A mechanical shark & movie adaptations of books

Last week I sat down with the family to watch a movie my husband had NEVER seen (!). It was the rather popular shark movie (specifically a great white shark) made in the late 70’s to scare people away from ever swimming in the ocean despite the rare occurrence of a shark attack. According to Reader’s Digest (see link in the previous sentence):

Shark attacks are rare and almost never deadly

But the truth about shark attacks is beside the point and would ruin the whole premise for the book and movie. Are you wondering what movie I’m talking about? JAWS. It was a book with the same title that was made into a movie and produced by Steven Spielberg.

Movie adaptations of books, more often than not, miss the mark when I’ve read the original book. In fact, I often wish the marketing tagline would say something like: A book was written with similar themes, but this movie really veers off course from the original intent. Or, we decided to change a ton of stuff from the original book including the trajectory of the main character for this film adaptation. I know it’s a tactic to get the people who read the book to see the film. Don’t get me wrong, I often see movies after I’ve read a book with the same title. I’m just starting to realize that I need to approach movie adaptations with a different view, that it really is a completely new story. I’m a little slow. It doesn’t apply to JAWS because I never read it, but now I’m curious.

Anyway, as we watched the movie I couldn’t help but think about Moby Dick (well, the first half of MD. . . I never finished the book, I admit it!). For obvious reasons the shark reminded me of the whale in MD, but also some of the characters had similarities.

SPOILER ALERT (regarding character backstory)

Quint is the shark hunter in JAWS. Not until a particularly drunken conversation between Quint and the marine biologist revolving around who has the most terrible scars/injuries do we find out that Quint has a vendetta against sharks, all sharks. In the war (WWII), his boat sank and along with thousands of other soldiers was left to be fed to the hundreds of sharks (another scare tactic and likely would never happen) that devoured all but Quint in the end. I won’t give away the ending, but in the end, this story was more about what the shark represented to the American people in the 70’s. Interpretations include greed, capitalism, and fear of the unknown.

Mental Floss created a list of interesting facts about the movie, my favorite? #13 on their list. A local fisherman was the inspiration for the character Quint. Check out the clip on the Mental Floss link.

In any case, there are very few movies who are able to stay true to the original book they were adapted from. I’m sure a lot has to do with funds, the versatility of cast, and the overall ability to interpret the original work. Lately, though, I haven’t found one that stays true enough to the book. I’m thinking of Ready Player One, The Glass Castle and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Those were all vastly different than the books they were adapted from. My favorite out of the three was The Glass Castle. I think they did a fairly good job overall on that one.

Now, I loved the JAWS ride at Universal Studios as a kid and that, too, made a lasting impression on me.

Check back next with when we hear from Erica Steele in an author Q and A!

Books and pregnancy

Well, I finally went social media official about my pregnancy and thought I would do a post on this book I am reading, Like a Mother A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy by Angela Garbes. She is actually doing a reading at Powell’s at the end of the month. If I am not too tired and pregnant by then I hope to go to it. Ha!

Anyway, I am not quite halfway through and I am really enjoying it. My favorite chapter was about the placenta. Maybe I am one of the few, but I had no idea the placenta was considered and organ (one that my body grows specifically for the baby) and that it has 50% genetic material from me and 50% from my husband! I love biological facts of all kinds and the whole chapter just made me want to read it out loud to my husband! He had me mark it for him so he could read it on his own. I just kept interrupting him while he was reading his book and I guess that annoyed him…

Anyway, I recommend it to people who are curious about pregnancy and also the culture surrounding it. I might hold off if you are just a few weeks away from giving birth though. At least skip the chapter where the author talks about how her birth went. The message is great in the end, but it might freak you out.

Lately, people have started telling me their horror stories of their birth experiences. I need to find a way to stop them. I don’t want to feel anxious about that part of pregnancy yet. That day will come and I trust my body, my support system, my doctor, and my husband to help me through, even if it ends up a horror story!

Any book recommendations that include biological science for the everyday reader? Lay them on me!

Q & A with Author, Erin Kettle

I met Erin at The Attic Institute in Portland. We took a novel writing class with Whitney Otto that connected us and kept us writing. I’m so glad we’ve kept in touch and now you get to learn a little more about her.

Erin Kettle is an author of women’s fiction. Her career is also in communications and EPatterson_Photopublic relations, most recently as a spokesperson for NIKE, Inc. As a result, Erin has written countless statements, manifestos, and press releases. Prior to her career in communications, she wrote for several publications as part of their editorial staff including The New Yorker, BRIDE’S Magazine and GQ.

Erin’s last two books were chosen to compete in a variety of unpublished fiction contests including Writer’s Voice on “Team Coffeehouse,” Query Kombat 2016, WriteClub 2016, PitchWars Setting Critique 2017, Query Kombat 2017 and Nightmare on Query Street 2017 and Nightmare on Query Street 2017.

When not writing or consulting, Erin enjoys spending time with family and friends and trying to catch her two young girls and two dogs, as they run circles around her.

What do you write?

Ever since I was little, whether watching a movie or reading a book, I was enthralled with how they would draw me into this fictional world. I wanted to find a way to write that could make people feel so deeply and would often find myself thinking of different types of story ideas. I remember writing my first short story in elementary school just for the heck of it in my spare time and wanted to create a whole book concept to go along with it. After college, I started writing editorials for magazines, moved into public relations and strategy work, but it wasn’t until I began writing novels that I realized how much if fed the soul.

Favorite book that you think is underrated?

I have to say that even though they are short stories, “The Body” (aka Stand By Me) and “Shawshank Redemption” are two of my favorites. Yes, they are both amazing movies as well, but if you read the book, the dialogue is literally verbatim. Stephen King is an amazing author, but the way he creates these characters that come off the page are outstanding in all of their faults and glory.

Favorite book from childhood?

There are so many from Shel Silverstein as the first shock and awe, to my first book love, “The Hunky-Dory Dairy” by Anne Lindbergh (1986) where a young girl stumbled upon a farm with people that somehow time traveled from the 1800s. I was fascinated.

Use three words to describe what keeps you writing and persevering?

Possibilities, dreams, survival

Where do you draw your inspiration to keep writing?

Inspiration is everywhere, and sometimes reality is crazier than fiction. Writing is a cross-pollination of ideas where you just keep pushing the narrative to see what could happen in a particular story. It’s exciting when it really starts coming together.

As a writer who/what is your muse (person, animal, vegetable or mineral)?

Sloth. Kidding! I just think they’re cute. I’d say I love snow leopards. I always loved their beauty as a child, and how stealth they were. That is until my mom told me they just wanted to eat me. At any rate, they’re unexpectedly interesting.

What was one of the hardest scenes for you to write?

To be honest, in my first coming of age book, it was the sex scene. I kept imaging my family and nieces/nephews reading it one day. I just had to let go of that idea and try to be true to the characters.

What do you think helps you to become a better writer?

Relentless learning. I just finished up a five-week class last night at the Attic in Portland, Oregon. It’s not easy to go to class 8-10 PM every week, especially when life is so busy, but it’s so important to get out of your head and just try something different. I’m always reading, usually three books at a time as well: fiction, non-fiction and some type of writing book. I’ve realized the thought process I have when working through these books is really introspective as well.

How do you think being someone else’s beta reader helps inform your own writing process? Or helps you become a better writer?

Thinking about writing structure and character development, among other things, as a beta reader really helps to build up that writing lens to also dissect your own work.


Connect with Erin here:
Website
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Check out previous Author Q & As:

Beth Green, Crime Fiction Author
Karen Hugg, novelist

Book Event: Oregon Book Awards

IMG_8760Last week, the Oregon Book Awards sponsored by Oregon Literary Arts doled out checks and drink tickets to the winners. This year I knew one of the nominees and had read three of the books nominated, two of which, won their awards. The three books I read were The Last to Die – a young adult novel by Kelly Garrett, The Fish Market – nonfiction book by Lee Van Der Voo (she subbed on my co-ed soccer team a few years ago!) and Strange the

IMG_8757Dreamer – a young adult novel by Laini Taylor. The latter two won in their category. I highly recommend all three books depending on your mood. Each one was well-written and immersive. After sitting through the list of nominees and reading their book descriptions, I have a few more books to add to my “to read” list.

This year, I truly felt part of the writing community. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten more involved in readings, workshops, and writerly events. What that means is, I recognize or have had interactions with many of the writers in the Oregon community. I’ve also put myself out there to meet new people. It’s fun to see some of them out in the world and getting nominated for awards, receiving fellowships (Yay, Jacob Aiello!), or enjoying an event.

The night started out with vegan gluten-free pizza with two friends (Erin and Erica) who I met through a writing workshop at The Attic Institue. We’ve been friends now for a few years. We met up with Kelly and her husband to celebrate her accomplishment as a nominee for the Oregon Book awards. I was a little off that night due to getting hit by a car as a pedestrian in a crosswalk two days before, but I wanted to be there. The whole getting hit by a car story is one for another day, or maybe I’ll turn it into a short story or a scene in my next novel! I’m doing okay after a few days of limping, a bandaged hand, and some emotional trauma that is ongoing. I don’t recommend this experience. My advice: wear a fluorescent jumpsuit at all times and be aware of your surroundings at all times!

Anyway, we ate and headed to the event where we sat up in the balcony. A few minutes after I sat down, I looked to my left and noticed I was sitting next to another writer, Mo Daviau, who I had recently met at a happy hour I hosted! She also wrote a fantastic book called Every Anxious Wave about a wormhole that allows people to go back in time to see their favorite band play. There’s more to it than that, but check it out. It’s a small community once you start putting yourself out there and meeting others around town. On our way out, I saw my friend Hillary an awesome librarian (and someone who is always smiling) who said she and her staff chose the adult novel, American War by Omar El Akkad, and highly recommends it. I’ve already added that to my reading list.

What’s on your reading list?

Review: The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Picked this up randomly at the library. So glad I did. An unexpected gem! Review to come.

Review

I picked up Heidi Durrow’s, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (2010), while browsing the fiction section at the local branch of my neighborhood library. Generally I put books that I know I want to read on hold there and then go pick them up. It has become exceptionally rare for me to simply browse the bookshelves at the library and try something based on the cover or inside flaps.

Honestly, I don’t know what made me pick it up. Was it the cover that boasted “winner of The Bellwether Prize in Fiction?” I don’t even know what the Bellwether prize is or what criterion is used to determine the winner. Or was it the favorable blurbs on the back of the book that includes a quote from a fiction teacher that I recently took a class with? Or was it the simple description on the inside cover about a bi-racial girl of Danish and Black heritage that gripped me? Probably all of those things. I also liked that it was a debut novel about society’s idea of race, class and beauty as the back cover pointed out. Of course, it was much more than that.

Since I live in Portland (I’m going on fourteen years) I felt a kinship with the story in a way that I didn’t expect to. Durrow paints a picture of familiar places around town in a way that I hadn’t seen them before. Since I didn’t group up here, it gave me a glimpse at what it would have been like to be a teenager here. We are taken to the Salvation Army where one of the characters works and then to a familiar park I’ve visited many times. It surprised me to feel such a close connection to the setting of a novel. I felt that it gave me more insight than the average reader because I already knew the setting and the type of culture that the narrator was surrounded by.

Another surprise was the slow and eventual realization that the main character, Rachel, a young girl and the most central character of the novel, had arrived in Portland from Chicago because of a tragic accident. Durrow does an expert job of slowly revealing what those events were and how they left her without a mother or a father to care for her. I’m not giving anything away by saying this. The haunting tale of a past that follows her throughout her life, in both tangible and intangible ways, carries the reader through this novel. Durrow shows us Rachel’s growth over time with all types of growing pains. She meets a boy and he reminds her of the Danish heritage her mother gave her. She speaks Dutch with his mother at a dinner she is invited to. But the boy also reminds her that she is black and that he has never slept with a “black girl” before. She’s a smart girl trying to figure out her complicated place in the world. There is a lot going on in this book. It has a layered effect that is only enhanced by the multiple points of view this story is told from. Each point of view reveals more and more layers of the story.

Durrow is precise when it comes to shifting character perspectives and voices. I was worried that I would eventually feel lost, but I didn’t. Not once. I wanted the novel to go on a bit longer, but it was mainly because I liked the characters so much, not because she didn’t do a good job of letting us figure out the rest of the story. I can’t say enough good things about this wonderful debut novel. I think she balanced plot (the action in the book), story (the emotional lives of the characters), and characterization perfectly.

I’ve always loved learning about people and their experiences⎯different ways of doing things, of being in the world and coping. This story made me want to sit down and talk with every single one of her characters and hear more of their stories. That’s a good sign from a book I randomly picked up at the library. A fantastic book.

View all my reviews