New Horizons.

“We all have possibilities we don’t know about. We can do things we don’t even dream we can do.”
~Dale Carnegie

So … I meant to post last week, truly, I did. But then I got derailed – by a book people have been raving about for over a year, by a story so compelling it was impossible to stop reading, by characters so full of courage and heart that you can’t help being inspired by their journey. If you’ve seen my twitter commentary lately, you’ll know that I’m talking about THE HUNGER GAMES. Nearly every minute that wasn’t spent working was spent flying through this novel. I may or may not have even entertained the idea of reading a few pages while out to lunch on Friday, as we were waiting for our meal to arrive. That would’ve been totally normal and acceptable, right? After starting CATCHING FIRE yesterday, it’s already obvious that it’s going to be every bit as addicting. It’s a true talent to hook readers from the first page, but Suzanne Collins accomplishes that with ease. She makes it seem effortless.

My enthusiastic reaction to these books (seriously – if you haven’t read them yet, do yourself a favor and jump into the world of Katniss, Peeta, Gale, and the others) has been met with surprise by some people. First, those who can’t believe it’s taken me this long to discover them. Second, those who can’t believe I’d actually enjoy a story like the one Suzanne paints in this trilogy. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to, not in the slightest. It was curiosity that initially drew me in, not a fervent interest in the actual plot. So many people have offered glowing recommendations of these novels – including others who normally trend toward a very different kind of book – that inquisition eventually took over. What is it about this story that captures the imagination and attention of such a plethora of people? What is it that’s so intriguing? How can a tale woven with threads of such violence be enjoyable to read? How can you not cringe at the idea of teenagers dueling to the death while the whole country is forced to watch?

I did cringe. Several times. There were passages I chose to skim quickly and others that made me misty-eyed. Isn’t that the sign of good writing, though? That it makes us feel? That it makes us understand, empathize, ponder, consider? That it transports us into a world the author’s created and makes it seem like we’re there right alongside the characters? Perhaps even more than all of that, though, good writing takes these characters and ties them into our thoughts. Even when I wasn’t reading, I found myself wondering about Katniss. About Peeta. About the main characters, the secondary ones, the minor ones. A week ago, if someone had said that I’d speed through the book and pounce on its follow-up the instant it showed up on my Nook, I’d probably have laughed. Now I am glad, so glad, that I decided to give this story a try. It is so far from the genres I normally read that it wasn’t even on my radar for a long time. But just as we’re always looking for ways to stretch ourselves as writers, we should do the same as readers. We should be open to possibilities, because that’s when possibilities open themselves up to us.

It’s funny how life and serendipity work: I’ve found the exact same lesson shining through to the forefront in my writing the past several days. Friday and Saturday were spent working on the most difficult, emotionally-draining chapter I’ve ever had to write. Breaking my MC’s heart broke mine in the process. Destroying her life was torturous. I’ve known these scenes were coming since the planning stages – have been dreading them and their aftermath for the cast of characters – but I never expected to have such a visceral response to writing them. I literally couldn’t stop shaking afterwards. Yet, at the same time, it was also an awesome experience, because I could feel myself growing as a writer with each word. A few years ago, I never would have dared to write a chapter like that. I wouldn’t have trusted myself to tackle it and I wouldn’t have felt comfortable putting any character, much less one who has become like a friend over the course of three novels, into such distress. But she will be stronger for it. And you know what I learned this week? So am I.

It’s intimidating sometimes, to take the path less traveled and immerse ourselves in the unknown. It’d be so much easier to stick with the familiar. But if we don’t push the boundaries, how can we break them down? How can we reach new horizons? How can we find the possibilities and the dreams that we didn’t even know were burning inside us, just waiting for their sparks to be unleashed? Sometimes stepping beyond the comfort zone is a beautiful thing.

With that said – I’m diving back in to CATCHING FIRE now. There goes the rest of my day…

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16 thoughts on “New Horizons.

  1. I think it’s necessary to step out of the comfort zone as artists, to take our work in different directions and places as we express ourselves with words. That challenge is an inherent part of creativity.

  2. I read the Hunger Games series and loved it. I cannot wait to go see the movie! I hope it’s as good as the books were!

    I would love to read your book one day. It’s so interesting to hear about the writing process from you, and how much of an emotional journey it is. I’ve never put much thought into the actual process by which someone writes a book and it’s really cool to “see” it happen.

    • Oh my gosh, it is ADDICTING! I’m almost finished with Catching Fire now and find myself (again) totally unable to put it down. Fingers crossed that the movies are just as amazing. The previews for the first one look so, so good. I hope it follows close to the storyline of the book. It’s always frustrating when the movie adaptation veers off course.

      You are too sweet – thank you so much for being interested in it. Truly, that means the world. It is definitely an emotional journey, at least for me, because I find myself getting so attached to the characters – especially with this book, since it’s the third and last in a grouping I’ve been working on since 2010. It probably sounds ridiculous, but those characters have become like friends. :)

  3. So glad to hear you’re reading it – and loving it! I started it when I was a librarian. They accidentally shipped three copies of this little, unknown book to us. When I called to see about returning two, they said to just keep them. So I decided to read a copy, to see if it was worth the shelf space. I read the first twenty pages, and meh. And then, insidiously, she hooked me. I read the entire rest of the book in one day. Couldn’t put it down, despite the fact that it’s not my type of book at all. I love when that happens, though. It’s so fun to go beyond our usual boundaries.

    Your scene sounds so cool, too! What is the saying, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” Something like that. You, my friend, are going to have some very teary-eyed readers! Then some very happy ones as they see how you resolve all this conflict.

    • Can you imagine anyone thinking of it as a little, unknown book today? I was a skeptic for a long time – partially, I think, because it’s just SO FAR from the women’s fiction I normally read – and then I picked it up and everything changed. With both of them so far (and I’m sure Mockingjay, as well), I literally cannot put them down. She writes it with such intensity that you can’t help needing to know what happens next. And yes, I agree — so fun to go beyond our usual boundaries and preferences. Finding a new book or genre to enjoy is like a special kind of gift.

      Ooh, how much do I L-O-V-E that saying? And hey, if it’s true, then anyone reading this manuscript deserves a big apology from me, because I’ve lost count of how many times writing it has made me cry. The chapter I wrote about in this post was really hard for me to do, and today’s scenes – when they have to break the news about what happened to their three-year-old – were even worse. WHYYYY can’t novels just be filled with happy scenes? ;-)

    • I hope it comes in soon (guessing the waiting list is crazily long?) so you can read it before the movie in a few weeks! It is completely compelling and totally addicting – I sped through it faster than I’ve read anything in a long time.

      Aww, and thank you so much. That means more than I can say. I’d love to hear what you think about it! :)

    • I. AM. ADDICTED.

      Seriously – I wish I could just forget about everything else and read, read, read all day long. I’m almost finished with Catching Fire – only 60 pages left – and can’t wait to see what happens at the end and then start on Mockingjay! Which has been your favorite of the three?

  4. I love, love, loved The Hunger Games trilogy! Read the first two books twice, which is something I never do. Can’t wait for the movie! I’m glad you’re enjoying them.

    And congrats on getting through a tough chapter to write. It sounds to me like you nailed it because just reading how you felt about writing it, moved me.

    Happy reading!

    • They are SO GOOD!! Like you, I rarely read books twice (only Emily Giffin’s have broken that mold thus far), but I can absolutely foresee diving into these again. There’s so much happening in each one that you have to pick up on different things with every subsequent read. I’m almost finished Catching Fire and can’t wait to start Mockingjay – and to see the movie in a few weeks, of course!

      Thank you so much! This storyline is, by far, the hardest thing I’ve had to write, so it means a lot to know the emotion came across in talking about it. Hopefully that will continue!

  5. HUNGER GAMES! So excited you decided to read them! There was a point about a year and a half ago where only a few peole were reading them and I had no one to talk to about them! Now I have so many friends who love them. :) I adore Katniss as a character because she’s so complex. She doesn’t kill because she enjoys it or because she wants the glory of being the winner. She just wants to get home to her family.

    Cinna is my favorite secondary character, I just adore him. <3 and I'm a fan of Gale as well, I know Peeta is the popular choice and I get a lot of grief from people when I say I love Gale, but there's just something about him. I'm a fan of rebellious characters, and he fits the bill there. He and Katniss understand each other, which I love too. Hope you're enjoying the books!

    • I must admit, I was skeptical at first — they are just so far from the kind of novel I normally read and the violence aspect was a huge turn-off. Then I cracked open the cover (well, figuratively, since it was on the Nook) and was immediately hooked. The complexity behind Katniss really sets her apart, I think – yes, she’s brave and courageous and clever, but she’s also vulnerable and sentimental and so full of heart. I just started Mockingjay yesterday and am so sad about how broken she feels inside. Hopefully (don’t tell me!) she can find happiness at the end.

      I LOVE Cinna. When she realizes he designed her bridal gown to morph into a Mockingjay costume in Catching Fire, it almost made me cry. That scene is breathtaking. I hate what happened to him … so awful. I wasn’t so sure about Gale at first – though it’s not just Peeta who saved Katniss, he did too, after what happened to her father – but now that we’re seeing more of him in Mockingjay, I’m warming up toward him. I can’t help but still love Peeta, though!!

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