It really has been a busy week in the world of soztheo.me. I have been delighted to have been involved in the Writerly Yours #NailbitersNovel Blog Tour. This week has also been a busy week on The Blog Tag Group, where the weeks prompts have been centered around fitness and excercise.
MK Williams is a woman chasing her dream, her first novel Nailbiters is getting great reviews, and soztheo.me proudly presents an exclusive interview with the author herself…
It really has been a great week to be a blogger. I reviewed my first novel for the Writerly Yours #NailbitersNovel Blog Tour on Tuesday, a book which blew me away, and now I am privileged to interview the author herself, MK Williams.
Originally from Philadelphia, but now living in Tampa, MK Williams is a woman uncompromisingly pursuing her dream. MK Williams has always loved writing. She wrote a lot of poetry when she was in high school and college, and for the past few years has done a few freelance articles. While she juggles her full-time ‘day job’ and full-time passion, Nailbiters signals a future in which MK’s dream that her passion for writing may one day be her full-time occupation. So from where did this passion for writing come?
“I don’t have a specific memory of when I knew I wanted to be a writer. I have always enjoyed writing and I set a goal early in life that I wanted to be published because that is what successful writers do. In recent years, I’ve realized that as long as I enjoy what I am writing that I don’t need anyone else’s approval in order to feel successful. That has been a very liberating feeling.”
I have said it often on my blog, but I am a huge post-apocalyptic survival story fan – Stephen King’s The Last Stand and The Cell; The Walking Dead; The Christian-based Left Behind Series… Nailbiters joins this list. It’s a huge story to tell. And so I was curious to find out from MK how her version of Hell on Earth came to be:
“I loved The Stand by Stephen King as well! So great! Nailbiters came about in stages. I had a very vivid and very scary dream and the idea of the invasion was born. I started a short story, but it never went anywhere, so I decided to work on something else. A few months later, I had another dream and some of the villains: Gael and Don were created. I picked the story back up, made some edits, and then left it alone again. About two years ago I finally had an idea of where the story would go, who the characters would be, where they would end up, and what the overall message would be. After that, it was easy to put together.”
The thing that struck me the most while reading Nailbiters was the seemingly effortless intensity with which the story unfolds. But after years of trying to get my own post-apocalyptic, dystopian novel off the ground, I am not at all delusional about the fact that effortless a venture it is not.
“I think the biggest challenge in writing anything is not getting distracted, not focusing on all the things that I am giving up so that I can lock myself away and just write. I usually have to turn off the wifi on my computer so that I’m not tempted to start surfing the internet. Even though I love writing, sometimes I can get easily distracted.”
And as for the yang to the difficulty ying?
“For me, the easiest part is the dialogue. Sometimes, I can think of the conversation that the characters are having faster than I could ever write it down. I love to include an intelligent and informative dialogue between characters.”
This is one of my biggest challenges in writing, I personally really struggle with the dialogue, establishing a dialogue that flows naturally yet which facilitates its unnatural intention of storytelling in words alone, it debilitates me as a writer, and is the bane to my personal process… Many of my own personal writer’s block challenges has been formed on the back thereof, and so I was most interested to find out MK’s thoughts and approach to writer’s block.
“I had two years’ worth of writer’s block on Nailbiters. My advice is to just let it go, when you are inspired to work on that story again, it will come. I have always found that when I force myself to work on something the product isn’t as great. If I let it come naturally the story develops much better. I usually start working on another story or novel when I get writer’s block on any one story. If I am blocked on all the stories I have going, then I read – A LOT.”
And it is in reading that MK repeatedly turns as a lover of her craft. Inspiration is found within the pages of the books she love, but so to is the necessary research which feeds into her creative process.
“I do research in the form of reading other books from that genre. I try to let my writing be a place where there are no rules, so I try not to let what others have done impact my work too much. Even when I am writing a story that is based in reality, I like to play with elements that I think are fun. If I stuck to research too much, I would probably give up.”
The most compelling and interestingly consistent hook within the novel Nailbiters is the presentation of the story through the primary protagonist of Dora. It is through Dora’s eyes and first person presentation of her recounted experience that we as readers become invested. I desperately wanted to find out from MK about her thoughts on Pandora, what is the inspiration and how much of MK lives within the character.
“One thing that I saw in other recent post-apocalyptic tales was that the female characters were all teenagers. I knew from the get-go that Dora was an adult, she had life experience that would help her get through the situations that she was thrown into. I think I want to see myself in Dora, she is fierce and determined. She is far stronger than any other woman that I know, even though at times she feels defeated. I want to have that kind of courage and strength, so I gave to her something that I could only imagine.”
Satisfied with the inspiration and mental approach which MK has given us insight to, I (particularly as an aspiring writer) want to find out more about the practicalities of her process:
How is your process structured?
“I have a notebook that I carry with me everywhere I go. I’ll think of bits of dialogue or scenes for characters and jot them down. Once I have enough of these little notes together, I’ll put them into a Word Document on the computer and keep track of all the little notes and bits. When I have a clear idea of what the story is, how the characters will develop, and what the end outcome will be, I will write out a point by point outline of the story (roughly a paragraph summary for each chapter). Then, I’ll organize the existing notes in order and begin writing from there. Sometimes I will jump around and work on chapters out of order, other times I’ll go back and re-read everything in order to see what I need to include.”
Is there a specific time of the day you prefer to write?
“I would prefer to be able to write at any point of theday. I get ideas at the most inconsistent of times. If I could devote 100% of my time to writing, I would like to write in the mornings after a long run and spend my afternoons editing and reading. But, since I have a full-time day job I fit in writing when I can.”
What tools and techniques do you use (and cannot do without) to get the thoughts onto the page – IE: Music; mind maps; any specific apps; plot tools?
“The main tools that I use are my notebook, Microsoft Word, and a carefully curated playlist of music. I have playlists for each story that I work on. The Nailbiters Playlist(available on spotify) is particularly dark. Some of the newer stories that I am working on have a more upbeat tone. It really depends on the mood of the story.”
Do you free-flow and edit later? Or do you plot it out and document it?
“I do a little bit of both. I write down my ideas haphazardly and then organize them once I have a clear idea of what the story will be. I know some writers say that you have to write it all out and then take away. I find that I often skip a lot of explanation and description, so I am always adding in a lot and then editing extraneous content out.”
So… The story is complete, having poured years into the work, the process of getting to the final draft, how does that happen in MK’s World?
“As I’m writing, I’ll usually share the excitement about the story with my husband, but he doesn’t read it until it is done. He helps me edit, as does my mother-in-law. They are both so helpful and generous with their time! I also have a great friend, Nora Gecan, who helped design the cover art for Nailbiters. She was one of the first people to read Nailbiters outside of my family. I was really nervous because she reads a lot and I knew she would tell me the truth if she thought it was a bad story. She said she loved it and the cover art that she created is spectacular!”
Nailbiters is a self-published novel, a medium of publishing which has really taken off in this digital age, I have asked MK to give us her thoughts on self-publishing vs traditional publishing…
“I tried to go the traditional publishing route and didn’t find much success. Most people don’t, but I was often put-down by others who said that I didn’t have enough life experience to write anything that would matter. That really turned me off to the idea of traditional publishing. As I worked on Nailbiters I felt defeated before it was even complete. Then I realized that I didn’t need the approval of the publishing industry, I just needed to know that I enjoyed writing the story, that it could make a difference to someone, and that my character’s story was being told. I have learned so much through self-publishing and couldn’t imagine giving away my story for someone else to market and promote.”
As we approach the end of the interview I take a step back and consider how practical and systematic MK is in relation to her art. But one thing I know for sure, having penned a few far more amateurish pieces of my own, is that the accomplishment of her first published novel can only have had an everlasting effect upon her. How has the Nailbiter’s journeys influenced and changed MK?
“I think it has given me the confidence to write the things that I want to write. The content in Nailbiters is dark, and I worried that people would think I was really weird for writing such a dark book. But, the book has been well received. I feel okay writing even darker and weirder content, when the timing is right.”
And The number one piece of advice she would give to her younger self and other aspiring writers?
“Keep working at it and don’t try to be someone else. Trying to be someone else will never work, you have to be you in order to be successful.”
Nailbiters commences a career which is ready to be continued, MK is most of the way through editing her next project. She’ll be releasing a collection of short stories this year and is really excited to see how they are received. There won’t be any aliens in this one though, but expect a few twists and turns nonetheless. Naturally the question about a Nailbiters sequel is in the air, and the answer is :
Last question… Are you a biter of nails?
“Of course, it is my worst habit that I am always trying to beat.”
It has been a real pleasure to be involved with the #NailbitersNovel Blog Tour, and to have had the opportunity to interview and learn from MK Williams, a selfish endeavour for me as I enjoy exploring and engaging with other writers, but one which I hope entertains you the reader as well. Thank You MK for your time, and to my readers, be sure to get a copy of Nailbiters now!!!
Want to find out more about MK Williams and her work? Check out the other stops on the Writerly Yours #NailbitersNovel Blog Tour:
“The only thing scarier than the aliens, are the humans” – Is that why I don’t like MK Williams? 😛
What do you do when the world has gone to Hell? What do you do when you are being hunted, and you know not why? What do you do when there is not time to stop, breathe, and strategize? What do you do when there is no sanctuary? What do you do? … You run for your life…
As a reader I have always been a fan of Horror, Fantasy and Sci-Fi, this is also evidenced in my movie and series choices when it comes to viewing. I am a reader born from Roald Dahl. I graduated to Stephen King and Anne Rice. I am also a huge fan of the Apocalyptic and Dystopian setting for novels. In fact, the drafted novel I have been working on for the last ten years of my procrastinating and unfocussed writing life, is exactly that kind of novel.
It is for this reason that I am not a fan of MK Williams…
Set in a world which hasn’t even had the chance to consider recovery from a deadly on-going alien invasion, Nailbiters is the… (prepare yourself)… nailbiting journey of Dora, one of humanities survivors, on the run from an enemy she hasn’t even had the chance to see.
MK Williams masterfully writes prose that is fast-paced, unrelenting and urgent. It is so effective and seemingly effortless, as to be nauseating (that’s nausea born from jealousy, btw). And she just won’t quit as she puts Dora through her paces, making her earn every one of her worthy protagonist stripes.
I’m gonna hold off on praising MK Williams too much for now, but I am a fan, and am privileged as part of this Writerly Yours Blog Tour to have had a chance to interview her. An interview I will be sharing on this blog later this week.
For now, let’s talk about Dora…
Dora is a strong, intelligent, young woman. It’s her strength that has kept her alive. We meet her and her companions as they travel across the desert, running from their would be captors. With no place to hide and nothing but a forward trajectory to hold on to, Dora looks for sanctuary in others like her… Human. There is a sense of security in finding cohorts with whom you can navigate the chaos of a terrifying new world, The Walking Dead fans know this well, there’s an intrinsic belief in people about strength in numbers. But where Dora is strong and intelligent, it is her reliance on the commonality of the human condition with which she needs to grapple, especially when faced with the extraterrestrial factor. It’s a new world and whether you like it or not, every person is on their own personal mission of survival. As the tagline of the book says,
“The only thing scarier than the aliens, are the humans”
As I mentioned previously, MK Williams puts Dora through her paces. Our protagonist is in a world of antagonists, and they’re of both worlds. Dora does not have the luxury to take time, having to act quickly. Who can she trust? As Dora narrates her story, we are subjected to the twists and turns of her human need to survive as Nailbiters keeps you guessing right until the final page.
This is my first prescribed reading for review purposes, and there was obviously some apprehension as I am not known for not being outspoken. I thank the heavens above that my first book review has been such an enjoyable literary experience. I was quite literally hooked by the end of the first page! It helps that I am a fan of this genre obviously, but being a fan of a certain genre does not equate to automatically enjoying a genre novel. The author has to step up to the plate (cue jealousy-comment-reminder :P), and Nailbiters comes out swinging, claiming its place as a book I will recommend – as I am doing right now.
In conclusion, Read the Book :)!
It’s a fast-paced, gripping ride through a world gone mad. If I could capture the feeling of the journey as I read it, I would equate it to the first time I watched Mad Max: Fury Road, that feeling where the race is on, the scope is ambitious and epic, reminiscent of some of my favourite novels including The Stand and The Left Behind Series.
Oh! And be sure to follow us on twitter #NailbiterNovel and for the rest of our Blog Tour, schedule below:
It has been a really busy week for me personally, and I missed a day of blogging yesterday, but not for nought – it’s hard work being a family man, so I thought I would take the time today to answer yesterdays question on The Blog Tag, as well as the end of week Q&A 🙂 I also didn’t do the tag post from Tuesday as my Monday Book Review was also about my favourite book of all time, Beloved by Toni Morrison, so that was a two for one-er – apparently while missing a day or two I also over-delivered (it’s all about balance 🙂 )!
So without further ado, My list of my Top 5 Favourite Book (Series) of all time
– Wait a minute soztheo.me, it’s your Top 5 Favourite Books of all time?
– Did you not hear me, voice on my screen, I’m over delivering here, so without further ado, soztheo.me’s favourite:
Top 5 Book Series of All Time
1. The Discworld Novels – Terry Pratchett
Over the last two years I have been on a monumental literary journey into a world I have only ever visited briefly before. I read my first Terry Pratchett novel when I was a teenager. Over the years I sporadically revisited his writing. I was always entertained but I never got into the world of Terry Pratchett until I made the decision two years ago to dive into the world whole-heartedly, committing myself to reading the entire series.
Since then I have read nineteen of the forty-one published Discworld novels, tackling them in order, reading them in between (or in conjuction with) my other readings, loving each one as this ever expanding world continues to expand in partnership with the guided realms of my imagination. It is nothing short of completely inspirational to step into the immense world of another man’s hysterically funny and entertaining inspiration.
The Witches, The Wizards, The City Watch, Death… The realisation of all these characters and their melding into the illogical-except-for-in-the-Discworld themed novels, has me absolutely in awe everytime I reach the end, and commence another journey set on a flat disc balanced on the backs of four elephants which in turn stand on the back of a giant turtle, Great A’Tuin…
May he Rest in Peace, and while he rests may his brilliance forever live.
(28 April 1948 – 12 March 2015)
2. The Vampire Chronicles; Lives of the Mayfair Witches Series – Anne Rice
It all started with a movie… The first time I ever went to a movie by myself was when I was a young impressionable 14 year old lad, the movie was Interview with the Vampire and in the viewing I was exposed to a type of story telling I had never experienced before. I loved horror movies from a very young age. As a child I grew up with entertainers for parents. I grew up watching Michael Jackson’s Making of Thriller Beta video. I grew up in a world of stage make-up. I knew that what happened on screen was the work of experts. I watched the classics, Dracula et al. However, I had never seen vampires and villains, anti-heroes, like Louis, Lestat and Claudia. I had never seen horror so grandiosely humanized and humour; so gothic; so macabre.
As soon as the movie ended I went to the bookstore and bought the book. I devoured it, a vampire upon its prey, and the love affair began. Astoundingly intricate and breathtakingly ambitious are the best ways I can think right now to describe the shared universe of the Vampires and the clan of the Mayfair Witches – two worlds from separate series that would later collide as the Vampire chronicles reached an end, from which they would again arise but a year ago. The style of storytelling that flies from the past into the present, from the metaphysical to the real. In one book we are engaging with the devil himself. In another we are re-experiencing mortality. We examine through the studying of ancient records, the lives of an entire family-lineage of witches. My favourite villain of all time, Akasha The Queen of the Damned, explodes out of these pages. Best of all, we bare witness to the creating of an entirely new mythology and rich history of vampirism, and in that we discovery the insanely rich tapestry which has born such pale spawn who will forever pale like Twilight, True Blood and Fifty Shades of Grey…
Fifty Shades of Grey? It’s strangely ironic, that this sad example of literacy, born as fan-fiction from the pale waffle of Twilight, is yet again pale against the erotic literature of Miss Rice… Look that up! The mind that birthed these is one of the most intriguing creations. When we read books or engage with any art form for that fact, it is actually the mind of the artist we engage with. It is really a footnote here, but:
1. The key Vampire Lestat is a literary representation and manifestation of Anne Rice’s husband Stan Rice;
2. Anne Rice wrote Interview With A Vampire while dealing with her daughter’s death from Leukemia – that’s blood cancer. #ArtIsPain
3. The Sandman Series – Neil Gaiman
There are those who would raise an eye at the inclusion of a graphic novel series in any list pertaining to literature… Well poo to you :)! Graphic Novels have a well deserved place in literature, with the best of the best winning major literature awards, including a Pulitzer ( and that would be in 1992; Maus aka Maus: A Survivor’s Tale — My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman). But my personal, most fantastical, most magical, most mythological, most inspiring-al and ambitious of these works which beautifully marry art of picture and art of word has got to The Sandman Series.
Neil Gaiman is the best friend of fantasy and genre breaking storytelling, a man whose love of fantasy has him in the good company of Terry Pratchett (with whom he collaborated on Good Omens). In his masterpiece collection of The Sandman Series, he introduces us to The Endless, anthropomorphic personifications of nature’s most confounding forces, more powerful than even the Gods and as eternal as the universe. They are the siblings, Destiny, Death, Destruction, Desire, Despair, Delirium and our chief protagonist in the tales, Dream aka Morpheus; who upon being released from a 70 year entrapment into a changed world, is reunited with his most dysfunctional of families. A family whose relationships with each other are as complex as the very idea of turning the seven forces they encompass into a dysfunctional family within the pages of a graphic novel collection spanning twelve multi-dimensional, multi-reality, truly-inspired story arcs. From the depths of Hell to the pages of Shakespeare, Neil Gaiman has comprised a collection of such grandiosity that the mind can only but be amazed 🙂
There’s It :)!
4. The Left Behind Series – Jerry B Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
This one is a guilty pleasure and I fully accept that many will argue it’s place on any list, but it’s my guilty pleasure, a series of books I quite literally enjoyed reading.
I am a human who was raised as a christian, spirituality is a deeply personal journey for every human on this planet. It has fed wars and hate, but each individual, at least at some point in their lives, has engaged with their understanding of the world and the amazement of existence. As a christian child I have been raised on Bible stories. The bible is an amazing collection of faith, reason, answers, historical reference and mystery, and the question of my own spirituality is deeply tied into the christian faith in which I was raised. The final book in the Bible is one of great fear and reckoning, Revelations is about the end times, about the wrath of God upon a world that has forsaken him, in which he withdraws himself and his arc-nemesis is allowed to do with the world as he will.
In light of this I am quite disgusted by how much I enjoyed this series (like I said, guilty pleasure). There is not an original thought in these books, and I would not necessarily recommend them to anyone else (although admittedly I have, to a select few). They are a fictional interpretation of the cryptically mystical final chapter of one of the oldest and most powerful of books. They tells the story of those Left Behind, in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world, as per the bible. It centers on a band of survivors who realise that the mysterious new world is a result of God’s will, and in that they seek to redeem and survive as the Anti-Christ rises to power. The books can get heavy on the christian rhetoric, they are written with a strong agenda, but for me they are engrossingly easy reading, and most probably as well written as Fifty Shades of Grey. In the past in my ruminations I have likened them to a soap opera, once hooked I had to see what would happen to the characters next, I did really enjoy these books, but they are rubbish and yet, like I have reread most books I enjoy, even now as I type, as I take stock of the absurdity that I am publishing a post of books I enjoyed and that these are on the list, I shrug my shoulders in acknowledgement of the fact that I will read them again…
And No! These books do not factor into my continuing journey of spirituality…
5. Harry Potter – JK Rowlings
This one is about respect, for appreciation of the journey, this one is for the ideal of the American Dream (as lived and achieved by a non-american),this one is for Enid Blyton, this one is for Roald Dahl :)!
I have had the same relationship with every Harry Potter movie, except for the last two: I hated every single one of the movies on the first watch and then every time I watched the movie again, I enjoyed it. It’s bizarre! I only picked up the books after the sixth movie was released, so before the last two which I enjoyed, funny that. For me, it’s all about the imagination unleashed within the world of Hogwarts, it’s a beautiful thing, it’s about the legend and legacy created, and as someone who believes in reading the books after watching the movies (because then you are never disappointed), I am a huge fan of the work.
If I am 100% honest, I am enjoying JK Rowling’s new Cormoran Strike series much more (check them out), but it is with the Harry Potter books that JK Rowling earns my respect, and why it owns this spot, on this list, today. What exists within the Harry Potter universe is nothing short of inspiring, the product of a storyteller, and what she has done in curating a massive audience to the literary world is nothing to be sniffed at. Fact: JK Rowling is the reason that an entire generation of reader’s exists.
And there you have a list of my 5 Top Book Series, now while these books really do exist in the fantastical, if you look at my choice of reading for stand alone novels, there is a vast difference in subject matter, but that, I believe, is for another day, for now, lets get to the Q&A for the week.
1. Do you have a specific place to read? Generally I read before I go to sleep, it is not very often that I will read while not in bed (before I go to sleep), when that does happen I must be alone, or on holiday, I enjoy reading when on holiday.
2. What book/s can you re-read without getting tired? As I generally read before I sleep, I do welcome getting tired, the disadvantage (especially at the end of a book) is that I can land up reading and not being able to put the book down – so sometimes reading can take me beyond tired.
3. Who is your favorite author? Toni Morrison
4. What is your favorite non-fiction book? Malika Oufkir and Michèle Fitoussi (2001), La Prisonnière (Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail) – one of the most astoundingly heart breaking and rewarding reads.
5. What is your most memorable childhood book? Roald Dahl’s The Witches
6. What quote from any book will you never forget? Why is it significant? I cannot tell you the significance, but the first two verses from The Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll has been in my head since I first encountered it as a child.
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
7. What books did you hate reading in school? I am ashamed to admit it, but the most difficult book for me to enjoy, and maybe it’s because it was presented to me as school work, and it has always been one of my favourite books to get halfway through, having tried many times even before it was prescribed reading, I really do love the universe and mythology of J.R.R. Tolkien, was The Hobbit. 8. Do you read before bed? Yep. 9. How many books is on your book shelf? I can’t count, but kindle has changed my life 10. What genre of books do you prefer? Epic Storytelling 11. Can you read while there is noise around, like music or T.V? No 12. Have you wrote any books? The stories are there, the worlds exist, they’ve been constructed and are authored in my brain, but not yet. 13. You walk into a book store, what do you walk out with? Children’s Books – it is now important to grow a love of books in my sons. 14. Worst book you ever read? It has got to be Gone Girl. I hated everything about it, which is the genius of the book really, because I hated all the characters but that is what kept me reading until the end, and I was engrossed, and it shocked me, but i hated it as much as I hated the characters… And it is so terrible I will recommend it to everybody, because that is the brilliance of it. 15. Do you have any collections of books? I collect Graphic Novels and book series like those in my list. 16. Do you have a library card? Yes, but I do not use it. 17. What is the last book you read? The last book i completed was Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett. 18. How many books do you read per year? It is inconsistent, last year was a great year, i can’t even recall how many books I read, but it was over forty, I was devouring them. 19. If you could write a book what would you title it? Haha! Wouldn’t you like to know! 20. Why is reading important to you? Reading is an excercise of appreciation, it’s about escapism and inspiration, like all art, like movies, it’s about being entertained and evoked emotionally.
Book mark or Anything that can hold your place Trade paper back ?(big book) or Paper back (small book) Novel or Biography Read the book or Watch the movie first Romance (Surprise, Surprise – but not schlockmance) or Science-Fiction
Is it possible to say that an entire novel is a metaphor? Well I just inferred that it was, so I guess that question is settled…
When I was was in my twenties I commenced a BA in English Literature, Toni Morrison’s book Sula was one of the elective readings we had to choose from (which I selected), and it was here that my appreciation for the writing’s of Toni Morrison began, but it was with her amazing novel Beloved that that appreciation became love…
Right from the books opening dedication to the “Sixty Million and more”, Toni Morrison commences a work of art which is worthy of it’s 1988 Pulitzer Prize winning place in history. It is a dedication which, like much of the novel, is constructed to resonate against the backdrop of historical reference which exists in the global consciousness. More specifically the implied juxtaposition of the dedication contrasts to the horrific figures of Jewish life lost during The Holocaust.
Toni Morrison is an Africa-American author; she is a descendant of slavery, and her works are written from this perspective, but to me Toni Morrison is a human author. I make this statement because it is Beloved, her greatest work, which magnificently transcends the focused nature of it’s subject matter, to speak to a greater commonality, which is our shared humanity. I use sweeping statements of grandiosity whenever I speak and write of Toni Morrison, and more specifically of Beloved (a book I am currently reading for the umpteenth time), because engaging with a Toni Morrison work is like taking the blue pill of literature.
It is a known fact that Toni Morrison’s prose in her novels are painstakingly thought out, they are a unique construction of symbolism and poetry in the guise of prose, that’s not really a guise because that is exactly how the prose is presented, steeped in symbolism and poetry… What do I mean – every time I read Beloved it is almost as if I am reading another novel, the design pattern out of which the story is cut is the same, but the fabric used in the weaving is that of a mirror, it reflects the readers interpretation back, for every eye that interprets the challenge of the story of Beloved will bring to it there own interpretations of empathy, redemption, beauty, love and humanity.
The book is centered around the character of Sethe, a former slave (one of Sixty Million), living her post-slavery freedom with her daughter Denver. They are both quite literally being haunted by the ghost of Sethe’s past life, and life as it is before the start of the book is about to change with the arrival of Paul D. A man from Sethe’s enslaved past, also free, Paul D has traveled far on well-worn feet to, and had arrived to the familiarity and shared-history of company from a time gratefully gone.
What does Paul D’s arrival mean for a former slave mother and daughter surviving with only each other? How do you move forward from horror? How do you build a life of freedom if all you have ever know is the cage and plight of slavery? What stories and secrets have been lived since Paul D and Sethe parted ways? And who is the strange woman who arrives on their doorstep shortly after Paul D, strangely familiar, oddly innocent and unquestionably beguiling? Who is Beloved and what does it mean to be beloved?
There are many questions that come up during the reading of Beloved, it is a challenging read, satisfyingly so, and answers you would not expect abound, more often than not having been already provided prior to the asking. Toni Morrison masterfully weaves the fantastical into a story which is so completely grounded in the realm of the real as to be unbelievable; the roots of the story, so horrific that metaphor becomes the only way to achieve the telling, and in doing so it becomes beautiful.
I promise you this, if nothing at all, you will step away from the book knowing you have read something like no other. The book will take you on a journey you can only imagine full of heartbreak and triumph, mystery and revelation, secrets and promises, pain and joy, life and death, desolation and hope, pain and beauty – If I was to give a traditional rating here, it would be a well deserved six out of five stars.
In conclusion, it was after I had personally discovered Toni Morrison that Oprah Winfrey took her works to a whole new audience when she included a selection of her works as Book Club selections, already a fan I watched an interview with Toni Morrison in which Oprah told the story of how she contacted Toni upon reading her books and told her how she struggled with the layered prose of her novels, finding herself having to reread passages, to which Toni Morrison replied, “That, My Dear, is called reading…”