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Philosophical Monday: 32 CANDLES by Ernessa T. Carter [Book 25 of 2010]

Oh noes, we’re down to the last book of my promise to read a book a week before my own book 32 CANDLES comes out (tomorrow). It’s been such a delight, and I’ve already decided to keep the Dear Thursday review as an occasional blogumn for the rest of the year. There are quite a few books on my to-read shelf that I want to give you thoughts on, so I’ll definitely be reporting back on those. Meanwhile, I figured that I should end my 6-month reading series with 32 CANDLES since I did read it (yet again) this year. Also, it comes out tomorrow, so … without further ado, my thoughts on this book I rarely talk about, 32 CANDLES by Ernessa T. Carter.

Why I Decided To (Re)Read It: This was my last read-through before publication, so I read it out loud, agreed to certain copy edit changes and tried to look at it with new eyes — which was rather hard, since this was the third time I was reading it since selling it to Harper Collins. Also, I have a stated policy against re-reading or re-watching anything, so I found this final really difficult.

What It’s About: It’s about Davie Jones, a girl growing up mute, poverty-stricken, and deeply unpopular in Mississippi. Despite that, she decides to pursue a Molly Ringwald Ending (an against-all-odds happy ending) after seeing the movie, SIXTEEN CANDLES. Much drama ensues.

What Makes It Different: Basically there was a character I wasn’t seeing in literature: the black woman with Anne-of-Green-Gables spunk. So I wrote her out of a desire to know her. Also after reading one too many chicklit novels, populated by gorgeous and successful heroines, I wanted to write a late bloomer who was awkward and broke.

What I Loved: I always feel a little sad when people ask me if I have anything in common with Davie, because I’m not like her at all, but in some ways, I wish that I was. She inspired me and challenged me to be a better person. And somehow I feel the truth of her, like she really exists somewhere outside the pages of this book. In short, I love Davie.

What I Didn’t Like: I used to have a list of things that I would like to change about this book. Faults that I felt ran too deep to fix. But when I try to come up with a list of these faults, my mind goes blank. I did the best I could, and I think my heart accepts this as the truth, even when my writer’s brain might argue otherwise.

Writing Lessons Learned:

First person is both the easiest and most challenging POV. First person is very attractive, because it offers the author and readers a direct line to the main character’s thought. It also takes a lot of the detail work out of writing, because everything has to be filtered through the narrator’s mind. However, first person is also challenging, because it’s hard to fully write other characters when you only have one character’s POV to work with. Often when I criticize a book for not having well-written women or a few characters that I have trouble telling apart, it’s because of a first person narrator. At the same time I do recommend that every writer should write at least one project in the first person, as it really makes you step up your game, when you have to fully realize every supporting character in your book, but only have one main-main character with which to do it.

Start blogging now. I started Fierce and Nerdy for two reasons: because I really wanted to run a community blog and because I thought it might be a good promotional tool when I sent out the book. This was probably the under-expectation of my lifetime. 32 CANDLES might have sold without Fierce and Nerdy, but as far as promoting 32 CANDLES to the general public, it’s been an invaluable resource. Even if you’re just thinking of writing a book, you should also start working on your platform now, as writing and promotion go hand-in-hand. I highly recommend GET KNOWN BEFORE THE DEAL to aspiring writers.

Go’on ahead and make your supporting characters memorable. I’ve noticed that a few authors give short shrift to their supporting characters. They pop up like the Best Black Friend in rom-coms with no real lives of their own and often come off as walking sound boards for the main character. My thought on that is you have to spend A LOT of time with these people. Shouldn’t they be interesting? Much like a party with dull people can seem interminable and send guests running away early, a party made up of interesting people can go on into the wee hours of the night, without anyone (but the neighbors) complaining.

To Whom Would I Recommend This Book: Anyone Who Wasn’t Popular in High School, Swans, Strokes Fans, Angelenos, and of course, All Fierce Nerds.

Click on the cover pic to buy the book!