Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Subtle yet Shimmering"

As I said in the last post, the craziness begins... Reviews have begun from publishing and library journals who already have the advanced reading copies. So far so good. This one, from Booklist, gave me goosebumps. I'm feeling very "blessed" for Blessings. (sorry...couldn't resist)

The Blessings of the Animals.
Kittle, Katrina (Author)
Aug 2010. 400 p. HarperPerennial, paperback, $14.99. (9780061906077).

Cam Anderson is a fixer. As a small-town veterinarian, she ministers to the usual parade of household pets, and as an animal-rescue volunteer she liberates abused horses, abandoned donkeys, stray goats. The one thing Cam can’t salvage is her marriage. The morning her temperamental husband tells her he’s leaving her, she’s dumbfounded. The afternoon she catches him in the arms of a much younger woman, she’s devastated. And the fact that everyone around her seems to be rejoicing in their own relationships isn’t helping. Her best friend is engaged; her parents are celebrating their fiftieth anniversary; her gay brother and his partner are adopting. Though she turns to both an old friend and a new acquaintance to help her learn to trust her heart again, Cam ultimately discovers that her menagerie of maltreated critters are her most reliable instructors. With subtle yet shimmering insight, Kittle explores the resilience of human nature and the indelible role animals play in healing shattered emotions.— Carol Haggas

Monday, June 28, 2010

Elegance and Charm

Received my first review for The Blessings of the Animals! Always a little exhilarating and a little terrifying, the craziness begins... Here's what Publisher's Weekly had to say (Spoiler alert! This review reveals a plot point I wouldn't necessarily divulge upfront, but I otherwise love it):

The Blessings of the Animals Katrina Kittle. Harper Perennial, $14.99 paper (400 p). ISBN: 978-0-06-190607-7
Beginning with the end of Cami Anderson's marriage, Kittle (The Kindness of Strangers) wades through heartache and tragedy yet manages to find elegance and charm in her latest novel. Cami's distress is palpable as she deals with her husband's seemingly inexplicable decision to leave her and their teenage daughter Gabriella. Juggling her veterinary practice, her now cynical daughter, and her own feelings takes up all of Cami's time but she soon realizes she has no monopoly on struggle: her brother and his male partner lose their adopted daughter to the child's biological mother. Cami taps into her own experience with loss to help the couple, which leads her to take a more honest look at her marriage and the new life ahead of her. While Cami stumbles through post-divorce dating and raising Gabriella, her family of animals—horses, cats, dogs, and a goat—provide respite. Cami's reflections, in tandem with those of delightful friends, present a long-view of the nature of marriage and relationships. (Aug.)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Adaptation Bootcamp

I am in the exciting position of having a talented screenwriter working to adapt The Kindness of Strangers. When I first posted this on Facebook, everyone was so supportive and psyched, but they immediately began asking questions like “Who are you casting?” “When is the release date?” and “Can I be in it?”

Deep breath...this is a tough business. It is very difficult to get a movie made. Step 1 of a long and complicated process is to write the screenplay. And that’s what’s happening right now.

I feel so lucky to have Brad Riddell, a friend and writer I admire, adapting my novel. I have such faith in him as the right person to do this! I recently went to L.A. for a week to participate in what he dubbed “Adaptation Bootcamp.”

Brad and his wonderful wife Tina welcomed me in their home and were incredible hosts. Each day, Brad would take out his digital recorder and we’d talk about the book whether we were drinking coffee at the house, driving, or visiting Venice Beach, Descanso Gardens, or eating cupcakes in Beverly Hills or Silverlake.

I’ve dreamed about a potential movie being made of one of my books for years. I always imagined, though, that I’d have very little input on the process, but when we began our initial conversations about this possibility, Brad said "I don't want to write a draft that breaks your heart.”

Brad’s questions were very educational for me. He asked me what I saw as the must-have scenes, questions about character motivations, questions about what Sarah wants vs. what she needs (but may not realize yet). We talked at length about the three act structure of a movie and the potential possible endings of Act One for Kindness and what each choice meant in terms of pros and cons.

I think all novelists should study screenwriting. There’s so much we can learn from this form of writing. In just a few days’ worth of questions, I came to think about plot and structure in very different, more specific ways for my own work-in-progress novel. In my own creative writing study, I feel the biggest gap has been in these areas. On Brad’s recommendation I’m reading Aristotles POETICS for Screenwriters by Michael Tierno—with The Writer’s Journey by Vogler (based on Joseph Campbell) and The Tools of Screenwriting by David Howard waiting in the wings.

The movie will be different from the novel. It has to be. Movies and novels are very different art forms, very different animals. Sometimes the very best thing about a novel simply cannot translate to film. Novels can do things movies can’t. Movies can do things novels can’t. As we drove along one day, Brad said, “The screenwriter has to make the internal external. He has to make what happens internally visual.”

Visual. There it is—the biggest difference, so obvious, but yet so complicated. Film is a visual art. A novel is not.

Brad sometimes focuses details on I considered “small” in the novel, but that for him were “great visuals” to latch on to—an example being the following passage from Chapter One of the novel:
“[Sarah] knew [Nate’d] skipped more than that, because she’d seen him in the middle of a school day. Once, visiting Roy’s grave at Temple Israel cemetery, she’d been outraged to see someone sitting on Roy’s stone, smoking, but when she’d recognized Nate, she’d slunk away before he saw her. She’s never told him she’d seen him there, never scolded him for cutting class. And from the cigarette butts that accumulated at the grave, she knew he went frequently.”
Just a tiny bit of exposition for me, but something richly visual to unfold for him.

We looked at various movies and how they handled similar tone and subject matter, for instance, discussing how a scene was written in the novel Push by Sapphire and how that same scene was handled in the film version Precious. We also looked at scenes from Little Children and The Lovely Bones. Like I said—very inspirational!

Things will change. We’ve already talked about characters who might be combined, lines taken from one character given to another, the wedding in the final scene belonging to a different character than in the novel…all of these choices for good reason. I’m jazzed to see what Brad does. I don’t envy him the task ahead, but I have all faith in him. I know he’ll write a beautiful screenplay that captures the essence of the novel.

My certainty of this is based on our first conversations about the novel ever—long before he talked about wanting to adapt it. From his first read, Brad “got” the book. He never saw it as a book “about abuse” but—as I did—a story of resilience and healing. He sees the main story belonging to the Laden family, and the way their own healing begins when they reach out to help someone more broken than they are themselves.

As we both reread the book in preparation for “Bootcamp,” Brad sent the following e-mail:
"Just finished. Thanks again for this wonderful story. The Kittle Krew [what he calls my Facebook Fan Page members*] will have my head if I screw it up!
There’s so much to work with, I’m sad already at what I know we’ll have to lose. The good thing is, and this is cart before the horse (but why not believe?), the book will deeply inform our actors, director, and crew as it has me already, and its truth, and all the cul-de-sacs of your story that can’t make the script, will still be felt, because they will be in the collective emotional memory of everyone involved in creating the film.
(Strangely, as I typed “director,” my heart tensed, as if — who on earth could I ever entrust this to?)"
As Brad wrote, why not believe? I want to be realistic, but of course I have high hopes. This whole journey began as we e-mailed each other during the 2010 Academy Awards and Brad sent an e-mail with the Subject: Golden Man. The message read: “I think it’s time we chase of our own with your amazing book!”

Okay, now that’s REALLY dreaming! But you all know how I feel about that (if you’ve forgotten, go back to my February post “Manifestation Has Major Mojo.”)

We plan to keep you posted and we invite you all to dream along with us!

*are YOU a member of the Kittle Krew? If you’re on FB, just follow this link and “like” it. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

June Garden Update

Here's the progress report. If you go back to my March post "All Over But the Plantin'" you can see the changes in the new bed I created early this spring. I'm really pleased. It's still early, but in another month, this bed will be bursting at its seams!

I've also included a few other shots from yard. Ah, my dirt therapy makes me happy!

And I'm already able to go out and "pick lunch," wandering around with a bowl to see what's ready. So far I've been able to harvest lettuce, spinach, chard, radishes, beets, arugula, and peas. Today I spotted both my first zucchini blossom and my first squash blossom. And there are tomatoes forming... Basil (from seed) is about ready to be made into pesto. Mmmm...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Video Teaser for Blessings

recommended summer reads: the blessings of the animals

Sometimes I read our books months and months before they come out, and sometimes I’m catching up just a few weeks before on-sale. Though the former is undoubtedly better for my job, the only bad thing about it is that then I’m often bursting with anticipation, telling anyone who will listen about a book that they can’t read for months!

That’s the case with Katrina Kittle's The Blessings of the Animals. It goes on sale in early August, but I read it in early January, partly because I enjoyed meeting Katrina so much in December that I NEEDED to know if her writing was as fun as she was. If I had hated the book, I’m pretty sure it would have broken my heart.

Luckily, I loved it. The Blessings of the Animals is the story of Cami, a veterinarian coming to terms with her divorce with the help of everyone around her: her daughter, her parents, her gay brother, her friends, her cat, her dog, her goat, and her horse. Of course, as an animal lover, that last part appealed to me very much. Here’s Katrina talking a bit more about animals.