Monday musings: Lessons learned from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

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By DelSheree Gladden

I’ve been on a quest to read some of the classics I should have read by now. Actually, I listen to them on audiobook while I run, but same difference. I wanted to read classics not just so I know what people are talking about when these books come up, but because reading is one of the best ways to improve your writing, so why not learn from the masters?As Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” I’ve got the writing a lot part down, but I’ve neglected reading lately, particularly classic literature.

stephen-king-read-a-lot-quote

So, on to Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

This was a different type of book than I’d normally pick up, but my friend Denise recommended it so I thought I’d give it a try. This is a coming of age story, but it doesn’t really have a focused plot. The reader simply follows the characters’ lives for a certain period of time. I have to admit, it wasn’t one of my favorite books for that reason. I like a clear-cut storyline I can follow.

However, I found the book absolutely fascinating from a historical perspective. If you want to know what early 20th century life in Brooklyn was like, read this book! I don’t write historical fiction because it is way too much work. I’m not willing to put in the research, time, and effort to do it justice, so I leave it to those more capable. If I were ever going to write historical fiction, though, I’d use this book as a guide.

Aside from the careful attention to detail in this book that made it so fascinating, one of the most poignant lessons I learned from this book was the importance of writing realistic characters, and I mean realistic to the point of almost being painful. Because this is a historical fiction novel meant to capture the great difficulty most poor Brooklynites faced in the first few decades of the 1900s, it truly delves into the awful situations of the time.

Spoilers ahead

There were times the family has so little food, they would play a game pretending they were explores at the North Pole waiting for supplies to arrive-slowly starving in the mean time. Sometimes the rescue didn’t come quickly.

The mother, Katie, admits not only that she loves her son more than her daughter because he is an easier child and different enough from her that she can understand him, but also that her marriage choice has left her facing a bleak future of staying with her drunkard husband and carrying the family largely on her own.

Francie, the main character, is often told by others that she’s barely pretty enough to be considered passable. It breaks your heart when she falls for the first guy willing to dote on her and ends up bitterly heartbroken when she realizes how cruel people can be.The handsome, charming Johnny, a young man teen girls dream of being swept off their feet by, doesn’t turn out to be Prince Charming at all. He’s a drunk who folds under pressure, never wanted the children he has, and despite loving his family, is incapable of being the father or husband his family needs and deserves, and dies young and penniless.

The early 1900s in Brooklyn were a harsh time period. Betty Smith doesn’t sugarcoat it to give readers a nice, feel-good story. She highlights the unfair struggles real people face, the crushing mistakes they make, the regret they face over unrealistic or selfish choices, and the often bleak hope they hold onto that things will get better.

Lesson learned

If your goal is to tell a realistic story, develop characters who are deeply flawed, make choices they regret, face unfair situations, and are sometimes unlikable. In other words, write real realistic characters.

USA Today Bestselling Young Adult and Romance Author DelSheree Gladden loves books—reading them and writing them.

DelSheree lives in New Mexico with her husband and two children. When she is not writing, DelSheree is usually reading, painting, sewing, or working as a Dental Hygienist.

Get to know more about DelSheree on:

And follow her on Twitter @Delsheree.

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Thursday teaser: The Girl in the Window

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By Renée Pawlish

It was the same thing, five days a week.

Caleb McCormick backed out of his driveway in his Mercedes S-class sedan. The car was black and sleek, and it shimmered in the morning light. The engine rumbled and growled, but it was a comforting sound to me, like the purr of a cat – a big cat. It was the perfect car for the perfect man, the man I looked for each morning.

The Mercedes reached the street,turned, and drove slowly past my house. I slid to the side of the window. I didn’t want him to see me watching. Not again. But I peeked out anyway.

Caleb McCormick. Thirty-three years old, a financial advisor. His dark hair neatly trimmed, one lost dark curl falling down his forehead in a sexy way. I imagined his blue eyes sparkling as he quickly donned a pair of Oakley sunglasses to ward off the early morning April sun.

Gawd, he’s gorgeous.

The Mercedes neared the corner, slowed down and disappeared. I let out a lungful of air I hadn’t realized I was holding in. The last time he’d driven by – yesterday morning a little after seven – he’d glanced my way. He’d seen me watching – not for the first time –and waved, a half-smile on his baby face. I’d lifted a hand in return and smiled back. It was our morning connection, a treasured moment. At least for me.

What did he think when he saw me, each weekday morning at the same time, standing in the window in my pink silk robe, staring out at him? It must not have bothered him – after all, he always drove by and acknowledged me in a seemingly pleasant way.

With a sigh, I moved back in front of the window and gazed down the street, where the Mercedes had just been. Then I glanced in the other direction, toward his house, and frowned. After what had happened with his wife yesterday, I needed to be careful.

About The Girl in the Window

From the bestselling author of the Reed Ferguson mystery series and the Dewey Webb historical mystery series comes an enthralling story of psychological suspense.

Five days a week, Amber watches from her window as her handsome neighbor Caleb leaves for work. In the midst of a bitter divorce, Amber longs for the seemingly perfect life Caleb and his wife Erin have.

“I’d kill for that kind of life,” Amber says.

But would she?

Perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train or Gone Girl.

What readers are saying:

Girl in the Window echoes psychological thrillers like Girl on the Train, which I am a true fan of. I loved the suspense Ms. Pawlish creates from a slow build to a fast paced shocking ending I didn’t see coming.”—MagnoliaBelle

“I love all Renee’s books but for some reason this was my favorite. I got hooked right from the start and read it all the way through!” — Jean

“If you like suspense with twists and turns in the plot, you will love this book. Did not see the ultimate outcome if this story. You will not be disappointed by this book.” — M.

“I found this psychological suspense novel intriguing and hard to put down before the end.” E.L.

Available now on Amazon.

About the author

Renée Pawlish is the award-winning author of the bestselling Reed Ferguson mystery series, horror bestseller Nephilim Genesis of Evil, The Noah Winters YA Adventure series, middle-grade historical novel This War We’re InTake Five, a short story collection, and The Sallie House: Exposing the Beast Within, a nonfiction account of a haunted house investigation.

Renée has been called “a promising new voice to the comic murder mystery genre” and “a powerful storyteller.” Nephilim Genesis of Evil has been compared to Stephen King and Frank Peretti.

Renée was born in California, but has lived most of her life in Colorado.

Find more about Renée and her books on

 

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Monday musings: Three things’s I’ve learned from writing

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Thursday teasers: New books from your favorite #BestsellingReads authors

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New Bestseller: The Girl in the Window

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Monday musings: Travel and inspiration

“Where do you get your ideas from?” Cecily Pigeon (or maybe it was Gwendolyn) asked Felix Unger in Neil Simon’s play, The Odd Couple. It’s a question every writer gets. While Felix, who wrote news for TV, could answer “From the news!” for fiction … [Continue reading]