Yesterday I reviewed Caroline Leavitt's newest novel, Pictures of You. As I've mentioned, this engrossing novel was my Skype book club's pick for this month. We met on Sunday, and our discussion of the book was one of our most fruitful meetings.
Caroline presents so many great topics to think about—such as parenting, the need for drama, and the effects of asthma on a child's life—all of which fueled our conversation. In addition, we used the reader's guide at the back of the book to prompt even more discussion. And, of course, we each had our own take on the characters and their behavior. I can safely recommend Pictures of You as a terrific book club selection.
One thing my group didn't talk about was what motivated Caroline to write a novel centered so specifically on a car accident. I am thrilled that Caroline has decided to come clean and share her little secret with the readers of Beth Fish Reads. Let's take a look:
In every single one of my novels, my characters are wildly in love with their cars. They jump in their Hondas or their Toyotas and drive for miles at night, thrashing out problems—or running away from them. Adrenaline-charged drivers, they can't imagine their lives without their trusty autos. Because of this, it might make perfect sense to know that my new novel, Pictures of You, revolves around a lethal car crash. You might even wonder about my own driving ability.Thank you so much, Caroline, for sharing your secret with us. I promise we won't tell anyone. You do such an amazing job capturing the adventure of taking to the highway, no one would ever guess you weren't a natural-born driver.
The truth is I'm completely phobic about cars.
My dirty little secret is that I don't drive at all. I don't even like to be a passenger in a car. Part of why I live in the New York City area is because of the incredible public transportation.
I'm not sure where the phobia came from, but I've always been fearful. Like all kids, I took driver's education. The instructor rolled his eyes while the other student in the back giggled as I made the car shimmy on the road. I got my license only because all I had to do was drive around the block, and after that, my parents insisted I take these brush-up courses. I took three, before the instructor pulled over to the side of the road and shook his head at me. "Caroline," he said. "Don't take this the wrong way, but you are the absolute worse driver I have ever encountered. Some people aren't meant to drive, and you seem to be one of them."
I admit I wasn't surprised, but I wasn't going to give up so easily. I began to wonder if I could clear up my phobia by writing about it. So I thought of the worse possible thing, which was not just a car crash, but a crash where someone was killed. I gave my fear to my character Isabelle, who, through no fault of her own, kills April, a wife and mother, in the crash. Because it's fiction, I ramped things up a bit, making Isabelle' phobia worse than my own. Isabelle can't even get in a car without breaking into a cold sweat. Her heart bangs against her chest, her breathing stitches up. I worked through the phobia for Isabelle, pushing her so she could slowly, gradually, climb back in her car and put it in drive.
But did writing about a car phobia help me? In a way. I'm still uneasy about cars and driving, but I think I've made a sort of peace with that. Maybe it's just who I am. And lately, I've been collecting the names of other writers who don't drive, like Alice Hoffman and Ray Bradbury, just to give me a little company. In the fictional world, I drive with the radio blasting, but in real life, hey, you'll find me happily walking, on a subway, or hailing a cab.
So what about you? Driving: Love it or hate it? I don't mind driving, but I much prefer to be a passenger. It's so much more fun to look out the window and be in charge of the map and the toll money.
Caroline has very generously offered ten (yes, ten!) of my readers a signed book plate that shows a very special symbol that is associated with Pictures of You. Don't you just love those wings? The photo is what's shown on the book plate. It so clearly echoes the book cover, I know you'll want one in your copy of the novel.
And even better, Caroline is opening up this giveaway to readers worldwide! To enter, just fill out the following form. I'll pick the ten winners on Valentine's Day (February 14). After the winners have been contacted, I'll delete all personal information.
Be sure to check out my teaser, review, and spotlight posts of Caroline Leavitt's Pictures of You.
Algonquin Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011.
Published by Algonquin, 2011