author, for me, I know this whole backstory of LouEllen. And Jeptha. We have to talk about him. Why was it so hard to Jeptha to change? He loves Lucy deeply. It takes a real tragedy for Jeptha to get out of his own way. Last content question. Judy, the woman who owned the bar, was one of my favorite characters. Her sass and wisdom were outstanding.

Why did you include it? I was going through some hard stuff at one point before I started writing this book and would sometimes wind up at a dive bar called The Cantab Lounge near my apartment at the time. There was a bartender there, whom Judy is named after, who was gruff as hell to the loudmouth assholes complaining about whatever, but dearly kind to those whom she could see were actually struggling.

I watched her a lot as I sat there drinking and wanted to pay tribute to the wisdom that I imagined she had earned through a lifetime of tending bar. Elizabeth, did you write with an outline? What was your process? I believe I will keel over dead on the day I finish an outline. I am a total pantser, and very much depend on the characters to fly the plane. In this book, I knew that Jeptha and Lucy would get together and I knew the climax, but everything else was a surprise.

My amazing Novel Incubator class and instructors helped me realize that the actual story was what had happened in Tennessee and helped me see that Jeptha needed to be a POV character. Thank God for Mediocre writer seeks Shelburne muse For us writers out there, can you help us understand why you moved everything to Mediocre writer seeks Shelburne muse Is there a larger craft lesson there? For me, I learned I was scared to write solely about Tennessee. I started this book so many years ago, and when I started I wrote a semi-autobiographical Lucy.

And that was what I needed to do. I know that getting Holding On To Nothing published was a roller coaster ride that included years of hard work. I am so glad you never gave up. Can you tell us about it? Offer advice for other authors still trying to get their manuscripts published?

I was about to give up, so thank you for saying that!

Mediocre writer seeks Shelburne muse

I started this book many, many years ago, long before my first child, who is now 8, was born. I was new to novel writing and, for much of that time, I was on my own. I got into Novel Incubator, which helped me to see some of the biggest issues with the story, but I had three more kids before I finished it, so it took a while.

So, some advice from that stage of the journey: get yourself some writer friends, let them read your work and read theirs, and figure out how to make it all better. They were the voices in my head, so it was never a question of if I would go back to them during those long interruptions, but when. I was so grateful to get a lot of requests for full manuscripts, which was amazing. I had two offers and another agent who was going back and forth, and when she dropped out for personal reasons, I chose the agent who was the most enthusiastic about the book, Ann Collette at Rees Literary. She just loved it and I felt like her passion was what I and the book needed in an agent.

I was about to chuck this book, try to sell book 2 as my first novel and maybe see if we could sell this one on the back end, when the book landed with Robin Muira at Blair. She read it in a weekend in January ofcalled my agent as soon as she was done, and has loved it every minute since. Bringing in his voice really unlocked the story, which I realize now I was a little afraid to tell.

There was absolutely no reason that Lucy would wind up in Cambridge, I see now—beyond me wanting to work out my own mess in my head. What are you reading now? What books do you recommend? And Kelly J. And S tation Eleven Mediocre writer seeks Shelburne muse Emily St.

John Mandel is a forever favorite. Her essay on how killing a deer made her a feminist was published in Click! Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan. She lives outside Boston with her husband and four children. My husband is Israeli, transplanted to Knoxville, so I am fascinated by the setting. Save my name,and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Notify me of follow-up comments by.

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Mediocre writer seeks Shelburne muse

Would you call her a feminist? A modern woman? But is she thinking about feminism? What was the biggest change you made while editing? Like this: Like Loading Blair Click! It is also a Boston Globe Bestseller. In a former life she was a hedge fund manager and a spin instructor.

Mediocre writer seeks Shelburne muse

She has degrees from Harvard in Business, and Literature and Philosophy. She lives in Brookline, MA. Belle Brett.

Mediocre writer seeks Shelburne muse

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Mediocre writer seeks Shelburne muse Mediocre writer seeks Shelburne muse

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