Monday, December 8, 2008

Stephanie Meyer's fantasy novel (and what happened to Ann in Novel About My Wife?)


Acclaimed novelist Susan Johnson, who has a great blog of her own, wrote a truly gripping memoir, A Better Woman, about writing, motherhood, illness and the dilemmas of choosing a creative life. I recall being reduced to tears of gratitude frequently while reading it. Susan really was in the vanguard of this discussion and, though I didn’t discover her book till I was halfway through writing The Divided Heart, it became a huge inspiration for my book and I recommend it to anyone interested in the art and parenting theme.

In her (characteristically priceless) comment on my previous post, Susan mentioned Stephanie Meyer, author of the colossally successful Twilight series of vampire books (now film), who apparently wrote the first book amid the bedlam of mothering two toddlers and a baby.

Of course I felt compelled to follow this up, and found these fascinating words on Stephanie Meyer’s site. There Meyer says she knows exactly what date she started writing Twilight, which was inspired by a particularly vivid dream, because it was also the first day of swimming lessons for her kids.

“Up to this point, I had not written anything besides a few chapters (of other stories) that I never got very far on, and nothing at all since the birth of my first son, six years earlier,” she writes. “Though I had a million things to do (i.e. making breakfast for hungry children, dressing and changing the diapers of said children, finding the swimsuits that no one ever puts away in the right place, etc.), I stayed in bed, thinking about the dream.”

She went on to write that first book in a matter of months. Hers is a compelling example of way the adrenaline of obsession can get you through. She mentions being in love with the lead male character and caring for the main female character like a daughter. (Stephanie Meyer has three sons.) I found this notion intriguing--the way a character might be like a sort of crush, with that associated flush of energy.

In The Divided Heart, Nikki Gemmell talks about writing becoming her space for fantasy when day-to-life is all about sore nipples and wiping bottoms. I think there’s a lot to be said for this—the need for escape coming to the fore when our life is at its most routine and prescribed. For Nikki, the sensuality of mothering and the new relationship with her body also played a part, creating its own form of liberation.

If only all our dreams could wind up making us millions—might help in avoiding the madhouse, whatdya reckon, Susan?

P.S. If anyone else out there has read Emily Perkins’ brilliant psychological thriller Novel About My Wife, do you want to send me your theories on what happened to Ann?! The only online mention of this I have found is on Kerry Clare’s blog, Pickle Me This—a great site with an interview with Perkins, in which she also talks about writing and motherhood (but purposely doesn't answer the 'what happened' question). Mind you, the further away I get from finishing Perkins’ novel, the more I realise that it doesn’t matter (knowing what happened), but it’s fun to theorise…

22 comments:

Damon said...

I find this longing intriguing; this 'crush' that brings characters to life.

It's certainly what moved me to write my last bout of fiction. It's a sort of seance: raising the dead, whose company I miss (e.g. Plato, Nietzsche, Pascal).

And at their best, these are spirits: not ethereal spectres, but rich (sometimes intoxicating) distillations of the whole catastrophe.

Susan Johnson said...

Oh, I definitely think you get a crush on your characters. They feel like real people, just as real as anyone standing, alive, in front of you.

I liken the process of writing my first novel MESSAGES FROM CHAOS to having a love affair, and wanting to rush to the desk each morning, just as if I was meeting a lover. It's never been quite like that again but writing for me still has crush-like symptoms.

Damon, I like that, 'raising the dead'. I just read Stephen King's writing memoir, which is far better than anything folks like us would snobbishly expect, and he has this wonderful image of the moment when your character first opens his/her eyes, and the author is standing there, much like Dr Frankenstein and his monster.

Susan Johnson said...

And thanks so much for your generous comments about the memoir, Rachel.

Come to think of it, I wrote that one in a swoon of love, too...

Ariel said...

Hi Rachel! I've just stumbled across your website. Loved your book - it inspired a lot of thinking about work/life balance with children and the business of trying to squeeze in your own selfish creative work on top of paid work. And the whole idea of the domestic workload and how to share it and cope with it. I've been recommending the book to everyone I know who is expecting a baby.

SPOILER ALERT

I LOVED Novel About My Wife. I think (based on my memory of a few months ago) that Ann's brothers offered her up to one of their dodgy friends for sex, and that she is raped. I also wonder if she was a prostitute, perhaps after that first incident. The thing is though, that those typed sections that give you the clues aren't coming from Ann - they're coming from her husband's interpretation of what happened to Ann - so, it's tricky.

But you're right, it doesn't matter so much for the story what happened to her. Still, I was curious too.

Rachel Power said...

Hey there Ariel
Thanks so much for those comments, and for recommending the book to others. Word of mouth seems to be the way most people discover TDH, women being great sharers of info 'n' all. It's funny, I think I thought finishing the book might mean I'd solved some of those issues in my life(!?!), but of course I seem just as mired in those eternal quandaries as ever. If I learnt anything though, it's the sheer gumption required to keep creativity somewhere near the forefront of your life when it doesn't pay the bills. I am making some NY's resolutions around that, so we'll see how 2009 goes... Good luck to you to on that front.

SPOILER ALERT 2
Yes, I definitely assumed there was a rape (with the brothers involved) in that early meeting with Hallie and some sense that she had a reputation--or one was created that night. I thought it was interesting the use of the black dot to indicate a kind of black hole or point of descent into madness and forgetting. Obviously she'd had a similar episode earlier in which she'd kind of blanked out and done something that she couldn't quite recall.
Anyway, I think Perkins point was that Tom was too caught up in himself to really see Ann clearly. I thought it was a pretty sharp and clever novel, and that Perkins really pulled off writing from the male point of view.

Ariel said...

Yep, that was absolutely Perkins' point, I think. She says that she originally wrote the novel with what happened to Ann spelt out and becoming clear to the reader, but rewrote it the way she did for two reasons. One, because Tom never really knows, and that's part of what he has to live with, that he had the chance to find out the truth about his wife when she was alive and it's too late now - all he has are his educated guesses. And two, because it's not the point of the story, and to spell it out would the resolution of that too important. I thought that was a very smart approach.

And yes, I loved this novel. Brilliant writing for the male perspective, and as an unreliable, unsympathetic, but curiously empathetic character. Some of those social observations are so sharp and perfect that they just slayed me.

Rachel Power said...

Agreed. Her observations are so acerbic and brutally honest. The novel reminded me a lot of another great book written by a woman from a (surprisingly similar) male perspective, Joanna Briscoe's 'Sleep With Me'. Its main character is also a failing writer, and part of that 30-something, educated milieu in which some are becoming successful and others are coming to terms with the fear that they might never realise their potential and so getting eaten up with envy, self-consciousness and self-absorption. Briscoe's characters are similarly unlikable and yet empathetic. I'm very curious about whether she is an influence on Perkins. We should start a book club...

Paul said...

Novel about my Wife.
Ok, so yes I got that her brothers offered her up to some guy, who I actually thought was Hallie, Anne had run away from Australia after that and seeing him brought it back.

I understand Emily's need to not give Tom the answers, but so rarely have I had so much passion to find out myself. I got to the end of the book early one morning (late one night) and driven to the point of saying 'oh no' and trying feverishly to go back through the book to piece together what I'd missed.

I know that the pleasure is in the journey of the book, but for some reason, I just have to know, was Hallie 'following' Anne, was it him that she kept seeing, did she not see anyone? and how did she actually die?

Rachel Power said...

Hmmm, well of course we can only speculate, because the book only gives you clues. Hallie is a pretty sinister figure, and there is a good chance she did see him at the hospital (and that he was genuinely following her). He was definitely a bit fixated on her. But she was also on the verge of madness--the ants etc. As for how she dies, I assumed she jumped out the window in a state of psychosis similar to the one she'd experienced before. Sorry, Paul, that's not telling you anything you don't already know, is it? I guess you could consider writing to Perkins and seeing if she'll take pity and cure your burning need to know...

Kerry said...

So intriguing! Thanks for letting me in on the conversation (and I do love your blog).

Rachel Power said...

Thanks Kerry--I'm adding your blog to my faves list. It's one of the best literature-related blogs I've found. So glad I discovered it!

Ariel said...

Yes ... please start a book club! I want to look up the Joanne Briscoe book now, if it's anything as good as the Perkins.


Novel About My Wife
Yes, the guy from the past in the room was Hallie. My theory is that she saw him at the hospital but it was a coincidence, and he wasn't following her at all - it kickstarted her psychosis, along with genuine worries about the way their lives were heading. I think Hallie was a creep, but didn't care less about Ann either way, and that was the point. He has a huge effect on her, but she was nothing to him, just someone to be used, discarded and then sneered at.

And yes, I think she threw herself out the window in a state of psychosis, brought on by hearing Hallie on the phone - or hearing about him on the phone, realising that Tom was working with him.

Rachel Power said...

Novel About My Wife
Yep, I think you're spot on Ariel. The more I think about it, the more I think Ann is a bit of a joke to Hallie but nothing more (paints a great picture of the Australian male, doesn't it?!). But there was a whole history of trauma, which he triggered, as you say. And, yes, their life... it was hard to get a sense of her feelings about their situation, partly because Tom's view dominates, but also because she seemed inclined to be optimistic but then her spending sprees were a sign of a kind of desperate denial and the manic state she was in, as well as her occasional outbursts. Anyway, we could go on and on...

In the meantime, has anyone got a great pattern for a homemade bird costume? Aaarggh!!

Rachel Power said...

Oh, and Paul, let us know if you decide to contact Perkins...

Paul said...

Some interesting thoughts.
Not to argue the point, but why didn't Ann's psychosis start after the honeymoon, when she saw Hallie, as opposed to the hospital. Perhaps the pregnancy had something to do with it.

I hate to sound like a moron, but no, I didn't even think she'd jumped out the window, although the whole thing about the 'bars' is coming to me now! ;)

Looks like I'm off for my 3rd re-read, albeit armed with a little more to think about.

Thanks for the conversation, it has done a bit to alleviate my questions. I'll let you know if I do contact Perkins.

ed said...

情趣用品,情趣,情趣商品,A片,AIO交友愛情館,AIOAV女優,AV,A漫,免費A片,本土自拍,自拍,愛情公寓,情色,情色貼圖,色情小說,情色小說,情色文學,色情,寄情築園小遊戲,色情遊戲,色情影片,情色網,色情網站,微風成人區,微風成人,嘟嘟成人網,成人,18成人,成人影城,成人圖片區,成人圖片,成人貼圖,成人文章,成人小說,UT聊天室,聊天室,豆豆聊天室,哈啦聊天室,尋夢園聊天室,聊天室尋夢園,080中部人聊天室,080聊天室,中部人聊天室,080苗栗人聊天室,苗栗人聊天室,免費視訊聊天,免費視訊,視訊聊天室,視訊聊天情趣用品,情趣,情趣商品,愛情公寓,情色,情色貼圖,色情小說,情色小說,情色文學,色情,寄情築園小遊戲,色情遊戲,AIO交友愛情館,一葉情貼圖片區,情色論壇,色情影片,色情網站,微風成人區,微風成人,嘟嘟成人網,成人,18成人,成人影城,成人圖片,成人貼圖,成人圖片區,成人文章,成人小說,A片,AV女優,AV,A漫,免費A片,自拍,UT聊天室

Lucy said...

Hi all,
thanks for your comments on Novel About my Wife. Like you, I was intrigued to know what had happened. This may sound a bit random, but did anyone else think that Ann had been a neo-nazi in her youth? the scaring they describe I think is an SS symbol. There are clues througouth the book, including when Hallie looks at her arm in Fiji and describes the scar as a 'botch job'.

so far I seem to be the only one with this theory, so it may be I'm completely on the wrong track!

mortovivo said...

I thought Ann could've been a neo-nazi when young, or the abused plaything of a bunch, and the situation with the 'brothers' and the young Hallie was perhaps part of a loose neo-nazi cell.

Well, thats what came to me anyway.
The inclusion of the detail of Tom watching the documentary about the SS seems oddly deliberate as does Ann having a shaved head when young then shaving it again after hearing about Hallies working with Tom. I don't think it ultimately the point though.

Also, i think the black dot is the turning door handle, a bit too geometric to just be a hole of madness.

great blog, great comments

Carl said...

Hi, everyone. I'm a year late to this discussion, but I just wanted to echo Lucy and mortovivo's theory. Tom specifically writes that the "SS" graffiti in the documentary on Nazism resembles Lucy's scar, but that her scar is a single S. (Forgive my clumsy wording -- I don't have the book in front of me.) That would explain Hallie's "Botch job" remark -- Ann's neo-Nazi scarification is only half-done, and badly at that. So my impression was that she was generally in a horrible situation in Australia, and seeing Hallie again pushed her into psychosis. Although the degree to which she was covering up seeing Hallie does raise questions about her awareness...

Although possibly I'm overthinking it. I know Emily Perkins has said that the main point is Tom's failure to address the mystery incident with Ann while she was alive...whatever it was.

Adrienne said...

yedThanks for all the ideas. I was left feeling puzzled.
Ann was obviously fragile and only become more-so with the pregnancy. The stress, the overwhelming responsibility, the hormone unbalance- it all spun her a out of control.
In that "We all did it" that Tom says- of course his blindness and Kate's feeding of her paranoia.
I don't think Ann was a prostitute. I do wonder what Hallie was saying about her at the dinner parties, that Simon would repeat, that Kate would repeat.

m said...

I'm coming to this extremely late, having just finished Novel About My Wife this morning. I devoured it, then the interview over at Pickle Me This, and then followed the link to here.

So satisfying to come across this, and your blog. Looks like I'll be spending some time here. :)

Penelope said...

Also just finished reading NAMY at 2am last night while rocking the baby.

Brilliantly written but very frustrating and unrewarding in a way. Loved it but did wish for a little more explicit detail, rather than just some reference to a blowjob.

I did also think that Ann was obvs gang raped, etc, and lived through it, discarding her aussie identity upon arrival to London. A bit of a cliche to me, and quite clear from the start.

When I didn;t get was the reference to the date on Oct when Hallie saw Ann at Barts, and then later that day she left work early and the train derailed. Very weird and I can;t connect those dots.