Tuesday, November 5, 2013

First Goodreads Review

Nov 04, 2013Mary rated Becoming Finnigan 5 of 5 stars.
I had the wonderful pleasure of reading this book as part of the goodreads give away! I cannot recommend this book enough. I was shocked to find this was the authors' first novel.

This is a wonderful story that takes you from the beginning of WWII to Sept 10, 2001. Not only is there a wonderful love story that covers throughout this time, there is a wonderful first person narration from multiple people of what it was like to be a solider in WWII and to live in these eras in history. I am a huge lover of history and they did a wonderful job of being accurate about the true history while making it enjoyable with the characters. This is a story that will stay with you long after you finish.

The plot: Joel is about to leave for WWII when a chance encounter has him meeting the women of his dreams while trying to buy a present for his aunt. One problem is she is engaged and her man is already serving overseas. Despite this the two fall in love and promise to get married when he returns. However, when her fiance returns with extreme injuries it causes her to call off her plans with Joel. The rest of the story is about the paths their lives take in the following years and what happens to the country as well. The second plot is about a girl and her struggle to become an author and find a path for her life. She is devastated to see that in her spending 3 years to write a novel on Dolly Madison has been one upped by no other then Joel. It is so exciting to see what is going to happen next.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Book Club

We were guests at a book club in Virginia Beach yesterday. As we sat in a circle and listened to members discussing the characters in Becoming Finnigan and the choices they made, I realized that Joel Finnigan, Althea Burnside and Susanna Winslow had become real to people besides Tony and me.
Not only that, some book club members were reminded of their own experiences and of people they had known in their lives.

Writing a book is a solitary experience.  Even though we collaborated, it was solitary in the sense that it was ours exclusively.  Joel Finnigan, Althea Burnside and Susanna Winslow spoke only to us.  Now that Becoming Finnigan is published, their lives are there to be examined by anyone who takes an interest in them and in the history that helped shape them.
In writing Becoming Finnigan we explored the impact of historical events on people’s lives and choices and the impact people have on each other’s lives. Listening to a group of booklovers discuss these things makes all the effort of writing the book and finding a publisher worthwhile.

We hope this is the first of many book club visits.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Verbal Snapshots

I recently collaborated with book artist Jane Vaughan on a project for the Word show at the Charles Taylor Arts Center.  Jane made a beautiful book and included some haiku I had written. Haiku appeals to me because I like the challenge of describing something in 17 syllables. Our collaboration inspired me to share my poems.  Some are haiku. Some are not true haiku because they don’t have a season word. And some are longer. I’ll be putting them on the Verbal Snapshots page as I post them….Karen

Today’s Verbal Snapshot:

Seeing my shadow
I turn toward the sunlight
And leave it behind

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Working Together

Since Becoming Finnigan was released, we’ve been surprised by the number of people who are curious about our team-approach to writing. We talked about how Becoming Finnigan became in a previous post, but that was just one aspect of our collaboration as writers.  We’ve been writing together – and separately - for almost as long as we’ve known each other. Our collaborations have included journalism, screenplays and novels.

Back in the mid 1970s when we both worked for the Courier-Post in Cherry Hill, NJ, apartment buildings were popping up everywhere and along with them were a stream of apartment building fires and tenants rights issues.  We decided separately – but at the same time - that it was an issue to be looked into, and we ended up looking into it together.  We won a New Jersey Press Association award for interpretive reporting for our joint efforts. 

During that first writing project, Karen outlined the stories she thought should be included in the series.  We decided who would do which story and after we’d written a first draft, we passed it along to the other person for comments.

Later, we started writing screenplays together.  One of us would come up with an idea and then we’d brainstorm about what could happen – sometimes with unexpected results such as the time we were having lunch at our favorite pizza joint and one of us asked, “How shall we kill Vanessa?” You could almost hear the heads turning in our direction. That, of course, led to another story idea. “What if someone overheard two writers plotting a fictional murder and thought they were planning a real murder?” We are always asking “what if?” and talking out the possibilities.

In Becoming Finnigan, Karen wrote a novella that Tony expanded into a full-length novel.  We passed it back and forth so many times that we often couldn’t remember who wrote what.

With all of our fiction – screenplays and novels – we always read what we think is the finished product aloud.  It helps us hear clinkers.  And sometimes we find ourselves reading something other than what is on the page – a clear sign we need to change it.

Writing together has always come easy to us even though the process changes depending on what we are writing.  And when we ask ourselves why, it always comes down to three things:

·        We have complementary skills. Karen tends to write spare, pay attention to detail and likes convoluted storylines and getting inside characters’ heads.  Tony loves history, putting things in context and embellishing.  We both constantly ask “what if?”

·        We respect each other as writers. This lets us speak freely and honestly without worrying about hurting the other person’s feelings.

·        We always put the story first.  This lets us get rid of things we love that don’t advance the plot or reveal the characters.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Who is Joel Finnigan?

 When we started writing Becoming Finnigan way back in the late 20th Century Joel Finnigan was simply the central character in the story of one man’s quest to live the life he was meant to live. We had no great political, philosophical or artistic statement to make. We just hoped to spin a good yarn.
Sam Goldwyn once told the producers of his movies “If you want to send a message, use Western Union.” That’s a bit of advice we’ve clung to over the years. 

But as Becoming Finnigan wound its way through the writing, rewriting and editing process and finally became a real live book, the identity of Joel Finnigan – and Susanna Winslow and Althea Burnside – began emerging from hiding places we didn’t know existed.

At first glance, Joel is a guy working his way through the various stages of his life – his boyhood fears of the Great Depression, the hell of World War II and the social revolutions that followed the war – and trying his damndest to make them mean something. He was a participant and chronicler of what Henry Luce labeled The American Century.

He lived through all of this in hopes of regaining his first and only real love.  

Gradually it began to dawn on us that Joel stood for something else that we did not quite grasp, even as we were opening the box of author’s copies from High Tide Publications and were finally able to hold Becoming Finnigan in our hands.

 Joel was always drawn to the moral strong side of the great issues and events of our time: not “moral” in the sense of following a certain code and keeping his clothes on but the morality of trying to illuminate his times and in so doing, elevate them.

Joel Finnigan symbolizes, to us anyway, the courageous faith and optimism that enabled America to help western civilization hold fast against the forces of darkness and then turn his country against its own dark forces that were holding it back. It’s significant that Joel’s story ends on September 10, 2001, just before real and imagined fears threatened to draw another shroud of darkness over the country to which he had given so much.

It’s a shame, really that Joel Finnigan left the stage on 9/10. It would have been great fun watching him do to Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck what he did to Hootie Harlan.



Friday, June 7, 2013

Who is Althea?

Althea Burnside, like many women we’ve known, is looking for love and success and failing miserably.  She thinks she understands herself but this comment from Althea says a lot about where she is at the beginning of the book.  To set the stage, Althea and her boyfriend Mark are about to move in together.  This is something she has wanted and has worked to make happen. As the big day approaches, she says:  “I was going to Philly yesterday and the toll taker on the Ben Franklin Bridge really pissed me off.  Here I was thinking about the big move and he says ‘Come on; smile.  It can’t be that bad.’  I felt like shutting the window on his hand.  I hate people like that.  For all he knew I could have just found out that I have cancer and I only have three months to live. Did I really look that miserable?  How could it be when things are finally going right for me.” She is forced to face this kind of self-deception when she meets Joel Finnigan, whom we’ll talk about next time.