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Book Review~~Allie and Bea

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 5 out of five quills      A Review

Allie and Bea by Catherine Ryan Hyde is breathtakingly beautiful. Once again the author takes two unlikely characters and puts them together in such a way that the reader doesn’t question how or why it happened. It becomes believable and a delightful read. 

I could especially relate to Bea. Senior citizens are mostly only a social security check away from destitution. One little thing can tip the scales. And since I avoid writing spoilers, at all costs, that’s all I’m going to say. 

The story is crafted by this author, word by word. It had everything for this reviewer. Struggle, pathos, heartbreak, friendship, love, and a surprise ending.
My favorite book in the world is Hyde’s Have You Seen Luis Velez? but Allie and Bea runs a very close second. I loved this story!
A must read!

Did you see my Interview with CRH?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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Interview with Catherine Ryan Hyde (conclusion)

One of my favorite writers; the interview reveals the thinking and processes of a gifted author. Did you miss part 1?

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

CRH. January of 1991. I was working as a baker and pastry chef in a local restaurant. I live in a tourist town, and the restaurant closed its doors in January. That’s not the time to find a new job in a tourist town. So I got stuck home on unemployment. I woke up one day and realized I should write that novel I always swore I would write if I ever had the time. Because, like it or not, I had the time.

Q. How long after that were you published?

CRH. Depends on what you mean by published. I started getting stories published in literary and small circulation magazines in 1994. But that’s probably not what you mean. You probably mean when did I get my first novel published. 1997. Felt like a slow slog, but it’s not the saddest story ever told in the publishing business.

photo by Catherine R.Hyde

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

CRH. No. We will not. And, strange though it may sound at first, I say this as a horse owner. When I decided I wanted a horse to own and ride, I was not told, “Sorry, they no longer exist. The horseless carriage caused their total demise.” The world is still full of millions of horses. All the horseless carriage could do was bump them out of their spot as the mainstream form of transportation. The law of supply and demand will always assure the survival of anything people want.

I’m older than a lot of readers and writers (seriously, I’m pretty old) and I actually remember when “books on tape” (modern translation: audio) was going to kill the book. The book is still alive, and audio is thriving alongside the book as an alternative reading style. EBooks add another alternative. They take nothing away.

Q. What makes a writer great?

CRH. No idea. If I knew, I would bottle it and sell it. I do know that, for my own reading pleasure, an author has to make me feel something. Shed some light on the human condition without making it feel hopeless.  Good story-telling skills are, of course, a plus.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

CRH. It looks like a lot of two- or three-hour mornings in front of the computer, doing what I love to do best. You probably wanted a more complex answer, but it feels simple. I sit down and do the work until it’s done.

Q. How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

CRH. Hard to say, because I don’t consciously go to my own life experiences to find a story. Looking back at the work, I can see patterns. I felt a bit lost as a child, so my books are full of coming-of-age characters getting found, usually by grownups who are not rightfully in charge of finding them (see previous link to Lenny story). And I do have questions about humans. Why we do what we do and don’t what we don’t. And they tend to come out in the work. But my fiction is far less autobiographical than people tend to guess. I really do make this stuff up.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

CRH. It has a fair amount of horse hair on it.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

CRH. Not really. I do have one book of photos and an essay collection. And I’m not a huge fan of genre fiction per se. The work tells me what to do more than vice versa. So I just keep writing character-driven stories.

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

CRH. Take what you believe and apply it to yourself. Leave everybody else alone. What they’re doing may look wrong to you, but they are on a path, and it’s really none of your business. You will be happier and so will they. Besides, if people didn’t do strange things, fiction writers like me would be out of a job.

See my review of ‘Have You Seen Luis Velez?’
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  Coming Soon!  My interview with Susan Wiggs
 
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Interview with author, Catherine Ryan Hyde (part 2)

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Astrophotography by CRH

CRH. I can’t define myself as a writer without mentioning Lenny Horowitz, my high school English teacher. I never called him Mr. Horowitz. He let us call him Lenny. Lenny sent my world in a completely different direction (and if you’d seen the direction I was going at the time, you’d understand that he was a lifesaver): he taught me to love reading again, and he told me I could write.

When I was little, nobody had to teach me to love reading. Books were water; I was a duck. I pitched into Dr. Seuss, Winnie the Pooh, the Black Stallion series. I was unstoppable. Then came school, in which my irresistible force met an immovable object. I hated the books I was given to read. They didn’t speak to me. They were almost as bad as–I hate to even utter the word–homework.

I began to avoid reading if possible. I honed the talent of writing book reports on books I hadn’t read. To this day, I have a chip on my shoulder about the classics. I’ve tried twice to read Moby Dick. I give up. I’m not ashamed, either. I like modern, fast-moving fiction. I’ve taken my last run at the great white whale. Ever. It’s over.

Back to Lenny. He gave us different books. Books written in the same century he assigned them. Books with down-and-out characters, people outside the mainstream. I understood these people. I was outside the mainstream. I was overweight and had braces on my teeth. My peer group thought I was from outer space. I liked reading about characters on the margins. We had something in common.

Miracle of miracles, I woke up. One day Lenny gave out a creative writing assignment: an essay, on any subject. I still remember how he walked up to the blackboard and wrote, in big block letters: I AIN’T TAKING IT AFTER FRIDAY. Not exactly your run-of-the-mill English teacher, right? I was so impressed by his willingness to meet us where we lived that I decided to impress him back. I wrote an essay intended to be funny. Always risky. It was a takeoff on the “my dog ate my homework” excuse note, a long, rambling, slapstick story explaining why I was not able to hand in my essay on time.

Sight unseen, Lenny read it out loud in front of the class. They laughed. Everybody, including Lenny. They laughed a lot. For a long time. It was my first whiff of the rare smell of success. Lenny told the class my essay was clever. Later I found out he was still talking about it in the staff lounge that day. He told all my other teachers I could write.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

CRH. It’s a tie. What comes is a character in a situation. For example, Jody in WORTHY, watching as someone puts a dog out of a car and drives away. Or Pete in SAY GOODBYE FOR NOW, finding the injured wolf hybrid beside the highway. Or Roseanna in HEAVEN ADJACENT, getting into her car and driving away from the city to some remote location and never going home. Or Ruth in ASK HIM WHY, arriving home from school to find that her brother has returned prematurely from the Iraq war in less-than-honorable circumstances. It’s not enough (for me) to find a character. I have to know what is making their life so interesting/challenging in that moment.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

CRH.   Not really. I’ve been doing this for quite a while. I’m on my 39th book, and that doesn’t count anything that ended up in a drawer. If I get lost, I might get lost. End up nowhere, or somewhere I did not intend to be. Now I’m more like a person following a roadmap. Not calculated, exactly. But fairly organized.

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

CRH. Always. I’m on a two-book-a-year contract. There is never a time when I am not working on something new. And here’s what people don’t tend to see, unless I tell them. You see the book that just came out, and then you want to know if I’ve started another. I’ve started three others. And finished two of them. The one I wrote after Have You Seen LUIS VELEZ, I just finished reviewing the copyedited manuscript. The one after that, I’ve finished with the developmental editing, and we’re going over cover design. The one I have in progress is almost done. But I don’t want to talk about that one, because I haven’t even finished writing it yet. So I’ll tell you a tiny bit about the other two.

STAY is a novel set in the Vietnam War era (but here at home, not in Vietnam). Its hero is a teen boy whose brother is overseas, and who is trying to hold his family and friends together at home. Of course the plot is more complex, but this is just a quick glimpse. Its theme is more or less suicide-related, but there is no suicide in it. It’s about the opposite of suicide. It’s about staying.

PAs to the author, Ella & Jordan

BRAVE GIRL, QUIET GIRL is about a woman who briefly loses her infant daughter in a carjacking, and her eventual relationship with the homeless girl who finds her.

Did you miss Part I?

Conclusion to this wonderful interview is August 2nd.
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  Coming Soon!  My interview with Susan Wiggs
 
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  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!