Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Things I Will Miss...

I just washed my hair outside under a full moon in a warm shower by a stone wall.  Can you tell my ten year old student and I have been studying prepositions?  Prepositions and Julie of the Wolves--I love Julie of the Wolves. 

I am about to leave.  Conversations begin with "Have you got a ticket?" and I am eating more pineapple.  There are things I will miss about Hawaii.  Funny how things become instantly more valuable when they are about to disappear.  The way I usually fall madly in love with a book as soon as I leave it on a plane.  It is not that I did not appreciate outdoor showers and pikake and big bright full moons in deep black skies before.  I did.  But as I start to leave these things become numbered, last, few, and important.  The ocean always looks bluest at that particular, last bend in the road when you are driving to the airport.

I have always loved it here.  I have loved the unbroken family thread leading back to my childhood that is part of my every day in this place.  My brother flying off a rope swing into the Kalihiwai River, doing math in the sand with my dad at Pine Trees at sunset, my sister jumping off a cliff on a dare, riding bikes at night and looking for wood for a bonfire on the beach.  These things are current here.  People remember them.  All the ladies at Foodland ask when is my mother coming back and why aren't I buying more vegetables?

It was fun.  We moved in family packs.  Brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, we roamed from beach to house to beach to house in a sprawling, hungry, muddy, salty gang.   Smaller siblings got to ride on the handlebars.  It took eight friends to teach me to drive.  There is a rainbow on my license.  "Just us" meant my brother and sister and I.  "Everybody" meant twenty kids.  We spoke in plurals.  Parents were Aunties and Uncles.  Now we are Aunties and Uncles.  I love it.

I love the quiet, soft air, the night blooming jasmine and the heavy, warm rain.  I love taking my shoes off automatically before entering a house.  I love sunbaked sand under brown feet.  I love lizards on the ceiling, peacocks at the beach and chickens in the parking lot.  I love worrying that a coconut will fall on the car.  I love that a flower behind the left ear means that you are taken and behind the right means that you are not.  It is the left because that is the side of the heart.

It will all be here for me when I get back.  I will fall in love with wherever I go.  I will love red buses and bookstores and hot chocolate and woolly mittens.  But for right now, I will miss it here.    

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I do not know why I was so surprised.  I have encountered nothing but kindness and support all along this nutty, twisty, yellow bricked writing road.  But this past week has been different.  This week has been yellow roses in a wicker basket, sunshine week.  The book trailer, so generously created with such care and love by such an extraordinary friend, made the release sooner, realer, bigger, shinier, and funner, as my sister used to say.

Now it involves everyone.  I love that.  My dear friend Adriana pre ordered five copies for her book club--even though her wedding is three weeks away and she has so many zillions of things to think about.  Amber (her wedding is 108 days away) pre ordered some for her husband to be and family.  My mom pre ordered six and then pressed the 'I want to read it on Kindle button" eleven times.  Everyone I bump into in Hanalei has looked up the book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  A boy I had a crush on when I was fourteen shrieked "Great cover!" from across the road at the beach today.  I had no idea he knew I was writing a book and I haven't seen him since I got my braces off.  And lovely, lovely, steadfast friends from the Plum Bean pre ordered and pressed the button and looked up the book and want to set up blog tour interviews--amazing.

It has been one of those really special weeks of everyone checking in.  Wonderful friends who forgive me for falling off the planet wrote to electronically bounce up and down with glee.  My sweet friend Gersande from high school, who I have not seen in nearly twenty years (more Priya moving to distant lands and falling off the planet) wrote to all her friends announcing the book.  My beloved, angelic friend Jack and his wonderful, wonderful wife Jess had a baby boy this week and he still checked in to bounce up and down.  It has been an extraordinary, brown shoulder, blue water, white wave, yellow sun, buoyant, floaty, fizzy, happy week.  And I have been so moved.  Thank you.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Book Trailer!!!!!!!

Second version of book trailer.  No idea how to erase first version so here are both.  I love the cello...


So it is down to the wire.  Emails end in 'ASAP' and there is discussion of being in the 'chrome' phase.  I think this is when the cover and back cover are set and cannot be undone?  A last minute wonderful quote from Sharon Kay Penman arrived and my editor 'yanked' the book off the press to include it.

So far this has been a magical process for me.  Magical in that is is surreal, happy and seemingly turning the impossible into the possible.  I feel like my book has gone like a handkerchief into a top hat and is returning to me a fluffy white rabbit.  Also magical in that I have no idea how it works.  I have a sense of an enormous hive of talented, experienced people working at a ferocious pace.  This book is being released on February 1, 2011 and there is so much work involved between then and now that everyone is racing--today--on a Wednesday in July.

It is strange that words I wrote utterly alone at a white desk covered in birthday cards, photos, books, postcards and my Nell portrait, are going out to meet this enormous fray.  Definitely magic.  It is also strange that there is a stop date.  There is a point when tinkering must stop, hats are chosen, words are fixed, and chapters have chosen their dresses for the ball.  The subtly shifting elements are no longer mine to move around, recast and repaint.  A scarlet slipper shunted beneath a gilt chair is just going to have to stay there.  It will never grow up to be a grey laced boot left out in a garden.

Somehow I never saw that day coming.  But that day seems to be today.  The book is really truly done.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


It arrived.  No.  They arrived.  Six galleys in my living room.  Wow, that suddenly sounded very Pirandello-esque six books come looking for the author.  They arrived just as I was running out the door to go down to Hanalei to meet a friend.  I grabbed one and ran out the door.

In Hanalei I met up with my friend David.  David has just finished writing his book and starting the dreaded agent search.  We sat in the last of the evening sun and then wandered over to Java Kai where we bumped into two other friends sitting at a table on the veranda.  One of them, Cris, is an established author and the other, Mark, a musician and rapacious reader.  Both were super helpful when I was writing Exit the Actress.  I took Nell out of my bag and she went out for her first walk in the wide world.  They were delighted.  They were thrilled.  Suddenly it had all happened.  Exit the Actress was no longer in the remote 'what if' of someday but it was that day, a Friday afternoon in Hanalei.  

Tina, another friend, is a voracious reader and owns Java Kai.  Recognizing immediately what was going on, she came over and joined us.  Then we were five: three writers and two readers.  Just then I heard my name called and my wonderful, recently graduated, about to go off to college student Wyatt and his wonderful, already in college, brother Max appeared on the veranda.  It was one of those Sesame Street summer evenings where everyone stops by Gordon and Susan's porch.  Now we were readers and writers and students.  The conversation flowed around words expressed on a page.  Unusual on such a small, remote island.  The how of it, the surprise of it, the trickiness of it, the rhythm of it, the home of it, the who of it.

Group endeavor.  It is so much more rewarding than solo endeavor.  Sounds like the name of a space shuttle.  This blog, where you have all been so supportive and kind, the world I where I studied and researched where everyone encouraged me to risk it and write, the happy communicative world where I concentrated and wrote: I have been so lucky to keep bumping into this conversation that flows around words.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lovely People

Exit the Actress: A Novel

Here is the cover!  It is ready for pre-order on Borders.com, BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com!  When it says that 'someone who bought this book also bought', Philippa Gregory's The White Queen (such a marvellous book) and Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna--that 'someone' would be my mom.  She had a pre-ordering fiesta yesterday.  

I have beet dragging my little brown feetsies today as I did not want to write a new post.  I want to keep up yesterday's post for yesterday's comments.  I loved what everyone wrote yesterday.  No, loved is the right word but the wrong word.  I was astounded.  The encouragement, affection, sincerity, support and generosity of spirit knocked me over.  
I have never written anything that sailed under my own colors.  I have always edited or assisted or co-written or ghost written.  I have been half-lit, half-shadowed, tucked away, out of sight--safe.  It is a wooden raft, open sea, sharky sort of scary to do this.  It is my name on the book--twice.  Yikes.  Yesterday made me feel like I had thirty people on the wooden raft with me.  It felt like the 'When You're a Jet' song from West Side Story.  We are setting sail together.  It feels so much better.  

Monday, July 12, 2010


Exit the Actress: A Novel [Paperback]

Priya Parmar (Author)

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Editorial Reviews


A real triumph….A vivid imagining of the restoration London of Charles II with Nell Gwynn as a powerful and engaging heroine set in the busy world of the theater. This debut novel captures the glamorous world of the amoral court and the struggle of the city. Priya Parmar is a writer to watch.”—Philippa Gregory
Author of The Other Boleyn Girl

“Nell is irrepressible, spunky, delightful: who wouldn’t fall in love with her? Her story unfolds through diary entries, letters, news announcements, recipes. It¹s a tasty and often amusing confection, sure to please. I absolutely adored it.”
—Sandra Gulland, author of the Josephine B. Trilogy and Mistress of the Sun

Product Description

"A triumph" says Philippa Gregory, of this debut novel about the life of the legendary 17th century actress and mistress of Charles II, Nell Gwyn.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Original edition (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439171173

I just found this! You can pre-order Nell!  Exit the Actress will be released on February 1, 2011!  You can ask to read it on a Kindle.  You can put it in a cart.  You can buy it for a mouse.  You can put it in a house.  Nell loves to eat green eggs and ham.     

I love that they included the wonderful, warm generous quotes.  I love that it will be out before my birthday.  I love that my mom just ordered two copies.  
Now it is getting real...

Wuthering Heights -

I love Wuthering Heights.  It is a controversial love as many people get fed up with Cathy's insanity and Heathcliff's surliness and their general inability to get it together until one of them is a window tapping wraith.  These characters do not behave well.  Their moral compass is absent rather than merely askew and they treat neither each other nor anyone else with particular kindness.  But they are inevitable and absolute if not functional.  It is just that extreme, awkwardly angled quality that appeals to me.  Tepid Victorian tea time love with its fire-seething, passionate underbelly is wonderful but Wuthering Heights goes for broke right on the surface.

Bronte is a good reminder to consider ignoring all verboten writing cliches.  She shows you that if you can really pull it off, with buckle and swash and verve and sass--do it.  Emily Bronte does not adhere to the 'show don't tell' sacred precept of writing.  She tells it all.  "...he is more myself than I am.  Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same." Cathy does not shy away from the grand proclamation.  She does not hedge round it, evoking desperate love through half suggested thought and the implications of a small scale action.  She dives in and swims across the sea.  Their devotion is messy, incongruent, fragmented, difficult and ultimately doomed.  Her commitment lives in her words and not her actions--another broken writing principle.  Characters are usually deciphered through action but again, Bronte shows us her passion driven hand through words.  But what fantastic words.

Heathcliff, although he does a great deal of mumbling, grouching, stomping and rushing out of doors to go running through the rain on the Serengeti plain, finally makes his great statement of undiluted passion.  And it is so worth it when he does:  "You say I killed you--haunt me then!  They say the murdered do haunt their murderers.... Be with me always--take any form--drive me mad!  Only don't leave me alone in this abyss where I cannot find you!"  I suppose shouting this at her dead body is showing as well as telling so Heathcliff does a bit of both.  It is interesting that we most enjoy when the goldenest golden writing rules get snapped straight through.  Bronte even uses exclamation points--a cardinal no no.  But it works.  I do not think you can invite someone to drive you mad without an exclamation point.  

To try and capture the enormous raw emotion in the flattened real estate of the Roman alphabet is a dicey business.  You have to be able to do it well--really well.  You have to startle and illuminate, pull the reader absolutely into the gushing heart of the character and then show us something new.  Anything less and you are done for.  But what a thing if you can do it.   

Friday, July 9, 2010

Sandy Feet, Left Turns and Cherries on Top

How delicious.  The wonderful Kate from Kate's Library gave me this perfectly pink, frosted cup cakey, perfect for a Friday award.  People are lovely aren't they?  Every so often that thought strikes me.

Yesterday I had to make a left turn.  I dislike left turns and will go long distances to avoid them.  They give me the same feeling I had in fourth grade when I had to stand up and recite a poem in French--everyone watching, sure I will get it wrong, yuck.  But yesterday, as I waited in the middle of the intersection, starting to panic,  a very nice old man in an enormous monster, fire breathing red, behemoth truck, staved off the oncoming hoards and cleared a place for me to go.  

It is Hawaiian custom to wave to anyone on the road who has helped you: people waiting at the other side of a one lane bridge, people who let you in, and people who help you turn left.  Actually you also wave to people you know, people you might know, people who drive the same car as people you know, grandmothers of people you know, and anyone who waves at you.  You end up waving a lot.   This man blew me a kiss and shouted, "Ya, you go get em".  He shouted in pigeon, the local dialect, and it sounded like a cheerleading cheer.  People are lovely.

So the Cherry on Top Award Rules:

I must:

1. Thank the person who gave it to me.

2. List three things I love about myself.

3. Post a photo that I love.

I already left her a note but just in case: Thank you Kate!

Three things:
1. I can swim underwater a long, long way.
2. I can jump off a cliff.
3. I can listen tot he same song eleven times in a row.

I have a friend who says, "Ah but can you do this?" and twirls around.  I can't do that.

So?  Five Blogs?  Can I do three and save two?  One rainy day there will be a saved award fiesta at the plum bean.


Doctordi: for fearless honesty.

Whitney at She is to Fond of Books: for delightful insights.

Lindy Lou Mac at Lindy Lou Mac's Book Reviews for her wonderful reviews in wonderful lands.

A photo that I love?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Art and Life

It is a strange and symbiotic relationship.  My life seeps into my writing--shaping characters, reactions, figures of speech, mannerisms, footwear.  It is not a conscious fusion.  I write what I know but I mix it with the multiple layers and nuances of research, of history, of interpretation.  Whether things are tumbling and tumulting in my life or whether familiar, long faded chickens are coming home to roost, it shows up in my writing.  A scene that would have turned right follows my footprint and turns left.

I am not sure that I mind it.  It rings true and is enough dissolved and diluted that it does not cause any uncomfortable recognition in others.  Only someone who knows me really well would be able to spot the collisions and connections.  It is not an exact translation but more a messy game of post office.  Events get reshaped and trimmed and tinted until they are something new.  But the bones of the real still hold the frame underneath.

It is not only large scale installation change but small detailed finish carpentry change as well.  I saw a rainbow while driving my sister to the airport the other day.  That elusive moment of pale striped sky stayed with me.  Without rain there are no rainbows.  It rained in my writing yesterday.

Friday, July 2, 2010


So, I went down to Hanalei, the small town near my house, to teach one of my students.  He is on summer break and teaching schedules get a bit erratic.  We went to Java Kai and worked to the smell of kona coffee and whipped cream.

Fun.  Spelling--"pulchritude"--wow, good word.  He got it.  He is going into sixth grade.  Word games, noisy pop quizzes (he gets to give me one and then I get to give him one--only fair--he won).  Adverbs--less fun, and reading comprehension.  It was rambunctious, summery and whole.  It is amazing to watch a sixth grader throw himself into English class on a sunny Friday in summer.

When we left Java Kai to go and find his mom who is a close friend of mine, we bumped into two of my other students--sisters aged ten and sixteen.  All three are friends.  It was wonderful to see them all together.  Like chattering, chirping, chickens.  I went upstairs, sat in the sun and spoke to both moms.  Eventually another student arrived--the older brother of the recently graduated student.  He is watching the sixth grader this summer and had come to take him to the beach.  While I was talking to him, the ten year old put her hand in mine, pulled me down to her level and whispered in my ear, "I finished my homework already."  Huge smile on her face.  She kept hold of my hand and tried on my ring.

I watched them all.  The ten year old is reading Mandy.  The sixteen year old starts Wuthering Heights tomorrow.  The sixth grader is reading The Mysterious Benedict Society.  They are just discovering it.  The pull of a book.  The intense relationship between reader and story.  It was wonderful to sit in the sun with them.  

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Brightly Blue

So I am reading the House at Riverton.  Beautiful, gripping, atmospheric stuff.  I feel a bit bad as I assigned my student Middlemarch.  As he will learn from Middlemarch: such is the way of things.  I did give him Brideshead Revisited (I sent him on a bit of a Catholic author, Graham Greene/Evelyn Waugh adventure) before I sent him spiraling into the 19th century.  And I will shore him up with Hemingway once he is done.

My other student is about to enter the violent stormy heart of Wuthering Heights as an antidote to her summer reading of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings--a gorgeous, raw nerve, screeching tire sort of story.  Only Emily Bronte will be able to move her out of the desperate South.

I, meanwhile am wandering through the early 20th century countryside with Kate Morton.  It is strangely at odds with the bright blue water and pale yellow beach.  But perfect too.  When I look up from the misted walkways and the rustle of silk, I am here.  The sunny blue water is extra splashy, extra bright, the sand is extra sandy, the salt is extra tart and the great, green turtles are extra turtley in comparison.