Tag Archives | The Lifeboat

Literary First Love – Charlotte Rogan

Charlotte Rogan

I was read to almost every night as a child, the time carved out of festive grown-up cocktail hours or peaceful twilights before bed. I am older than most debut novelists, and back when my mother and grandmother were reading to my siblings and me, the American cult of the child had yet to flower. There were no toys designed by psychologists, and no television graced my household until long after I was able to read to myself. A hush would come over the room as a book was chosen, and we children would put aside our petty rivalries and sit, freshly washed and reverent, with the quietest one allowed to turn the page. The particular book didn’t matter, I loved them all.

I didn’t always want to be a writer, and I was in my mid-thirties when I stopped reading innocently, as John Barthes would have it—when I started trying to figure out how the masters spun their cotton into gold. In the next years I discovered Hunger by Knut Hamsun, Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather, Life is Elsewhere by Milan Kundera, and many, many others. These books became my teachers. I still pile them on my desk where I can open them for random inspiration. And my first act of ownership in a new house is to build shelves for them, because for some reason nobody has bookshelves any more—or nobody has enough.

Two recent loves are Remainder by Tom McCarthy, a book that took ten years to find a publisher and that I love as much for what it leaves out (exposition and explanation) as for what it contains, and The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton, a strange and compelling novel of performers and voyeurs. I can’t describe what I look for in a book because the thing that gets me is always something I didn’t expect to find.

Charlotte’s debut novel, THE LIFEBOAT, is this month’s featured book club selection.

It is the summer of 1914 and Europe is on the brink of war, but Grace Winter’s future finally seems secure as she and her new husband set sail for New York, where she hopes to win over a disapproving and status-conscious mother-in-law. When a mysterious explosion sinks their ship, Grace is thrust into a  lifeboat by a quick-witted crew member, who climbs in after her even though the boat is already filled beyond capacity.

As the weather deteriorates and the passengers are forced to choose sides in a brewing power struggle, Grace realizes that her survival could depend on whether she backs the ruthless but experienced John Hardie or the enigmatic but increasingly forceful Ursula Grant. Over the course of three perilous weeks, the lifeboat passengers plot, scheme, gossip and console one another while questioning their deepest assumptions about goodness, humanity and God.

Grace is finally rescued, only to be put on trial for her life. Unsure what to make of their client, Grace’s attorneys suggest she write her story down. The result is a page-turning tale of moral dilemmas, and also a haunting portrait of a woman as unforgettable and complicated as the events she describes.

Click here to read an excerpt.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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Up At Night – Guest Post By Charlotte Rogan

Illustration of Lifeboat #14 from Charlotte Rogan's debut novel, THE LIFEBOAT

Every parent is shocked when the pediatrician tells her that sleeping through the night means the baby goes to sleep at midnight and doesn’t wake up until 5:00 AM, but eventually you realize it could be worse. You realize this when your children are in college and you lie awake when whatever was most recently divulged about their lives via text message or e-mail or tattling siblings wasn’t exactly reassuring.

It’s completely different when my writing keeps me up at night. It’s a great sign. I wake up with butterflies in my stomach and an idea in my head that’s so good it can’t wait until morning to announce itself. It means that whatever work I did the day before is bearing wee-hour fruit. It means that my bedside notepad will be the starting point for another productive day—if the pen has ink in it and if I can later read whatever I scribbled in the dark.

Nights are important in my debut novel, The Lifeboat, too. It’s hard to sleep in an open boat, so the characters tell each other stories to pass the time. Nights are when Grace Winter tries to make sense of the horrific events of those days at sea and when she reveals something of herself to the timid Mary Ann. But what else is Grace doing under cover of darkness?

There’s nothing that isn’t wonderful about getting a novel published after 25 years of closet writing, but these days I am waking up with anxiety about upcoming talks and public events. One sleepless night I went outside to savor the darkness and saw the eyes of some nocturnal creature glowing at me across the dark. The family next door has a new baby, and the lights in an upstairs room were on. Yes, nights are a strange time—there is both less to see and more.

Charlotte Rogan  graduated from Princeton University in 1975. She worked at various jobs, mostly in the fields of architecture and engineering, before teaching herself to write and staying home to bring up triplets. An old criminal law text and her childhood experiences among a family of sailors provided inspiration for  The Lifeboat, her first novel. After many years in Dallas and a year in Johannesburg, she and her husband now live in Westport, Connecticut.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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Charlotte Rogan In Her Own Words

*Email readers can click here to view the video.

Charlotte Rogan’s debut novel, THE LIFEBOAT is this month’s featured book club selection. We’d love you to read along with us and join in the conversation with our online book club.

 

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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Three Sentences – Guest Post by Charlotte Rogan

When I began writing at the relatively advanced age of 33, I was no longer innocent about many things, but I was still innocent about reading. Sure, I had learned in school to find the themes in Jane Eyre and to read for detail: What book is Jane reading as the novel opens?

But the latter question was designed for the teacher’s purposes more than for mine (Had I read the book?) and the former, while slightly more useful, was aimed at getting me to write something that no one but the teacher would ever read. No one would ever want to.

How did one go about writing something that was worth another person’s time? John Barthe told his writing students that they had to read, “no longer innocently, and preferably massively. ” I stopped reading innocently. This included re-reading and trying to tease out the elements of plot development and character arc. But it also included excising sentences and looking at them freed from the camouflage of their context.

From The Mountain Lion by Jane Stafford:

“Now, in the shade of the summery tree, they felt doomed to failure. “

From The Victim by Saul Bellow:

“The fear that Leventhal felt, though deep, lasted only a second, a single thrust. “

Here are two sentences, chosen almost randomly—I opened the books and took them from the first page I came to—from novels that were important to me in my development as a writer. These books are packed with sentences that are evocative, poetic, tense, sentences that hint at complex and changeable characters who are somehow out of synch with their surroundings. But I don’t have to tell you all that—you get it in far fewer words from the sentences themselves. Well, that is the kind of effect I was now trying to create.

I love many kinds of books, but when I am writing, I try to read books that will help me with my work. This includes non-fiction, since most novels necessitate some sort of research, but what really inspire me are books that I can read at the sentence level. A recent book with astonishing sentences is Colson Whitehead’s Zone One. Don’t read it if you insist on plot, for there isn’t any. But if you like superhuman powers of observation and startling juxtapositions, give it a try.

Here is one of my own sentences from something I am still working on:

“She couldn’t protect her children from growing up and having to provide the illusion of warmth for someone else. “

I like it because it tells you something about the character and her circumstances without a lot of exposition. I tend to like hints and implications rather than explanations and descriptions, but getting across everything you need to in this way is a huge challenge. For the past 25 years I have struggled with this—and I am struggling still.

 

Charlotte Rogan

Charlotte Rogan  graduated from Princeton University in 1975. She worked at various jobs, mostly in the fields of architecture and engineering, before teaching herself to write and staying home to bring up triplets. An old criminal law text and her childhood experiences among a family of sailors provided inspiration for  The Lifeboat, her first novel. After many years in Dallas and a year in Johannesburg, she and her husband now live in Westport, Connecticut.

Charlotte’s debut novel, THE LIFEBOAT, is this month’s book club selection.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

read more