As a special treat this week, we have a guest post from blogger and author, Kristen Twardowski. Kristen wrote the book “When We Go Missing”, and has put together a post ruminating on reading, writing, her personal inspiration, and advice for aspiring authors. We are very lucky that she is willing to share these insights with us, and send her thanks and gratitude.
I’ve long suspected that books, the ones we love as well as the ones we’ll never see, haunt both readers. Many of us read because we are searching for something. Maybe it is as simple as entertainment, but more often we want to find a book that makes us feel a certain way or one that tells us something about ourselves or our world.
For me, writing deals with those same issues. I write because I am looking for the answers to questions that I don’t always know I’m asking. This quest has followed me throughout my life. I like knowing things and have found there are many different ways to learn them.
History will always be my first love. I studied it in undergrad, and during my graduate work I focused on gender, particularly different iterations of masculinity in Imperial Germany. I have also worked with a wolf research and education center where we studied animal behavior and held various tours and seminars for the public. My professional life has also always revolved around sharing knowledge. I worked in academic libraries before I transitioned into the academic publishing industry where I have worked in books editorial and journals sales and marketing departments. I currently am in a role where I perform data analysis and promote books and journals. Though I never envisioned myself as a numbers person, my job is a rewarding one that ensures that readers have access to different perspectives of the world.
I recently delved into one of those alternate viewpoints in my debut novel When We Go Missing, which was released in December 2016. The novel is a psychological thriller that follows the story of Alex Gardinier, a woman who believes that her ex-husband is a serial killer and who can do nothing to stop him from her room in a psychiatric ward. When I began to write the book, I was looking to explore several themes: how people get away with murder in the United States and how the various victims of violent crimes respond to trauma. In particular, I delved into the ways that the justice system underserves poor communities, immigrants, and minority populations.
I struggled with several different aspects of writing When We Go Missing. At the most basic level, the book was on a quicker timetable than I prefer. When left to my own devices, I stew over manuscripts for long enough too ruin them. In the summer of 2016, I decided to try and overcome this roadblock by committing to publishing When We Go Missing before the start of 2017. I also found myself battling against the urge to write a nonfiction study of crime in the United States. Academia nursed me at its bosom, so the temptation to simply analyze the world was always there. I did manage to restrain myself and did not fill the novel with footnotes and citations. (The struggle was a real one.)
Now that When We Go Missing has been released into the world I have several other manuscripts that I am currently working on. The first of them is work that I like to call a modern mythology and is loosely inspired by Old Norse legends. The second manuscript is a coming of age story, which is not a subject that I ever anticipated writing about. I simply woke up one day and needed to put ideas to paper. I will very likely pursue publishing the modern mythology, but the future of the coming of age tale remains unclear.
In some ways, writing a modern mythology is returning to my roots. I am a fantasy lover at heart because those stories often distill truths about life even when surrounded by absurd and magical things. (But aren’t those things true in their own ways as well? Life is a little absurd and a little magical after all.) My favorite authors include folks like Diana Wynne Jones, Peter S. Beagle, Jan Siegel, and Melanie Rawn because they manage to portray existence in all of its beauty, and complexity, and wonder, and sadness. I always hope that that tangled web of emotion bleeds into my writing.
I encourage all aspiring writers to spend a little time on self-reflection and determine what stories they want to tell. Not everyone has to have the existential wonderings that I wander into, but writing is about more than simply putting words together. It is also about knowing what you want to say, knowing what you don’t know, and trying to draw the reader into that emotional and intellectual space. As I said before, we read to find meaning. Writers should acknowledge if only to themselves what truth they are trying to find.
Visit Kristen at https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/
And check out Kate’s review of her book “When We Go Missing”