[As an individual, Jillian Medoff (Good Girls Gone Bad, Hunger Point) knows herself well and — because of this — as an author, she knows her characters even better. I Couldn’t Love You More, her third novel, releases today and holds the promise of being your “next best read.” Seriously!
In today’s guest post Jillian admits her need to make sense of the world through writing. However, by doing so, the novelist gives voice to all of us. Enjoy.]
I Couldn’t Love You More, like each of my novels, was born of rage and frustration. Although the reasons for my rage differ from book to book, the underlying motivation is always the same: to have my say, usually about someone who has wronged me or someone else. (To clarify: nine times out of ten, the people who wrong me have no idea. Although I burn with the heat of ten thousand suns, I do this silently. I am painfully shy and overly nice (too nice, sometimes), but only my closest friends (and now you) know that I can also be opinionated, competitive, and when it comes to writing, very critical of myself. But because I rarely articulate my truest thoughts (not out of fear but because it’s not nice), I need some way to express them.) I also feel very sympathetic toward people who have been mistreated, marginalized, and under-represented in our culture. My husband says that I carry the sorrows of the world, but someone has to speak up for those who can’t. I realize this sounds as though I write novels about migrant farm workers or early 20th century factory workers when in fact I write tragicomic domestic dramas. Give me time, though. I’m just warming up.
Here’s the truth about writing fiction: no one asks you to write, and no one cares if you do. In fact, very often it feels as though people are actively arguing against it. As an artist, then, your challenge is to create despite (or in my case, because of) the world’s indifference and opposition. To make art is a very lonely, very isolating enterprise. Believe me, I would much rather watch crime shows and British period dramas than stare at a computer all day. But I am a writer, which means that even if I have just spent five years working on a dead book that no one wants to read, much less buy (see my Q&A), I will sit down and do it again, and again, and again.
The world is an absurd, chaotic place, and my books help me make sense of it. Writing is what keeps me tethered. When I’m not engaged in a novel, ambient sounds become deafening. There are too many sharp corners. Time moves at a dull, languid pace. I feel too present, too large and ungainly. But when I’m working, the loud noises are muffled, the edges smoothed out, and everything is cast in soft focus. Writing well feels like moving through water. It’s easy, endlessly satisfying, often exhilarating, and I can lose eight, ten, twelve hours at a clip. Writing novels is like having a conversation with every person who has ever burned you (or a mistreated factory worker), except you are the only one talking, so you can finally express all that built-up resentment and sorrow. For someone who rarely had her say growing up, this is a very heady, very powerful feeling.
I am the eldest daughter of a traveling salesman who moved his family 17 times by the time I was 17. I attended seven elementary schools, two junior highs and three high schools. At the end of the tenth grade, my family ended up in Atlanta, where—spoiler alert!—my new novel is set. After high school, I studied writing at a fancy private college, and then struggled to pay for a top MFA program while working full-time. In graduate school, I discovered I was a terrible editor, and had to first re-learn how to read before I could then re-learn how to write. Most of the writers I went to school with were talented, many far more talented than I, but talent, we all found out, was the easy part. A writer’s life is fueled by stamina, relentless self-belief, deliberate self-delusion, and absolute will (and in the end, it all comes down to the luck of the draw). Back then, I doubted myself at every turn, but to not try to succeed seemed worse somehow than failing. So I gave it a go.
Here is another truth about writing: you are rejected, in one way or another, every single day. I graduated from college in 1985, and since then, I have worked (almost) full-time at an anonymous, old-fashioned, nine-to-five corporate job. So for the whole of my adult life, I worked and went to work. While my friends went to bars, hooked up, got married, and had children, I worked and went to work. Eventually, I had children and got married, too, but I continued to work and go to work—and I continued to get rejected Every. Single. Day. Despite all the rejection, though, the idea that anyone—agent, publisher, reviewer—could say anything that would make me stop is beyond my comprehension. I may never be considered a literary icon, but my art is my art and I work at it every day. I’m a writer, ipso facto, I write.
After reading (and likely feeling) Jillian’s strength and passion, you can now watch and listen to her describe the storyline of I Couldn’t Love You More. Also another truth is that this book could not be more highly recommended!
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of I Couldn’t Love You More by Jillian Medoff — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight! The winner will be notified by email tomorrow.