I received an early review copy of MELT back in June and shared my thoughts about this powerful novel.
"I loved the stylistic writing used to distinguish Joey and Dorothy's perspectives . . . The styles shift and change as their perspectives and situations change and this was completely organic to the story."Today I am hosting Selene Castrovilla as part of the MELT blog tour. I've asked her to share the books that made her fall in love with reading.
"Melt is a moving book that I couldn't stop reading until the very end. And when I did finish those last pages, all I could think was - Wow, that happened."
The Books along my Literary Path
by Selene Castrovilla
When I was in grade school my aunt shared Agatha Christie mysteries with me. So much blood! I loved the psychology behind the murders. What would drive someone to take another life? I always found the crime-solving process to be revealing about humanity, and Christie was a master of this genre.
Many years later, when I brainstormed ideas to write Saved by the Music, I tried to make it a mystery. It was the obvious go-to for me, especially because my relationship with my aunt was a major part of the story, and she and I shared so many moments discussing mysteries. But I realized it was the darkness of humanity and the tension of life that I wanted to explore, from a coming of age perspective. An actual mystery was beside the point to me. (And out of my element! I was literally clueless.)
On my own, I also read The Hardy Boys mysteries. Definitely not as deep and dark as Agatha Christie. They were my “junk food” reading. I think I learned about story arc from these, because they were pretty simplistic to follow – and yet they did the job. They were no great works of literature, but like M&M’s I couldn’t read just one. I read them all – and even searched for the older ones which were no longer available in bookstores. I have a bunch of them still - saved from Hurricane Sandy because I carried the truck containing them to my second floor.
Perhaps The Hardy Boys used up all my tolerance for series – or perhaps I learned that a formula only goes so far, generally stopping short at literature. I don’t care for series – with a few exceptions. Harry Potter was not a formula – it was a story that came to J.K. Rowling in its entirety. Though I don’t care for fantasy, I still read three and a half of the Potter books before I stopped (the most fantasy I’ve ever read.) I admire these books, their characterization and their story arcs (as well as the overall arc) greatly. The other series I love is A Series of Unfortunate Events. Hysterical!
I enjoyed the passion of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, even though I found the plot a bit convoluted. I think I learned about tortured love affairs through Cathy and Heathcliff.
“It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he's handsome, Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.”
― Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
And Heathcliff himself is fascinating. It’s hard to understand how someone so filled with love and devotion could also be so atrocious. Maybe Heathcliff’s love for Cathy is so intense that it takes every ounce of the humanity inside him¸ leaving none for anyone else – even Cathy’s own daughter, and his own son.
But the question I pondered above all was whether Heathcliff is pure evil. I think not. He’s pretty close, though.
Is there such a thing as “pure evil?” Are “bad” people “born” or are they “raised?”
The thing about literature is that is raises questions, and it expects the reader to come up with his own answers. I think readers aren’t doing their part as much, and that makes me so sad. It’s the deterioration of society, because books are what make us think!
I had a writing teacher at The New School who told us, “TV says ‘Go to sleep! Books say, ‘Wake up!’” So true.
Incidentally, his name is Stephen Wright, and he’s a brilliant novelist whose descriptions are stunning.
A book that brought me to new emotional depths is As I Lay Dying. Told in multiple points of view, it describes a woman dying, and the subsequent disposal of her body.
One of her sons is particularly distraught as he listens to his brother sawing and sawing beneath his mother’s window – building her coffin while she’s still alive. I can still feel his anguish, so many years after I read the book.
(I apologize – I couldn’t find that quote on-line to share with you. Thinking of it makes me want to read As I Lay Dying again!)
Here’s a different quote I found, which I think is quite provocative:
“In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep. And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are emptied for sleep you are not. And when you are filled with sleep, you never were. I don't know what I am. I don't know if I am or not.”
― William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
This book taught me about raw, base humanity. And it opened my eyes to the possibilities of writing in more than one voice.
And finally, I must include my god: William Shakespeare. In eleventh grade Mrs. Israel, my English teacher, assigned us to memorize this soliloquy from Macbeth:
“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
I could go on and on about what this passage – and the entire play – means to me. Suffice to say that Shakespeare set the stage for studying humanity and emotions – and the rest of us are following his lead as best as we can.
If you are only going to read one more book ever – read Macbeth. It shaped me as a reader and as a writer, and affected me forever.
I recommend all things Shakespeare! Twice, I’ve made pilgrimages to Stratford-upon-Avon, his birthplace, to pay my respects. (Thanks to my kids, who accompanied me without complaint!)
Thanks for having me on your blog, Joli!! I hope this has been of interest to you and your writers – and that it has illuminated something of the literary path that led me to write Melt.
Publication Date: November 6, 2014
Published by Last Syllable Books
About Selene Castrovilla Website | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Goodreads
Selene Castrovilla is an award-winning teen and children’s author who believes that through all trends, humanity remains at the core of literature. She is the author of Saved By the Music and The Girl Next Door, teen novels originally published by WestSide Books and now available digitally through ASD Publishing. Her third children’s book with Calkins Creek Books, Revolutionary Friends, was released in April. She is also a contributing author to UncommonYA. Selene holds an MFA in creative writing from New School University and a BA in English from New York University. She lives on Long Island with her two sons. Visit her website www.SeleneCastrovilla.com for book excerpts and more information!