Good morning, my bookish peeps. Even though I've been blogging now for six years, I still have fangirl moments whenever an author visits The Book Diva's Reads. Today's fangirl moment is due to a visit by Vicki Righettini, author of The Blue Hour. I escape into books as a reader, Ms. Righettini will be discussing how she escaped into books as a writer.
Anywhere but here: how I escaped into a writing career
What you are today and what you will be in five years depends on two things: the people you meet and the books you read. ~~ Twyla Tharp, dancer and choreographer
Reading is not just an escape. It is access to a better way of life. ~~ Karin Slaughter, novelist
I spent most of my childhood looking for a way to escape the chaos and emotional turmoil of my dysfunctional, alcoholic family. My coping method of choice was to invent alternate lives for myself: stories in which I was older and successful and no longer at the mercy of irresponsible adults with their inconsistent behavior. I had friends who escaped into books, but I wasn't a reader as a kid. I could never find a book that interested me. The stories in the library weren't anything I could relate to. Except for one summer I spent poring over books about dinosaurs, I was, for all intents and purposes, a non-reader.
Then one day between fifth and sixth grade, when I was too bored to live and whining as only an eleven-year-old can, my mom dropped a paperback in my lap and said, "This ought to keep you busy for a while."
That book was Gone With the Wind.
We won't, for the moment, discuss the appropriateness of giving that book to a sixth-grader, but it wasn't long before I was swept up in the world of Scarlett and Rhett, Melanie and Ashley, and the trials they faced. Why weren't all books this interesting? This was a story! I lived at Tara. GWTW became my sanctuary, my second home.
But I hated the books we were required to read in school: Kon-Tiki, Johnny Tremain, The Scarlet Letter. I couldn't understand why Hester Prynne didn't just refuse to wear the dang letter. I mean, who were these townspeople to tell her what to do? The only assigned reading that gave me the same thrilling escape as GWTW was To Kill a Mockingbird, which I devoured in one sitting, even refusing meals (if you know me at all, this is a huge deal).
Then came Mrs. Rydeen's senior English class.
It wasn't a class I wanted to take. My senior year schedule was filled with electives, which I felt I'd earned after front-loading my first three years and (literally) sweating through summer school every year. But a friend wanted me to take it with her. It'll be fun, she said. So for whatever reason I signed up: English Literature and Composition, taught by the forbidding and formidable Mrs. Rydeen, whose reputation was for anything but fun.
When we started The Grapes of Wrath, I thought, "Here we go again." But when Mrs. Rydeen showed us how to dig beneath the story to what was happening with the language, something clicked in me. The same thing happened when we studied Macbeth. She singlehandedly turned me from a Shakespeare hater into a life-long fan.
But as the year progressed I began to struggle, first with eating disorders, then with depression. My parents had just been through an acrimonious divorce, and my mother declared there was no money to send me to college. Confused and in turmoil, and convinced I had no future, I started skipping classes (except for senior English), and engaging in risky behavior, certain no one would miss me if I disappeared.
Then, as sometimes happens, a miracle occurred. I was packing up after class one day, slow to get out the door, and Mrs. Rydeen came up to me with a sheaf of papers. "I think you'll learn a great deal from grading these," she said. I looked at the papers: it was the latest creative writing assignment from the class before mine. This wasn't multiple choice I'd be grading – these were people's stories! People I knew!
But I did as she asked (when Mrs. Rydeen asked you to do something, it was not in your interest to demur). I took the papers home and I graded them. And she was right: I learned a lot. With a certain amount of shock, I saw that many of the people I thought were smarter than I was didn't write half as well. I think that was the moment I knew I could write; the moment I knew that I was, indeed, a writer.
I don't know if any teacher today could get away with what Mrs. Rydeen did (I never told a soul about it). But she must have seen something in me – a passion or a connection – and she threw me a life line. She must have known I was struggling: I was a 4.0, Top-Ten, Honor student, yet I was skipping classes and hadn't applied to college. She must have also known that if she'd asked, I would have lied and said everything was fine. So instead, she found a way to show me my worth. She gave me a place to run to, instead of from.
Now, whenever I escape into a book, or into my writing – even more when I'm revising, or when a literary diamond comes shining out of a story I'm reading – I know who to thank. And I know there's no place I'd rather escape to than right here, right now.
Blue Hour by Vicki Righettini
Publisher: Mill City Press (Nov 17, 2015)
Category: Historical Fiction, Romance, Pioneer Woman, Strong Female Character, Western
Tour date Mar/Apr, 2017
Available in print & ebook, 560 pages
Description of Blue Hour by Vicki Righettini
IN THIS EPIC TALE of love, loss, and redemption, the year is 1861, a time when women are expected to be married by a certain age. At 26, spinster Emily Wainwright has no reason to believe her sheltered life will ever change—until the charming Samuel Todd unexpectedly crosses her path.
Samuel yearns to homestead and start a family in Oregon, but he first needs to find a wife. Blinded by Samuel's good looks, and grasping at her final chance to have a husband and children, Emily accepts his marriage proposal. However, Samuel is not the man she thought he was, and her marriage becomes a cold, cruel prison, offering her no solace amidst the hardships of farm life.
When Samuel dies and a second chance at love and happiness arrives in the form of farmhand Cole Walker, Emily must overcome her bitter past—or risk losing Cole and the life she has always dreamed of having.
Praise for Blue Hour by Vicki Righettini
"All of Righettini's characters are well-rounded, in particular Emily herself, whose personal growth throughout the novel is richly detailed and memorable."-Historical Novel Society
"This novel is about second chances and the courage needed to take them. The most compelling aspects of The Blue Hour are not the vivid, expansive descriptions of life on the vast (and seemingly never-ending) Oregon Trail or the well-drawn characters who dance (and often trudge) between hardship and hope. Instead, the brightest lights burst forth from nuanced moments tucked throughout the story.
Read this book if you want to immerse yourself in the wilds of western America in the 1860s or get lost in the even denser wilderness of love and loss. Maybe this recommendation needs to be simplified even further – read this book. It's exhilarating to root for a character who is trying to navigate uncharted territory and make the greatest discovery of all."-Underground Book Reviews
"The Blue Hour is one of the finest historical novels I've ever read. You will love the author's writing and the detailed historical references. The characters are vividly portrayed, and I felt as if I knew them well. Long after I'd finished reading, I still thought about the story. It's part adventure, part love story, and part survival. Highly recommended."-Ann Creel, Author
About Vicki Righettini
Vicki Righettini is an award-winning, nationally produced playwright, and her recently-published historical novel, The Blue Hour, was a badge winner and Pitch Perfect Pick at Underground Books. Originally from Los Angeles, Vicki lived in Oregon for over twenty years, where she developed an abiding love of the land and the Oregon way of life. Before turning to full-time writing, she worked for forty years as a singer/actress and performing arts instructor. Her blog, Between a Book and a Hard Place, focuses on the ups and downs of the creative process (http://www.vickirighettini.com). Vicki lives in San Diego with her software-developer, Jeopardy!-champion husband, and the world's shyest cat.
Enter to win a digital copy of The Blue Hour by Vicki Righettini. The winner will have their choice of the digital (PDF, MOBI, or EPUB) version of this book. Books will be sent to winners by the publisher after the tour has concluded. This is an international giveaway. To enter use the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway ends on March 15th, 2017 at 11:59 PM ET. The winner will be announced on March 16th.
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