Ho-Ho-Ho! Okay, I’m not convinced that works, but I’m leaving it anyway.
What I’m reading...
Sadly, not too much to report on this front, but I did read The Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner and it was such a satisfying ending to this series. Not only did Turner wrap up the story she’d been deftly setting up since The Thief, she brought Gen’s character arc full circle in a way that was really special. It also bears saying that in addition to creating one of my favorite literary characters ever, one of the things I love about Turner’s writing is her ability to pack SO MUCH into relatively short books.
I had planned on diving in to Brandon Sanderson’s newest release after finishing The Return of the Thief, but I think my scattered brain needs something a little lighter to get me back in the groove.
What I’m watching...
Part of the reason I’ve been a slow reader this month is that I was blowing through some good TV. The latest season of The Crown (stunning, mesmerizing, brilliant filmmaking), Great British Breaking Show (not as good as some previous seasons, but the two Holiday specials definitely made up for it. I hate to admit it, but I think it’s time to replace Paul Hollywood. What are the odds they’ll actually do it though?), and Star Trek: Discovery (despite a few flaws, this series just keeps getting better). Next up is finally finishing The Good Place and starting The Mandalorian.
What I’m listening to…
“Tis the season for some good music. This month I’ve been leaning into Songs the Season Brings by Beta Radio (perfect chill, folksy Christmas vibe); Fragile by Nichole Nordeman; Christmas by Sandra McCracken (the song “The Space Between” gets me right in the heart every time); The Christmas Album by Leslie Odom, Jr. (great for some of those classic Christmas songs. And seriously, his voice is so dreamy). I also discovered--thanks to podcaster and author Tsh Oxenreider--the album Advent Pt. 1 by Sarah Sparks, as well as Sparks’ album Into the Lantern Waste, songs inspired by The Chronicles of Narnia. It’s SO GOOD y’all. So good. I’ve had both of those Sarah Sparks albums on repeat for a week, and I’ve got no plan on stopping. Oh! And I got my Dolly Parton Christmas record (A Holly Dolly Christmas) last week and it is not only charming, but perfect for listening to on the record player.
Something I’m grateful for…
I couldn’t even begin to list all the things I’m grateful for right now, but if I tried the list would start with our family being home together, and would include all the many, many people who have been so generous toward us the past few months. Today, I’m also grateful that I sat down to look through and organize my 2020 pictures a few nights ago. My soul needed the look back, the prompting to reflect a little on the past year. Not just the present moment, or the stressful events of 2020, but the whole year. The smiles and joy that was mixed in there too.
Meet the Author...
I’ve really enjoyed doing this series the past several months, and hopefully it’ll make a return sometime in 2021. The final author I want to introduce you to in this installment of the series is Catharine Adel West. Her debut novel Saving Ruby King was a highlight of my 2020 reading. Without further ado, meet Ms. West...
What is your favorite part of the writing process, and least favorite part of the writing process?
As a black woman in the predominately white world of publishing, the lack of people of color resulted many times into me running into a wall though I eventually found the people meant to champion my book and make it better than I ever could’ve hoped. What’s fantastic about my journey, the good and bad, is seeing the final product on shelves, learning I am stronger than I imagined, and knowing I created a story that, in scope and craft, that has become meaningful for a lot of people.
Where is someplace you feel most at home?
I feel most at home, at home or at my parents’ home, which is my childhood home. There are places cradling all your secrets and experiences (or the residual effects of them). For me to write, I need to be in the places holding good and bad, light and dark in order to create a story for readers that is both believable and entertaining.
Tell us about someone who has inspired you creatively?
I love Viola Davis! I love her fearlessness, her boldness and her ability to fully inhabit any and all characters she portrays. The passion for her craft and the execution of skill leaves me in awe when I watch her on television or on movies. I love the fact she’s worked hard and fought for every single accomplishment. Viola gives me so much hope as a black woman that, though we’re in different artistic realms, I’ll be able to have just as much of an impact in writing as she’s had in Hollywood. To have her acting as a character in one of my books or producing or directing or anything of mine would be a dream come true. Plus, she has the same name as my grandma so you already know she’s dope!
What kind of books do you gravitate towards in your own reading life?
I enjoy reading literary novels (A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara) thrillers (Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz), and some select nonfiction (The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson).
What is your superpower?
I’m very good at reading people, not so much Prof. X style. But many times when I meet someone I can get a general idea of who they are, their motivations, etc.
One of the best pieces of advice you've ever gotten?
When I first began writing Saving Ruby King, I decided to format it as a multi-POV story. That same year, “12 Tribes of Hattie” by Ayana Mathis was published. I was so disheartened. My dad happened to be over my house when I told him I’d probably quit writing Saving Ruby King. He looked me square in the eyes and said, “Baby, just write your book.”
So, when I feel discouraged or when I want to quit a story, I replay those words and just write my book.
Catherine Adel West is an editor living and working in Chicago. She graduated with both her Bachelors and Masters of Science in Journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana. Her work is published in Black Fox, Five2One, Better than Starbucks, Doors Ajar, 805 Lit + Art, The Helix Magazine, Lunch Ticket and Gay Magazine. Saving Ruby King is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @cawest329 or her website www.catherineadelwest.com.
Thanks for being here, friends! I have some dreams for the newsletter in the coming year, and I hope you’ll stick around to share them with me. In novel writing news, I didn’t quite make my goal of finishing the first draft of Novel Number 2 in 2020, but by my best estimates I’m about two-thirds to three-fourths of the way done, which is pretty remarkable considering it took me 9ish years to finish the first draft of You Again. PROGRESS!
I feel a bit of pressure to say something profound about either the past year or the coming one (or both), but instead, I’m going to leave you with an Irish Blessing:
“May you be blessed with the spirit of the season, which is Peace,
The gladness of the season, which is Hope,
And the heart of the season, which is Love.”