inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #126 of 186: Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Thu 26 Aug 10 00:40
    
Back to the discussion about young Finn.

In answer to <castle's question about whether I had experienced that
kind of ill-treatment myself as a child, the answer, fortunately for
me, is no. I was treated, in fact, with a good deal of respect by my
parents and teachers, and although I was not a popular child, being
more interested in reading than socialising, I was not harassed or
bullied. I was also tall for my age, and strong, and had several
brothers so I knew how to fight! 

As well, I was blessed with an oldest brother who was a great friend
and ally, who looked out for me without being smothering. (Simon is
still one of my closest friends.) 

But nevertheless, I still found the powerlessness of childhood
oppressive. I hated having to do what I was told even it made no sense;
I hated not being able to run my own life. All this is why I left home
and school at 15, and have supported myself ever since.

One hears children being spoken to roughly all too often, without
witnessing outright abuse. Even the over-indulgence of children which
has become more the mode in Australia and the US, where they are loaded
down with material objects, yet given no responsibility within the
family other than to consume is in itself a kind of oppression.

I'm very interested in children's experiences and internal lives, and
it's always seemed to me that the first job of parents and caregivers
is to observe the child in front of them – not the child they THINK
should be there, or the child they WISH was there – and through that
careful observation, discern what it is that that particular child
needs. 

Okay, that's me, and general stuff: now Finn.
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #127 of 186: Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Thu 26 Aug 10 01:14
    
I based Finn largely on the son of a friend of mine – and let me say
immediately that my friend is NOT the model for Finn's mother Angie. I
met Adam when he was about six, and his mother had just moved back to
Melbourne with her two children, having split up with their father. She
was having a hard time coping, and Adam already had the reputation of
being a "very difficult child". Indeed, his behaviour was such that his
mother even asked a mutual male friend if he felt it was possible that
a child could be "possessed". Given that she was far from a religious
nut, this seemed to indicate ... well, a serious problem. 

My friend clearly needed help with her kids, so I put my hand up to
look after Adam and his older sister one night a week. I would pick
them up from their school, have them overnight, take them to school
again the next day. My own son, btw, was about 20 at this time; he
said, kindly, that I was nuts. I think everyone thought that, but
really, I felt that Adam's main problem was that he had never been
given the structure and routine which he – that particular child – so
wanted.

The "schedule" of homework, meal, reading, etcetera, which Finn
recites with relish to Stella-Jean in the park, is exactly what I
devised with Adam, and which he welcomed with an alacrity that
astonished even me.

In response to Cynthia's question about ADD and Asperger's: yes, I
think Finn MAY have mild Asperger's, or some other slight
brain-functioning differentness. Interestingly, the most recent review
of Trust here in Australia quite baldly described Finn as "autistic",
which is drawing too long a bow. And yes, the whole autistic spectrum
and Asperger's thing has become quote the dysfunction de jour here in
Australia too, though I'm not the person to ask about over-medicating
and so on.

If I have any theory about this apparent "epidemic", it's that most
children need more physical play and activity than they're getting
these days, far less time in front of screens, and far less processed
food. Most children would be better off with more structure, and a more
responsible role within their families. But that wouldn't do anything
much for medical researchers, doctors, insurers, or drug companies.

A child in a situation like Finn's needs above all to be understood,
as well as loved. I have no doubt that Angie loves her son, but she
does NOT understand him (in part because she has never developed the
inner resources to understand herself). Thus, "no succour", as in
Wickett's quote (#123). EXCEPT from Stella-Jean, and, in the end, the
hope that Angie has reached a new level of maturity within herself and
thus is able to provide for Finn the true security he needs.

Phew! 
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #128 of 186: Harmless drudge (ckridge) Thu 26 Aug 10 07:37
    
There's a line in the book about all the D-words that cluster around a
kid like Finn: deficit, disorder, diagnosis. I like that line a lot,
and I like that he didn't read as if he was written to fit a set of
symptoms. He is written as a particular weird, difficult kid, good at
some things and bad at others. There might be a diagnosis that it would
help to hang on him, and there might not.

The parts about Stella-Jean and Finn are written so much from their
points of view that they are almost like a children's fantasy story
breaking into an adult novel. To Finn, Gabriel is right out of a
nightmare. (One of the reasons that Gabriel appears only a type is that
no one really sees him. Stella sees one sort of fantastic figure, Finn
another.) Robo-boy is a more important figure in Finn's life than most
people are. For Stella, Bali is a magic place where everything can be
set right. 

This is correct representation, I think. Childhood is a place where
one deals with giants and talking animals -- that is, adults and other
children -- every day.
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #129 of 186: Harmless drudge (ckridge) Thu 26 Aug 10 07:51
    
Stella-Jean is very real, but I've never met anyone the least bit like
her. In my experience, young women that smart and that self-willed
have decided that since most rules for people their age clearly don't
apply to them, none do, and are experimenting with sex, drugs, or both.
Stella-Jean appears to be too busy for that. She has a vocation. In
fact, she appears to be a Balinese businesswoman who has somehow wound
up in a middle-class Australian family. This is plausible -- she is
plausible enough to be almost visible -- but I have never seen anyone
like that. I have seen a few teenagers who wanted to work, but they
didn't know it and denied it furiously. 

Where did you get her? Did you put her together out of bits of other
people and memory? Do you know someone like that? Did she appear in the
course of writing the book?
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #130 of 186: . (wickett) Thu 26 Aug 10 09:10
    

#123 is pithily my experience.
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #131 of 186: Harmless drudge (ckridge) Thu 26 Aug 10 09:34
    
Oh, and please do call me Coleman.
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #132 of 186: Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 26 Aug 10 18:24
    

I am embarassed to admit how long it took me to understand that post, 
wickett, but having gotten it, I want to say how much I appreciate it.  
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #133 of 186: Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Fri 27 Aug 10 02:32
    
In answer to Coleman's question about Stella-Jean:

"Where did you get her? Did you put her together out of bits of other
people and memory? Do you know someone like that? Did she appear in
the
course of writing the book?"

In the acknowledgements you'll find the name Allie Buckner; she's at
least part of the model of S-J, and the daughter of friends in SF.
Other daughters, unacknowledged, fit there too: Ruby, Simone ... It's
that thing of the author of scavenger again. And there are others,
including girls who are friends of my son's ...

But really, when you say:
"Stella-Jean appears to be too busy for that. She has a vocation. In
fact, she appears to be a Balinese businesswoman who has somehow wound
up in a middle-class Australian family"
 
Well once again Coleman, you've nailed it. That is EXACTLY where I'd
come to feel S-J belongs - as she herself clearly feels.  And that is
where I feel she'll be; is now, indeed.

But I guess that's the difference between fiction and memoir: one
combines and heightens attributes, to fit one's fictive purposes.  
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #134 of 186: Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Fri 27 Aug 10 02:38
    
Re Finn's oppressor, the odious Gabriel:

You may be interested to know that I had in earlier drafts written in
Gabriel as a much bigger character, with various scenes which were form
his point of view, and which elucidated his back story. Both my
Australian and US editors urged me to cut these sections, partly
because the ms had become too damn lengthy, and also because they both
DETESTED being inside Gabriel's head.  

I've never tried anything harder than to write from inside the mind of
a person who is cruel to a child. And I guess I was either all too
successful, or not successful at all.
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #135 of 186: Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Fri 27 Aug 10 02:38
    
Sorry for typos! Eesh!
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #136 of 186: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Fri 27 Aug 10 08:21
    

don't worry about the typos, Kate, we all make them when we're posting
on-the-fly like we are...

That's interesting about having to cut so much of your development of
Gabriel from the book. He's the kind of character I find most difficult
to understand -- how did he get that way? -- so I want to know more of
his backstory.

You know how directors have to cut scenes from their films in order to
get them into theaters? And how sometimes there'll be a "director's cut"
release where the stuff that got lopped is put back in? 

Wouldn't it be something if authors had the chance to do that, too!

Did you regret having to cut so much of Gabriel's story? If you could
add bits back in, what would they be? 
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #137 of 186: . (wickett) Fri 27 Aug 10 11:24
    

You are most welcome, Linda.
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #138 of 186: . (wickett) Fri 27 Aug 10 11:28
    

Gerry and Susanna, whatever their flaws, created an atmosphere in which both
Stella-Jean and Seb thrived as distinct individuals.  Stella-Jean, needed 
no further nudging; Seb only needed a small course correction to be 
sailing with the wind.

After such an achievement, it made me quite sad that Gerry and Susanna 
couldn't/wouldn't do the same for themselves, each other, and their 
marriage.
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #139 of 186: . (wickett) Fri 27 Aug 10 11:36
    

As for Gabriel, I neither needed nor wanted a backstory.  Child abuse down 
the generations usually repeats because it is not ended, either because it 
was disowned as the other or because it lead to entitlement to treat 
new victims as oneself was treated.  Often, of course, it is a combination 
of the two.

There's usually too much sanctimonious justification involved, too.  Well, 
beatings did me a lot of good, turned me into a musician praising God and 
transmitting His Word, so beatings/assaults/castigations will, with God's 
help, transform this bad, possibly possessed, child into a person with 
similar virtues.  Or, if not, then they will kill him, so he will be a 
pest no longer and deflect me from my God-assigned work.
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #140 of 186: Harmless drudge (ckridge) Fri 27 Aug 10 12:48
    
I don't know whether Gabriel needs to be more in focus. He doesn't
intend to be seen; he's a liar.

Oh, damn, I do guess he ought to be more visible. He is symptomatic
both of what is wrong with Angie and of what is wrong with that church.
They don't come fully into focus unless he does. 

But how in the world would you do that and stay within a marketable
size? I have no idea.
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #141 of 186: Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Fri 27 Aug 10 15:54
    
Cynthia asks "Did you regret having to cut so much of Gabriel's
story?", which is an interesting question. The fact that I hadn't
considered it before probably means that the answer is "No." Cutting
Gabriel's story came late in the long process of writing this novel;
earlier, I had cut whole characters and parts of the plot. 

As in film-making, editing – including cutting – is a vital part of
the creative process. I enjoy it, find it exhilarating. Consequently, I
always cut harder than my editor suggests. This is also to do with the
fact that I write for flow: I want my readers to be whooshed along on
the current of the story. (This means that my writing will never be
regarded as literature, but that's okay by me.)

My sense is that Gabriel is all the creepier for not being as
well-defined as the other characters. By not including his backstory,
I've avoided the possibility of that "sanctimonious justification" that
Wickett refers to her post #139. What you say in that second para,
Wickett, is so chilling, and spot on.

I feel sure readers can imagine his backstory pretty clearly, eh? Am I
right there, do you think?
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #142 of 186: Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Fri 27 Aug 10 16:07
    
Re Wickett's post #138, about Gerry and Susanna as parents and as
partners: yes, I do feel they've done well as parents. (Making Gerry's
love for his kids more apparent was one of the main ways I "warmed up"
his character.) 

There has been a wide range of responses to the ending of the novel. A
number of readers have asked me whether Susanna and Gerry actually do
split up for good, or do they get back together? Several women have
told me how THRILLED they were that she left him – "I felt personally
liberated and vindicated" is how one reader put it.

Others have expressed sadness, as does Wickett, that they can't work
out how to support each other as successfully as they have supported
their kids, and one reader mentioned that they she felt especially sad
FOR the kids.

Personally, I am glad to have all these responses, and feel they are
all "right", or perhaps I should say, appropriate.  
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #143 of 186: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Fri 27 Aug 10 16:11
    

Oh yeah, I can imagine a backstory for him, but kinda wondered what the
author had created.

Anyway, I want to backtrack a bit to something you said earlier, Kate.

> Writing a novel is such an isolated undertaking, and then when the
> book is published one is expected to suddenly become a salesperson and
> shameless self-promoter. The two aspects of producing a book are so
> opposed to each other, it can make one feel quite loopy at times.

It's the "shameless self-promoter" thing that I want to poke at,
particularly since, as you say, you'd spent so much time in isolation
writing. "Big noting" oneself (Aussie slang for self-promotion) is
considered tacky in Australia, kind of embarrassing. In the US, it's
quite the opposite. Self-promotion is common, accepted behavior. 

How hard has it been for you to big note yourself? Since it's more
acceptable behavior here in the US, is it easier when you're in the
States to talk up your work than it is to do in Australia? 
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #144 of 186: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Fri 27 Aug 10 16:12
    

whoops, Kate slipped in while I was composing my post. My "I can imagine a
backstory for him" was in reference to Gabriel.
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #145 of 186: Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Fri 27 Aug 10 19:44
    
You're absolutely right, Cynthia, big noting yourself is considered
very bad form here in Australia. When I've told fellow authors here
that in the US, your publishers expect you to go into as many
bookstores as you can and offer to sign copies of your books, they gasp
in horror, and often literally shriek with embarrassment at the very
thought. 

I am not at all a shy person, and have no nervousness about public
speaking – in fact I enjoy it – yet the level of self promotion one is
expected to engage in in the US, talking up your book at every
opportunity, and indeed actively creating opportunities to do so, is
excruciating. It fills me not just with anxiety and embarrassment but
with a real sense of shame.

Despite this, I'm prepared to do it, because it's part of the job. And
I feel I understand the American attitude somewhat better now.  As one
person explained it to me, "If you're not prepared to promote your own
work, it means you don't believe in it, and if you don't believe in
it, why should anyone else?"

I remember trying to explain how Australians look down on people who
big note themselves (which btw is an old expression from the racetrack,
referring to show-offs who placed bets with large denomination bills)
at a reading in New York when my first book was published, and a member
of the audience explained it back to me later as "So, Australians
aren't allowed to be interesting." I was thunderstruck!  No no, I said,
interesting is fine. Interesting is GOOD. You're just not allowed to
TELL people you're interesting.
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #146 of 186: E (wickett) Fri 27 Aug 10 20:43
    <scribbled by wickett Fri 27 Aug 10 21:46>
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #147 of 186: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (peoples) Sat 28 Aug 10 09:08
    

So if its so dreadful to promote yourself in Australia, how have your
books seen any publicity down under, Kate? Do Aussie publishers put more
money into publicity than their American counterparts?
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #148 of 186: . (wickett) Sat 28 Aug 10 12:01
    

Wasn't self-promotion foisted off on US authors because publishers didn't
want/couldn't afford to spend the money to market?


I have a question about "I write for flow: I want my readers to be 
whooshed along on the current of the story. (This means that my writing 
will never be regarded as literature, but that's okay by me.)"

I don't understand why "flow" is perceived to be incompatible with 
"literature."
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #149 of 186: To err is human. To improvise, divine (robertflink) Sat 28 Aug 10 13:15
    
Perhaps "flow" requires a strong narrative arc.  Some readers may
prefer more surprises and it may take more talent to weave them in.

I tend to think of jazz where the riffs are often more interesting
than the base melody.  I get that in Proust where the "riffs" can
"fail" but I appreciate the attempt anyway.

"Whoshing" can keep us from exploring the eddies and backwaters of a
stream including a narrative stream.
  
inkwell.vue.390 : Kate Veitch, Trust
permalink #150 of 186: Kate Veitch (kate-veitch) Sat 28 Aug 10 16:09
    
Good morning from Coorabell, in the hills near Byron Bay, the
easternmost point of Australia, where the kookaburras are laughing in
the trees (along with whipbirds whipping, wonga pigeons whooping and
black cockatoos eerily screeching) and the water dragons are sunning
themselves on the lawn. No sign yet of Monty the python, who may or may
not resume his/her post in the rafters of the deck right above the
table, as yesterday when we were lunching.

Now then ... a little more on book promotion, then on with the flow
...
  

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