Monday, November 25, 2013

"Sorrow’s Knot"

Erin Bow was born in the Midwest and studied particle physics in college, eventually working at the CERN laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. She then decided to leave science to concentrate on her love of writing. She lives in Kitchener, Ontario, with her husband, James, and their two daughters.

Bow applied the Page 69 Test to Sorrow's Knot, her new YA novel, and reported the following:
It will appeal to the eighth-grade boy in all of us to learn that page 69 of Sorrow’s Knot [below left; click to enlarge] is the dirtiest page in the book. Go ahead and snicker. But seriously, this double entendre about Cricket’s ineptness at shooting a lance through a rolling hoop is as off-color as this particular novel gets.

But this page stands out in other ways, too, at least to me. There’s a story behind it.

I wrote this scene, and a handful of others, on a retreat in November 2012. Besides the odd copy edit, they were the last things I did to the book. I added them to give a glimpse of the deep core of happiness inside my characters.

I mean, this is a book called Sorrow’s Knot. It’s mostly about death. It was clearly never going to be a laugh riot. But still, when you deal only with the character’s problems, it’s easy for the readers not to get to know them as people. For instance, Otter (who is the lead character) has a sly sense of humor and is given to practical jokes. I, as a writer, am always aware of that. But if you as a reader only get to spend time with Otter on the worst days of her life — if you only get to see the plot — you might not get to see her sense of humor. You will like Otter less than I do.

So, paradoxically, the last thing I did to make this a better book was add scenes that don’t contribute to the plot at all. Kestrel and Cricket pledging okishae on page 80 (okishae is sort of like married, except no one does it and everyone thinks they’re weird). Otter and Kestrel swimming in the hot spring. The bit where they stuff the pillow. The bit where they catch, then eat, the comically stupid goose.

So enjoy the slightly dirty joke on page 69, internet. It’s making the whole book warmer.
Learn more about the book and author at Erin Bow's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue