By: Caren Crane
Congratulations to "Julie O", the winner of Caren's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated.
If I told you I write books that help women reclaim their lives, you might wonder if I had delusions of grandeur. Well, maybe I do, but it took me quite a few years and the grueling work of completing seven book before I finally figured out the theme of my books.
Yes, theme. That thing we all struggled to identify in books we were forced to read in high school and college English classes. I was thinking about theme recently, when my rather desperate sister-in-law asked me to help my nephew finish answering some questions about his summer reading. My nephew is hovering on the brink of 12 and was about to start 7th grade - a grade most of us recall with dread and for which we offer fervent gratitude that it is over for us. Forever. My poor nephew, like most almost-12-year-old boys, is not a big fan of reading. He's also not a big fan of writing. And he is most certainly not a fan of book reports. I had a big job ahead of me.
Fortunately, I had a chance to look at his questions a couple of days in advance. When I saw there was one asking what the theme of the book was, I blanched. I've been in writing workshops with excellent presenters talking about theme to professional writers and getting lots of confused looks in return. Theme is rather an esoteric thing, so how was I going to pull anything about it from my nephew?
Finally, I hit on a way to explain it that, while not perfect, got to the heart of what theme is. I told him that theme is what the book is really about. Not the plot or what happens in the book. Not the character's quest or goal. It's what the book is about. He gave me the confuddled look I expected, but at least it was a jumping-off point. The book he read was a YA spy thriller by British author Anthony Horowitz, called Stormbreaker. In the book, a teenager falls on bad times and is recruited to spy for MI6. While it would be easy to decide the theme of Stormbreaker is "good versus evil" (a broad and classic theme), we decided the theme was "things are often not what they seem to be." It took a lot of tugging and dragging to get my nephew to decide what the theme was, but we both thought that fit our quick and dirty definition of what the book was really about.
On my way home, I started thinking once again about my own books. At one point I had decided the theme of my books seemed to be "to thine own self be true." That's a great theme and does fit most of my books. But I decided after all that theme talk that there was an even more overarching theme in my books, women reshaping their lives. I have divorced heroines, widowed heroines, heroines between careers, heroines trying to decide whether to have children. You name a crisis an adult woman faces and I will probably address it in a book, as long as it is about women taking a long, hard look at themselves, their lives, how they got there and what they want to do next.
So now when people ask me what I write, I tell them I write books about women reshaping their lives. I hope that, in some small way, my books may help women reshape their real lives. Rethink their choices. Reassess where they are, who they are and what they want. I've decided that is my job as a novelist and I hope readers agree with me!
Has a novel ever helped you rethink your life? Has someone's writing touched a part of your life that needed some attention? And if you had to choose a theme for your life's work, what would it be?
One lucky commenter will win an electronic copy of Kick Start in the format of choice.
Caren Crane lives in North Carolina with her long-suffering husband and is sometimes visited by her mostly-grown children. She loves to read, talk about books and eat. She does not love to exercise, but does so in order to read and eat another day. You can catch up with Caren at http://www.carencrane.com and on the Romance Bandits blog (http://romancebandits.com).
Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Sep. 2nd. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email maureen@JustContemporaryRomance.com with a subject title of JCR GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.