Novels in Verse

I can’t remember if I’ve brought this to the blog in the past or not, so I’m going to assume it was just on Facebook and/or Twitter. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about VERSE NOVELS!

What’s a verse novel? Maybe you know them as “novels in verse”. There are a few terms to use, but they all boil down to one obvious thing: They are novels written in verse (poetry) instead of prose (what everything else is written in).

Why do I enjoy them so much? That should be somewhat obvious. I’m a poet. I enjoy poetry. And you also know I enjoy novels in general. Once I discovered the magic of joining the two forms, I was hooked.

I first read a verse novel back in grade school. It was Karen Hesse’s OUT OF THE DUST. I remember talking about the fact that it’s written in blank verse, but that fact dissolved in my memory shortly after. I remember enjoying the story, but that was all. That is, until I rediscovered the form a few years back in Sonya Sones’ writing. I found out about her book WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN’T KNOW. I read it. Enjoyed it. Got hooked. I’ve since read all of her books (except one, because I don’t want to be without more of Sones to read) and from there, branches out into other authors work.

I have to admit that I’ve stuck mostly to Young Adult verse novels. It’s not completely by choice, though, partly it is. There seems to be a larger amount of verse novels for YA readers out there, compared to those for “adult” readers. I also think it’s a marketing thing because I’ve discovered a few adult titles are marketed as being poetry, but lacking take about the story aspect. Probably a few reasons for this, but I won’t speculate here. But back to my mention of YA novels. I think most of my recent YA reading has actually been done with verse novels. YA is already a pretty accessible type of book for anyone to get into, but adding in the verse form makes it even more so. And not in a bad way. I think it makes them “easier” to read while opening the story up to having a deeper message, emotional response, etc. Verse forces the author to be limited in word choice (in most cases), and I feel this makes every word used count that much more. The books may be fast reads, but I feel that I’ve gotten more out of them at times than prose novels because of the lack of words and focus on what really needs to be said.

On a less critical, and more fun note, I also like when authors play with the visual form in their verse novels. One author who does this in many different ways in all her novels is Ellen Hopkins. Her text isn’t restricted to the left side of the page. It’ll jump to the right, middle, and everywhere in between. The text placement lends to the reading of the lines and what’s being conveyed. Some of the connection between text and text placement can go over my head, even, but I don’t think her books would be as powerful if they were all left-aligned. That works for other authors, and there’s nothing wrong with that either. But at times, poetry needs to push itself across a page, be different, and stand out.

I hope I’m not alone in my love of verse novels. I do know a few of my readers have experience with them. Maybe some of you haven’t explored that part of the book world yet. I’m here to help. I’d like to close this post out with a list of verse novels I’ve enjoyed. Some of them are as recent as this week…and I’m planning on grabbing a few more from the library soon. They’re addicting!

#Interview with poet, @InkAshling

As you may recall, I recently reviewed My Heart’s Choir Sings, a novella in verse by Maureen Flynn. It’s been awhile since I’ve done an interview for the blog. To remedy this, I used this opportunity to jump back into my reviewing shoes all while answering some questions I had about the author and novella.

I hope you learn something new about Maureen and her book, and if you’d like to check it out, you can find out more at the end of the interview.fancy line

Can you tell a little about yourself and your writing background?

I have always loved reading and writing genre fiction, especially fantasy. I wrote poetry on the side to deal with teenage angst so it is pretty ironic that my first publication is a book in verse! Now I can’t stop writing stories in poetry. My current project is a verse novel that retells the story of Merlin. Its tentative title is Harp Song and I hope to have it out at the end of the year.

I studied history and politics and am currently studying to become a teacher. People say that working with young people helps you to write great stories and I think there is some truth in this. Kids want to be entertained but they aren’t as dumb as people make them out to be. They grasp a lot about the adult world and sometimes they sense its ugly truth. I think this is why I love young adult genre fiction. The best doesn’t talk down to the reader but it’s still full of imagination and fun.

 

You call My Heart’s Choir Sings a verse novella. Can you explain that concept to the readers?

It was a tough call. I didn’t know what to call My Heart’s Choir Sings. It isn’t quite a themed collection, in that there is a complex relationship story in the 25 poems but it isn’t long enough to be a verse novel either. It also isn’t a linear story to throw a spanner in the works. I settled on verse novella, or a story told in poetry in a novella size, because to me this highlights the fact that there is a concrete story that links these poems. I have had readers say that the poems can stand alone, but ultimately, each poem works best as a whole.

 

What will readers find within the novella? Does it deal with any particular themes?

Think Ted Hughes Birthday Letters meets Dorothy Porter’s verse novels and you’d have My Heart’s Choir      Sings. This is the story of Stewart Hinchcliffe, a writer and an artist who loses his lover and fellow creative in tragic circumstances. As he cleans out their old apartment, each new object brings back bittersweet memories. Throughout the 25 poem sequence, grief, guilt and anger color his memories. Who is to blame for what happened? Where did everything go wrong? And how on earth does Stuart move on from his past?

As the above synopsis indicates, this is a novella of relationships, to be exact, one relationship gone wrong. Stewart feels so much love and grief and guilt as he remembers his dead lover and that’s drenched throughout ‘his’ poetry. In reality, it is his extended eulogy to this dead woman. Reoccurring motifs are books and words, the colour blue and the ocean as well as emotional failure to communicate. It’s a sad story but it ends on a note of hope.

 

I know one of your influences for this book is Dorothy Porter. What is it about her writing that influences you the most?

I discovered Dorothy Porter in a first year university subject and never looked back. I always thought that poetry was rules based and had to have a specific structure. The only real experience I’d had with free verse poetry was that most of it was pretty awful. What Porter introduced to me was this idea of a verse novel that tells a story, whilst still being well written verse that packs an emotional punch. All of Porter’s novels are sharp and sexy and emotional and meaty. She said so much with so little. It is dreadfully sad that she died so young.

 

What’s next? Do you have more poetic projects on the horizon or will you be sharing some prose work in the near future?

As I briefly mentioned earlier, I am working on a full-length verse novel about Merlin of King Arthur fame. I have always liked and read a lot of Arthurian legend and literature. As a kid I devoured Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy and this verse novel owes a lot to her historical vision of Dark Ages Britain. I am roughly a quarter of the way through and going strong. I’ll bang out a first draft and then get my editor in and start drawing out the themes and motifs and cleaning up the verse.

I am also working on a bunch of speculative fiction short stories to market to Australian magazines this year, as well as a young adult fantasy novel or two. I will hopefully be working with a fantasy author this year too so there is definitely a lot happening!

 

Who are some of your other favorite authors and books?

I actually hate this question because I find this so hard to answer. So many books have shaped and inspired my writing. Favourite authors include Isobelle Carmody, Philip Pullman, Juliet Marillier, Lemony Snicket and Agatha Christie. I read less poetry but I love the verse novels of Dorothy Porter, the work of Ted Hughes and I recently enjoyed The Prophet by Khalil Gibran.

 

So far, having just recently released your debut self-published book, are you enjoying the experience of being on this side of the publishing world? Is it a little scary? Rewarding? Educational? Haha, there seems to always be something else to learn right around the corner.

I had no illusions about self publishing poetry. Poetry is a niche market and I am a young writer with no formal qualification in poetry, publishing, of all things, a verse novella. How much more obscure can I get?

Yes, self publishing has been scary because putting your work out to the public is always scary, but it’s been rewarding and fun to have a readership, even if only a small one currently.

It has definitely been educational! I always intended to self publish as an experiment because I think it’s something every aspiring author should know about. I intend to continue to self publish my poetry, but to try and get my genre prose works published by a mainstream publisher. Wish me luck!

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My Heart's Choir SingsYou can grab a copy of of this novella from:

Amazon | Smashwords

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You can find more on Flynn…

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Smashwords author page

 

#Review: My Heart’s Choir Sings, by @InkAshling

Title: My Heart’s Choir SingsMy Heart's Choir Sings
Author: Maureen Flynn
Rating: 5/5 stars

A eulogy and a verse novella. Grief, guilt, redemption. How do you go on in a world without your other half?

Think Ted Hughes Birthday Letters meets Dorothy Porter verse and you’d have My Heart’s Choir Sings. This is the story of Stewart Hinchcliffe, a writer and an artist who loses his lover and fellow creative in tragic circumstances. As he cleans out their old apartment, each new object brings back bittersweet memories. Throughout the 25 poem sequence, grief, guilt and anger color his memories. Who is to blame for what happened? Where did everything go wrong? And how on earth does Stuart move on from his past?” (description from Goodreads)

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For me, reading and “getting” poetry doesn’t always come easy. What I rely on most for my enjoyment, the first read through, is the feel I get from it; the emotions do the poems bring with them. Then I’ll go and reread the book is necessary to look deeper into what it has within.

My Heart’s Choir Sings is a book that I’ve read through twice already, and have gotten more out of each with each of read. I know I’ll be revisiting this one again and with the third read, will most likely get an even deeper understanding and enjoyment from the poems.

This collection is said to be a novella in verse. When comparing it to the verse novels I’ve read in recent months, this “story” goes about the form a little different from them. Instead of a straight forward continuous single storyline, this novella has the speaker recollecting various events, memories, qualities of the woman he loves, who is now dead. These poems are strung together by some common themes, while being great pieces all on their own. There’s not a direct linear narrative, but I feel that is a strength to this collection. There’s so much being said on these pages, even with, at times, so little words. The reader can feel the speaker’s every emotion.

As I stated before, I’ll be reading through this book a third time, and probably many times after, plucking out favorite lines, new meanings, and it’ll probably make its way onto my shelf of favorites collections. If this is Flynn’s début book, I can’t wait to see what else she has waiting for her readers.

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You can grab a copy of of this novella from:

Amazon | Smashwords

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About the Author:

Maureen writes young adult speculative fiction novels and short stories. She is inspired by authors such as Isobelle Carmody, Philip Pullman and Juliet Marillier and writes stories to make sense of her world. She loves to attend local Writers Festivals and, having recently discovered the Australian speculative fiction scene, also loves supporting her fellow writers at local events. She is an active member of the South Coast Writers Centre (SCWC) and regularly volunteers for the centre.

Maureen has wanted to write from the second she could put pen to paper but, other than winning a district wide short story competition in Year 6, first achieved small writing successes at university. Her poems, ‘Out For Lunch’ and ‘Rapunzel’s Curls’ were published in The UOW Literary Society Zine in 2012. Her fairy tale short story, ‘Tea Time with Mad Hattie’ was published by Holmesglen Small Press in the same year. 2012 was a busy year, with Maureen accepted into The Sydney Writer’s Festival Fantasy Masterclass with Kate Forsyth in May. Recently, she has started attending a writers group run by Australian speculative fiction stalwart, Angie Rega, and, if all goes according to plan, will be working with Isobelle Carmody in 2014.

Maureen reviews speculative fiction novels at her wordpress blog, InkAshlings. Never one for saying no to a challenge, she also reviews speculative fiction films and TV shows and has interviewed authors Richard Harland and Kate Forsyth for her blog.

Find out more:

#NewRelease: My Heart’s Choir Sings, by @InkAshlings

My Heart's Choir Sings

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A eulogy and a verse novella. Grief, guilt, redemption. How do you go on in a world without your other half?

Think Ted Hughes Birthday Letters meets Dorothy Porter verse and you’d have My Heart’s Choir Sings. This is the story of Stewart Hinchcliffe, a writer and an artist who loses his lover and fellow creative in tragic circumstances. As he cleans out their old apartment, each new object brings back bittersweet memories. Throughout the 25 poem sequence, grief, guilt and anger color his memories. Who is to blame for what happened? Where did everything go wrong? And how on earth does Stuart move on from his past?

fancy line

You can grab a copy of of this novella from:

Amazon | Smashwords

fancy line

About the Author:

Maureen writes young adult speculative fiction novels and short stories. She is inspired by authors such as Isobelle Carmody, Philip Pullman and Juliet Marillier and writes stories to make sense of her world. She loves to attend local Writers Festivals and, having recently discovered the Australian speculative fiction scene, also loves supporting her fellow writers at local events. She is an active member of the South Coast Writers Centre (SCWC) and regularly volunteers for the centre.

Maureen has wanted to write from the second she could put pen to paper but, other than winning a district wide short story competition in Year 6, first achieved small writing successes at university. Her poems, ‘Out For Lunch’ and ‘Rapunzel’s Curls’ were published in The UOW Literary Society Zine in 2012. Her fairy tale short story, ‘Tea Time with Mad Hattie’ was published by Holmesglen Small Press in the same year. 2012 was a busy year, with Maureen accepted into The Sydney Writer’s Festival Fantasy Masterclass with Kate Forsyth in May. Recently, she has started attending a writers group run by Australian speculative fiction stalwart, Angie Rega, and, if all goes according to plan, will be working with Isobelle Carmody in 2014.

Maureen reviews speculative fiction novels at her wordpress blog, InkAshlings. Never one for saying no to a challenge, she also reviews speculative fiction films and TV shows and has interviewed authors Richard Harland and Kate Forsyth for her blog.

Find out more: