Friday, July 5, 2013

A Portable Wayback Machine

I'm a big fan of flashbacks--no big surprise to anyone who's read even one of my books. Seems like I can't tell a story in a completely linear fashion to save myself--and I'm okay with that.

In my real life, I enjoy looking back at the places I've been, the things I've done, the people I've known, so it only stands to reason that I'd create characters who share this trait...even if they usually have a lot more painful memories than I do. Hey, conflict is good in stories, not so good in real life, right? So it all works out.

As I think I mentioned in my First Book Friday post a few weeks back, the Oberon series is finally going to print and, as a result, I've been re-reading the series for the first time in years. It's been an interesting experience. You know that quote from the end of Field of Dreams, where James Earl Jones says,    "The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces."? Yeah. that's been me these past few weeks. 

There are good and bad aspects. It's been ten years since the first book was published (and I wrote it a few years before that!). As I read it now, I see all the anachronisms. My characters still wear watches and only rarely carry cellphones. Their computers are oddly antiquated--as is their political and cultural environment; there's a Governator joke, for one thing, as well as a passing reference to same sex marriage that could only be confusing in light of recent events. 

When two of my female characters bemoan the fact that they can't marry each other and ask themselves, "What was the Supreme Court thinking?" it's in reference to the California Supreme Court  which, in 2004, voided several thousand marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples by the City of San Francisco.

On the other hand, I've been having a blast remembering not just where I was when I wrote certain scenes, but what my life was like, where I was living, what my kids were up to, what grades they were in, who their friends were that year, or the year after...

Of course, that's part of the magic of books and you don't have to have written books to experience this, you only need to have read them. Or, perhaps I should say, you only need to have fallen in love with them.

There are quite a few books that have the power to transport me to another time in my life (gee, it's almost like Quantum Leap!) and that I'm compelled to re-read from time to time. Here are just a few: 

1. Lord of the Rings. My sister and I devoured the trilogy over summer vacation the year I was 16

2. Rebecca. Oh, was there ever a book that screams "Summer Read!" any louder than this one? Well, maybe Jaws, but let's not go there. 

3. Owl in Love. Obscure, but delightful. I have to re-read it from time to time. I simply have to.

4. The same goes for Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek (which is somewhat less obscure, but no less delightful...but not for the faint-hearted

5. And for The Forgotten Door. I know someone who periodically buys all the used copies he can find and hands them out to all the children he knows. Yes. It's that good--and even more out-of-date than my books!

6. Dirk Gentley's Holistic Detective Agency. I loved Coleridge before I read this book, I love him twice as much now. Oh, and Douglas Adams too, of course. 

7. Pride and Prejudice. I don't really need to explain this one, do I?

So what about you? What books make up your Wayback Machine?


Meg Benjamin said...

I reread Mary Balogh's Slightly Wicked every once in a while b/c she was one of the romance writers who really pulled me into the genre. And I've reread Sarah Smith's The Vanished Child and The Knowledge of Water so many times they're almost memorized. They're both supposed to be literary fiction, but they're romances even if nobody wants to admit it!

Kelly Jamieson said...

Oh wow, the anachronisms! Doesn't that just show how fast things are changing?

I read a lot of Judith Krantz books back in my early 20's...which reminds my of dating and marrying my husband for some reasons. And also for some reason, I'll always remember reading Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy the summer before I started my second year of university (getting a jump on the reading list) and I know exactly where I was when read the lake cottage, on the couch, the porch, the beach... that one really sticks in my mind.

Kate Davies said...

Definitely Pride and Prejudice. And I have to drag out The Dark Is Rising every couple of winters, just to experience the solstice while reading about the epic battle between the Dark and the Light. It's one of my all time favorites.