greygirlbeast: (The Red Tree)
[personal profile] greygirlbeast
This isn't going to be much of a blog entry. I'm on hour 41+ of a headache, and my coherency level is not very high. Also, it's 84F in the house, and poor Dr. Muñoz, parked in my office, can hardly make a dint in the heat. Oh, a favor please. No headache advice. Or AC advice, either. When I finish this, I'll take a cool bath, and try to clear my head. My dreams culminated in fire.

There was no writing yesterday, no work. A lost day. "L" in the day planner.

I have a doctor's appointment in two days, and I dread it more than I can say. It's one of those socially acceptable bodily violations, the casual, careless, expensive ministrations of a physician.

"Is small life so manic?
Are these really the days?
Poor dunce..."

I'm mostly very pleased with how The Red Tree is doing, and with the reviews I've seen thus far. Sure, it could be selling better, but that's almost always the case. I have mixed feelings over its being received as a horror novel. People tell me how much it frightened them, and clearly they mean this as a compliment, and it would be rude of me, I know, to take it any other way. I am grateful for the compliments. But they also leave me confused. I didn't set out to write a horror novel. I'm still not sure that I see the book as a horror novel. Which is not to say that it does not contain elements of the horrific, for it surely does. It may be that "horror" has taken on too many negative connotations for me. It may also be that this is what I have inside me, horror and awe, terror and the uncanny, and that I have little else in me to send out into the world. And it's just a matter of my learning to accept this.

Okay. The headache is intent that I will say no more for now.

Date: 2009-08-16 04:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wolven.livejournal.com
I'm not going to lie and say that I think that The Red Tree isn't terrible and horrific, in many, many instances, throughout. It is. And it's uncanny, and it's awe-ful.

But it's also, by turns, touching, and sad, and poignant, and deeply humourous, and lonely, and inspiring. I think the genius of it is that it's woven together so well, so realistically and seamlessly, that it's a person's Life. Not a plot-driven story, but a compelling view into someone.

And I'm only halfway done.

Date: 2009-08-16 04:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] activistgirl.livejournal.com
Wow. Yes! I'm not done yet either, but this nails it for what all of CRK's work means to me.

Date: 2009-08-16 05:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

Not a plot-driven story, but a compelling view into someone.

I have this goal, to write a novel entirely devoid of plot.

Date: 2009-08-16 06:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mckenzie34.livejournal.com
'Will have to brush up on my David Markson and Pierre Guyotat to
ready myself for this. Definitely looking forward to reading as you
work toward this goal.

As for horror... nothing tops a doctor's appointment.
Especially when I don't look/sound/dress/have the
body the nurses/doctors think I should. Fear
and loathing on an examining table.

Random, not "work safe", but amusing as
all hell on a Sunday afternoon-- cam4.com

Date: 2009-08-16 04:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] k-t-r.livejournal.com
My copy of The Red Tree arrived the other day! I've bumped it to the top of the pile and am all set to start reading it tonight.

I hope you feel better soon.

Date: 2009-08-16 04:52 pm (UTC)
ext_4772: (Scorpio)
From: [identity profile] chris-walsh.livejournal.com
I'm looking forward to writing a full review of The Red Tree. I've been reading chunks of it out loud, too, trying to figure out what I think the characters would sound like.

I'm appreciating the book: I can sense Sarah's sadness, humor, exasperation and day-to-day need to do the tasks at hand. There's reality to it, something that H.P., as good as he was, never really achieved. Or was interested in achieving, likely.

It's good that you used first-person in The Red Tree as a well-considered approach. I know how it often gets used by first-time writers as a crutch, and a lot of them don't really think through how it should be used. You've clearly done that thinking. I don't remember you even telling many early short stories in first-person, so it likely hasn't been a crutch for you. (I haven't read The Dry Salvages yet, but I found it telling that you waited that long to write even a short novel in first-person.)

And I appreciate how you handle the sex in this book. I once said that your characters "seem like Lovecraft characters you can actually imagine having sex," and that's reductionist to a ridiculous degree but I think there's some truth to that. Your Sirenia Digest writing has definitely helped you in being able to portray sex. You also avoid the pitfall of a lot of badly-written sex scenes where the particular moment of sex is The Most Important Sex For This Person Ever. (That's the sort of thing that makes so much of Penthouse Forum absolutely ridiculous. That, and just the bad writing in general.) It's handled in The Red Tree as a fact of life, an often complicated fact but one that keeps happening, that's a part of the continuity of these characters' lives. So: *salutes*

I'm sure I'll have more to say later.

Date: 2009-08-16 05:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com


It's good that you used first-person in The Red Tree as a well-considered approach. I know how it often gets used by first-time writers as a crutch, and a lot of them don't really think through how it should be used. You've clearly done that thinking. I don't remember you even telling many early short stories in first-person, so it likely hasn't been a crutch for you. (I haven't read The Dry Salvages yet, but I found it telling that you waited that long to write even a short novel in first-person.)


Aside from some poorly executed sections of The Five of Cups, I don't think I did first person until...well, I guess it was "The Dry Salvages." So, for the first ten years of my writing career I avoided fp, and now it's the voice I use most frequently.

Your Sirenia Digest writing has definitely helped you in being able to portray sex.

I agree.

You also avoid the pitfall of a lot of badly-written sex scenes where the particular moment of sex is The Most Important Sex For This Person Ever. (That's the sort of thing that makes so much of Penthouse Forum absolutely ridiculous. That, and just the bad writing in general.) It's handled in The Red Tree as a fact of life, an often complicated fact but one that keeps happening, that's a part of the continuity of these characters' lives.

Personally, I suspect a lot of authors who write sex that way either don't get much of it, or they attach an inordinate importance to it. It assumes this sort of status as a penultimate, rather than as a pleasurable, important, and sometimes (but only rarely) exquisite experience. It's very like eating, in that respect. One should learn to write well about food before even trying to write about sex.

Date: 2009-08-16 05:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ardiril.livejournal.com

I am also halfway through and while I can echo most of the foregoing, I would like to add that The Red Tree up through "Pony" may well have more mainstream appeal than you estimated.

Any chance of someone getting you on "Ellen"?

No, I am not in the least bit joking.

Date: 2009-08-16 05:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

Any chance of someone getting you on "Ellen"?

I seriously doubt it. I'm not one of the authors my publisher is particularly interested in promoting.

I am also halfway through and while I can echo most of the foregoing, I would like to add that The Red Tree up through "Pony" may well have more mainstream appeal than you estimated.

Actually, I have said that I think The Red Tree has more mainstream appeal than anything else I've written so far.

Date: 2009-08-16 06:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ardiril.livejournal.com
"I'm not one of the authors my publisher is particularly interested in promoting."

Then this is the book your agent should brandish to change their thinking (especially if this is the same publisher involved in the warehouse snafu). This is the book where you call in all your favors and make future personal commitments. This book is that good.

The timing could not be better. The tolerance level of the silent majority is at its peak while resistance by the fundamentalist right crumbles. Also, Amazon is pushing your backlog of titles to bundle for the $25 shipping savings rather than with a similar author's, and your current in-print mmpbs' cover graphics are smoking! Not to mention, The Red Tree provides a unique balance to The Graveyard Book, although how you would work that angle is a bit beyond me.

You have the right product at the right time. You want to wait a couple weeks to see how sales go? Fine. That puts you right at the start of college semesters when female students are seeking female oriented texts and young housewives are rediscovering the freedoms of packing their kids off to school. September should be your month and the right push should carry you into the Halloween season.

Finally, forget the vampire novel. The Red Tree is your answer to Stephanie Meyer, and it needs to be shoved in her face and the faces of all her adherents.

Date: 2009-08-16 11:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

(especially if this is the same publisher involved in the warehouse snafu)

Yes, the same.

This is the book where you call in all your favors and make future personal commitments. This book is that good.

I thank you, and I'm glad you think so...but..well..I'll egt to that.

Fine. That puts you right at the start of college semesters when female students are seeking female oriented texts and young housewives are rediscovering the freedoms of packing their kids off to school.

Honestly...though the characters are pretty much all lesbian, I don't see this as a "female oriented text." Until today, I never even stopped to consider that it might appeal to one sex over another.

Finally, forget the vampire novel.

Well, that's already done.

But...here's the thing. There's just not much more I can do, personally, in terms of promotion. The book is out there. If I had money of my own to invest in promoting it better, that might help (but probably not). And I have too much work, too many other deadlines, and the next book that I'm already late on. So. While I appreciate your enthusiasm, you have to understand, there's very, very little I can do. I will continue to try to make the website engaging, and get the book in front of a few other people. I'll make another public appearance or two. And that's it. Unless something happens somewhere, initiated by someone who is not me, I don't expect much. This is not fatalism. I've been at this since 1998.

Date: 2009-08-17 07:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ardiril.livejournal.com
I realize your part is over and you must move on, however your agent also has an interest in this, and that was the point I was trying to make.

Date: 2009-08-16 05:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yuki-onna.livejournal.com
I think it takes a horror trope--moving to New England and discovering a dark past--and makes a more...literary novel out of it? About grief and suicide and loss? But the trope is still there.

Date: 2009-08-16 05:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

I think it takes a horror trope--moving to New England and discovering a dark past--and makes a more...literary novel out of it? About grief and suicide and loss? But the trope is still there.

I have to concede on the trope, yes. It is, I suppose, most properly described as a ghost story. Whether actual ghosts are present or not.

Date: 2009-08-16 09:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaz-mahoney.livejournal.com
I suppose, most properly described as a ghost story. Whether actual ghosts are present or not.

Yes, this.

And also a mystery.

Date: 2009-08-17 04:03 am (UTC)
ext_4772: (Whale fluke)
From: [identity profile] chris-walsh.livejournal.com
Which takes my mind to probably an obvious place: could someone get this book to Stephen King? Speaking of someone who appreciates horror tropes and New England... I'm guessing (and this is purely a guess) that he'd like this one.

Date: 2009-08-16 05:51 pm (UTC)
sovay: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sovay
didn't set out to write a horror novel. I'm still not sure that I see the book as a horror novel.

I meant what I wrote about it on my journal—to me it is first and foremost a novel about making story, both the imperative drive and the unreliability thereof. And we are pulled in, to take away our own versions of what we say happened to Sarah Crowe, and tell them. Which is one of the reasons I love the novel; because it does not lay everything neatly out for the reader, it makes us storytellers, complicit.

Date: 2009-08-16 06:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] martianmooncrab.livejournal.com
hope the headache runs its course and leaves you be soonest.

Thoughts on "Horror"

Date: 2009-08-19 02:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] catconley.livejournal.com
I've recommended/given The Red Tree to some of my friends and family and described it as "atmospheric horror." I like "atmospheric horror" because (for me at least) the book evoked this increasing sense of unease and Not Right - the horror was woven into the story, and it didn't need a lot of blood and guts to announce its presence - I was just constantly uneasy and edgy while reading it. I like the term "atmospheric" because I think it implies that there is a lot of room for the other elements of the book, like love and grief and isolation.

So far, the folks who have read stuff like Poe and HPL and House of Leaves have picked up on the "atmospheric" and said "Oh, you mean like Poe and HPL..." and the folks who have NOT read those authors/works have picked up only on "horror" and said, "Oh, slasher movies and gore," which is obviously NOT the case. I'm trying to think of a new descriptor to use with folks in the second category. Perhaps I will just start pressing a copy into their hands while flashing some mad Cheshire Cat grin. Show, don't tell, right? :)

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Caitlín R. Kiernan

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