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Writing fiction is not about conjuring up a new life. Rather, it is the reinvention of a life we have already lived. By writing fiction, we engage more meaningfully with our lived experiences and give them meaning. However, the life of a writer is far from glamorous and full of ups and downs. How feasible is writing as a career? Is this a financially viable option? How much of our job do we owe to others? When do you start calling yourself a writer? The writer’s life is full of contradictions and confusion, yet that’s what hundreds of us choose to do every day. This is how we live and breathe and say we are alive. Rejections abound and financial glitches are part of this game, but writers keep writing regardless.
What promises this profession which, despite its many pitfalls, still tempts so many? Although writing can often be a solitary activity, many people have testified to the fact that they cannot imagine themselves doing anything else. What promise does this profession hold that appeals to so many? Here, I’ve curated a list of novels about the lives of writers who attempt to explore these areas on their own.
Writers and Lovers by Lily King
Casey has been writing a novel for six years now, but it’s far from finished. She waits for tables to support herself and still mourns the death of her mother. While most of his friends have given up on their creative ambitions, Casey still hopes to finish his novel one day. She is also in love with two men simultaneously, adding to her already chaotic life. A beautiful story about love, heartbreak and creativity, and how they co-exist, this book is an honest portrait of a writer’s life.
The Messy Lives of Book People by Phaedra Patrick
Liv, a mother of two, can barely make ends meet. She dreams of one day becoming a writer, but her job as a maid cuts her wings. When she lands the role of housekeeper for her favorite author, Essie, she’s over the moon. They eventually develop a healthy friendship. But Essie suddenly dies and her wish is for Liv to finish her last novel. As Liv begins to write, she makes startling discoveries that will forever change the course of her life.
Mona by Pola Oloixarac (Translated by Adam Morris)
Mona, a Peruvian writer, loves drugs, cigarettes and poking fun at American college culture. When she is nominated for the most important literary prize, she decides to give up her addictions and her distractions and move to a small village in Sweden. Here, she’s stuck with her mostly male contestants nursing envy, backstabbing and sometimes sleeping with each other, and exchanging compliments, albeit fake ones. In the midst of this, she is still haunted by old demons. A victim of condescension and bizarre sexual encounters, how will Mona put her past behind her, if at all?
Jameela Green Ruins Everything by Zarqa Nawaz
Jameela Green’s only real desire is to see her memoir come to The New York Times List of bestsellers. But her dream remains a dream and for solace she seeks spiritual guidance at her local mosque. Imam Ibrahim thinks she is superficial but still agrees to help her. In return, she must perform a good deed. Meanwhile, after a series of bizarre events, the imam disappears and Jameela decides to launch an operation to save him. A sharp take on ambition, the price of success, and American foreign policy, this book is quite a page-turner.
Hell of a Book by Jason Mott
An African-American author is on tour to promote his novel. This plot builds another: the story of Soot, a young black boy, who appears to the author during his tour. The stories converge and delve into themes of family, race, art, parenthood, and financial status. What do writers owe to their profession? How do writers express ever-evolving truth through their writing? Will our protagonist finish his book tour and what kind of world will he leave behind?
Meet Me in the Margins by Melissa Ferguson
Savannah is a low-level editor at Pennington Publishing. She is also writing a romance novel but she keeps it a secret from the world. One day, she leaves her manuscript in her secret corner. Later, she discovers that someone left comments on the margins. Although she is initially on the defensive, she realizes that she needs the help of this mysterious editor. A wonderful book about the power of positive feedback, the various struggles of being an emerging writer, and how to balance work and life, this book is a very entertaining read.
A New Obsession by Caitlin Barasch
Twenty-four-year-old Naomi is struggling. Desperate to write a novel, she doesn’t know what story to write. Then she meets a man through Tinder and thinks maybe love is what she’s meant to write about. However, life has a way of confusing us, so enters her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend, Rosemary. Determined to figure out how their stories are connected, Naomi’s occasional internet bullying turns into a friendship with Rosemary. How willing is Naomi to manipulate the truth for the sake of her craft? More importantly, what is ethical and what is not?
A theater for dreamers by Polly Samson
In the 1960s, the Greek island of Hydra was inhabited by a group of poets, writers, musicians, painters, etc. Then Erica arrives with nothing but grief for her mother and a pile of notebooks. She quietly observes this circle and comes to terms with who she is. An insightful novel about illusions, innocence, loss, dreams and everything that makes up the writer’s life, therefore human life, this book is raw and will stay with you for a long time.
There is no universal literary experience. All the stories mentioned above shed light on its various aspects. I hope we continue to write more and more fiction about the lives of fiction writers, because there will never be enough books about who makes the books happen.