This week’s other featured books, “After Houses,” by Claire Millikin and “Times Square and Other Stories,” by William Baer, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.
THE BOOK: The Writing Circle.
PUBLISHED IN: 2010 paperback: 2011 German edition (Das Herz der Tauschung) 2012.
THE AUTHOR: Corinne Demas.
THE EDITOR: Sarah Landis.
THE PUBLISHER: Hyperion (unfortunately the imprint, “Voice” has been discontinued).
SUMMARY: The Writing Circle is about six writers — three men and three women — who call themselves The Leopardi Circle, and gather regularly to share their work in progress. There’s Gillian, a beautiful, scheming, world famous poet; Bernard, a pompous but lovable biographer; Virginia, a respected historian and the peacemaker of the group, who also happens to be Bernard’s ex-wife; Chris, a divorced father and successful thriller writer; and Adam, the youngest of the group, an aspiring novelist who is infatuated with Gillian. They meet to read their work aloud and offer feedback, all of them feeling somewhat competitive as well as vulnerable (and yes, writers do feel vulnerable about their work!)
When Nancy, whose most recently published work is a medical newsletter, is asked to join The Leopardi Circle, she accepts, warily. She’s not at all certain that her novel is good enough for the company she’ll be keeping. Her novel is a subject very close to her heart, and she isn’t sure she wants to share it with others, let alone the world. But Nancy soon finds herself as caught up in the group’s personal lives as she is with their writing. She learns that nothing — love, family, loyalty — is sacred or certain. Over the course of a year, marriages are tested, affairs begin, and trust is broken. Buried secrets come to light.
In this group, as is often the case, there are unwritten rules, and I wasinterested in what happens when one member of a group does something that other group members see as a betrayal. I wanted to explore the moral struggle within the characters, as well as the struggles between them.
THE BACK STORY: I’ve always been intrigued by the unexpected connections I discoverbetween different people I know, and the way the things we do and say reverberate through the many threads that link us. In The Writing Circle, I wanted to consider a group of people who are connected in more complex ways than they realize, and the unintended consequences that the actions of one person can have on someone else whom they may not even know. I chose to center my story on a group of writers because they’re the people I understand best. I’ve been in several different writing groups in thepast, and am currently a member of two. One is an informal gathering of writers that meets in a local café. The other is a critique group where we read aloud from our current manuscripts, and where I read my first draft of The Writing Circle chapter by chapter. (Over a period of two years!) None of these friends are models for characters in my book — although of course bits of all of us are there, too. Although some of the characters in The Writing Circle are more endearing than others, I came to have affection for all of them (even one whom I would definitely not be friends with if my story were real life) When I finished the novel and turned it over to my editor I felt bereft, as if I had parted with close members of my family.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? The Writing Circle is a novel that obviously has special appeal for anyone who is a writer, knows a writer, or might like to be a writer, but I think it also connects with anyone who’s been a member of a group.
At the suggestion of my editor, I expanded the original manuscript to include selections from each writers’ work as it was presented to the group. I ended up having to write seven entirely different manuscripts, in different styles and different genres, so this is a novel which has within it: parts of two other novels, some poetry, some biography, some historical fiction, and a piece of a thriller.
“Part of what gives this format its enduring appeal is the way it allows readers to dip in and out of each character’s life while also giving multiple perspectives on key events. Demas ups the ante by deepening the characterizations, introducing the subject of plagiarism, and exposing the vanity and insecurity of even the most celebrated writers. Delicious reading.” — Booklist.
“The story quickly moves to a satisfying end. This fourth novel by a well-established author of short stories, poetry, and children’s books will appeal to readers who enjoyed Karen Joy Fowler’s “The Jane Austen” Book Club and other novels about the writing life.” — Library Journal.
“(Demas) has the obvious bona fides to probe writers’ lives in her fiction, and the less superficially observable qualities of knowledge and first hand experience to be able to juggle a number of writers’ personalities in a narrative simultaneously….The exurbanite culture and cultured chums Demas evokes have a charmed staying power. A story isn’t over until it’s over, and the confederates of the Leopardi Circle have a shared knack for sparking the thought that they might be worthy of a second installment.” — The Chicago Tribune.
“A charming novel about a group of writers in a small college town, full of warmth and humor.” — Printer’s Row.
AUTHOR PROFILE: I’m the author of thirty-three books including five novels (The Writing Circle is one of them), two short story collections, a memoir, a collection of poetry, and numerous books for children, as well as two plays. I’ve published more than fifty short stories in a wide range of literary and other magazines, and a number of poems in a variety of places. I’m often asked how I decide whether an idea should be developed as a novel, short story, book for kids, or a poem. In fact, the idea decides for itself! A novel like The Writing Circle is obviously not appropriate for young readers, and I quickly realized that although particular scenes could be framed as short stories, I had a cast of characters and a complicated plot that required the room a novel provides. I find that I can’t work on two pieces of fiction at the same time, but changing gears and working on a picture book while I’m tangled in the midst of a difficult part of a novel, for instance, is always refreshing. At Mount Holyoke College, I teach creative writing, and my students enjoy knowing that I’m in the same boat as they are — staying up late at night when I have an idea that I have to get down on paper, or reluctantly revising a manuscript I initially thought was perfect after I get critical feedback from an editor or a writer in my writing group.
Link to me reading a chapter from the novel at Writerscast:
This is the preface of the novel (there is a link on The Writing Circle page on my website: http://www.corinnedemas.com/books/writingcircle.html).
The house is set on a hillside, with a long driveway that leads up to it and disappears around the back. It’s after dinner time, already dark. A garage door at the rear of the house opens, and a pickup truck backs out and turns around. Whoever is driving has not turned the headlights on, and if you were viewing the scene from above, you would barely make out the truck as it comes around the side of the house, as it heads down the driveway.
A figure cuts across the sloping front lawn and starts down the driveway, towards the road. It’s probably a woman, but she’s dressed in black, and almost invisible in the dark. A young man is standing by the house, watching her. Light spills out of the doorway behind him.
He hears the pickup truck as it emerges around the corner of the house and he turns towards the sound. Then he cries out something — the woman’s name perhaps— but she does not hear him. She’s halfway down the driveway, just at the point where it takes a sharp turn.
He flies down the hillside, plunges towards her, towards the point of intersection.
WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
PRICE: Hardback: $23.60, Paperback: $9.55; Nook: $12.99, Amazon Kindle, $12.99.
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: