Reading as Research

A few weeks ago, I was on the subway and I saw someone reading The Golden Road. It was a matted beat up copy that looked like either the reader had read it three or four times, or, that she had bought it used. I had a feeling that it was the first. Knowing that The Golden Road was a sequel to The Story Girl and knowing that I had wanted to read The Story Girl, I figured that this was a some kind of universal sign that in my current Montgomery reading, this is where I needed to go.

The conundrum…I wanted to also read Elizabeth Waterson’s new book, Magic Island as well. She has written a book in which each chapter discusses a Montgomery novel. The English major in me got incredibly excited. What if I read a book and then read the chapter which pertains to the book! I know, insanity. But, reading about how my favourite author wrote I think is how I will develop my own awareness of how I create. In a way, I am researching writing. I didn’t know that that was what I was doing, but I realized it the other day.

The voice in The Story Girl is slightly different then in Montgomery’s other books that I have read as it is male (which is interesting as most of her protagonists are female) and an older male at that. The narration is of a person looking back at a summer he spent with his brother in P.E.I. So, often, the story will sort of stop and he will reflect upon the situation as an adult. In a way, the novel is a memoir of one man’s reflection of a summer of youth.

I am writing a teen novel. There I said it. The energy in those six words.

When I think of the teen that I want to write about, I find myself thinking about my own high school experience. Which makes sense as a person will write from what they know. As I begin to write, however, the characters transform and become only tiny aspects of who I knew and who I was. But, what started me on my way was the idea of looking back. I began as myself looking back at high school, who I was in 1989 and what the world was like. From here, things are exploding within. Stories are emerging, characters are coming. I wondered if it was a good idea to write a teen book that took place 20 years ago, but perhaps they can market it as “historical fiction.” 🙂 Perhaps, not. Or, perhaps it won’t be a teen novel at all. But, right now, it is emerging into something.

In truth, I have a few “novels” emerging into something. I have no idea if this one will go furthur than it has and I don’t want to say anymore about it for it is in a very sensitive space. The point was that from following one road, I found something along the way.

And today, I am going to read the chapter in Waterson’s book on The Story Girl.

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About Melanie J. Fishbane

My novel, MAUD: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery was published in 2017 through Penguin Random House on April 25, 2017. I hold an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Here I talk about my writing process, things I love, and creative people who inspire me.
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