Eeeeeee!!!! I’m elated to announce the release of American Circumstance: Anniversary Edition. I absolutely love this book and consider it one of my best. It’s also my twentieth book release! When I realized my next book would be number twenty, I took pause. It’s an extraordinary gift to be able to publish one’s work for which I’m deeply grateful. I knew the twentieth book had to be something special. I’d like to share a little about why I chose to release this book at this time, what the book is about and how it’s evolved since the first edition.
I signed a contract to put out an anniversary edition of American Circumstance years ago but we weren’t planning to release it until spring of 2017. It was a conscious decision to release it now for a few reasons. As I reflected, I took stock in the reality of publishing twenty books. I’m normally focused on what I’m working on or planning to work on so I don’t have time to look back. But twenty books felt significant and like a time to pause. I decided the twentieth release should be something that represents the first twenty books, that time period in my life as an author, before I move on to other things. A better version of American Circumstance was the clear choice. More than anything I’ve written, it’s a tribute to the people I grew up with who shaped my life. It’s a love letter. The new version is dedicated to a dear high school friend that passed away far too young. Purely as a novel, I think in some respects it’s perhaps the strongest of my three novels. My copyeditor agrees. I became a better writer when I wrote my last novel, Blue. So I was equipped to go back and write a better version of American Circumstance. There are also social messages in the book that are important to me and represent who I am. In the end the decision was solidified when I realized we had released nineteen books in the Social Fictions series. I thought I should be the author of the twentieth and this also allowed for that.
American Circumstance explores appearance versus reality – how our lives and relationships appear to others versus how they are experienced. It’s a subject that I’m endlessly fascinated with. I decided to focus on social class, and the ultra-wealthy, because I thought it would be a good way to explore how the front stage and back stage are not always the same. It also allowedmetoprovide a window into the replication of wealth, power, and privilege in the US, with implications abroad. Given all of the economic changes in the years before I wrote the book, I wanted to look at the complex ways that social class shapes identity, relationships, and even the codes of friendship, such as what we do and do not say to each other.
When I first wrote the novel I wanted to mirror the experience of an impressionist painting which can look very different from a distance than it does close up, where you can see all of the little specks of paint. So I used the style of literary impressionism. Accordingly, the novel is divided into three parts, with the first (and longest) covering moments over an expanse of four decades. The second part unfolds over a period of a few months, and the final part transpires over just a few days. The idea is that you see a more distant view, and then an increasingly close up view, and all of this is enhanced by having a narrator voice dominate the beginning of the novel and increasingly representing the interiority of characters by the end.
This is the second time I’ve revisited a novel in order to put out a better version and it’s an interesting experience. I find you really have to let go of your ego and look as objectively as you can at your work. I believe writers always improve and so it makes sense that you’re better equipped to write the story once time has passed. I took a strong red pen to the book, in order to tighten it. Time also gives me insight into readers’ perspectives. I make a point to chat with readers at book events and conferences. I also routinely Skype into book clubs and college classes that use my novels so I learn what resonates with readers, what questions they have, and where they put their emphasis. All of that impacts how I approach revising as well as the new content, in this case an afterword, questions for further engagement and the epilogue.
The epilogue continues the impressionist theme I developed in the book, going from the longest expanse of time to the shortest. The epilogue carries this through by unfolding over the course of just twenty-four hours. The chapter is called “The Road Trip” and takes place a couple of months after the conclusion of the novel. What I love about it is the glimpse it provides into how cultural biases are experienced across America. The novel as a whole is meant to play with readers assumptions– what we assume about people based on status characteristics like social class or gender. The epilogue takes this further by looking at how these characteristics might be viewed and experienced across the country, and consequently, how place matters. I actually wrote the chapter at the time I originally finished the novel and held on to it to release at a future time. With the things happening in the US right now, it feels like the right time to release this short story about cultural differences, identity and safety in America. The epilogue is one of my favorite parts of the book.
I’m so proud of this novel and I’d be honored if people read it. I didn’t do this alone. I have to extend a spirited thank you to the people that made this book possible– the entire Sense Publishers team involved with the series– Peter de Liefde, Paul Chambers, Jolanda Karada, Robert van Gameren and Edwin Bakker– and Shalen Lowell, my long-suffering assistant extraordinaire and dear friend.
On the occasion of releasing my twentieth bok, I’m also enormously grateful for this life as a writer. I’m grateful to every editor and publisher I have ever worked with, every co-author or co-editor, every columnist, blogger or media personality who took the time, and above all, every reader. I’m grateful for the totality of these experiences. And I don’t take any of it for granted. I know what a privilege it is for people to publish your work and for readers to spend their hard earned money and all-too-brief time, reading it. At this juncture, I’m profoundly grateful, humbled and excited for the next chapter.
American Circumstance celebrates the first twenty books of my career. Now I can move forward in new directions. I like to challenge myself and in this regard I have some exciting new projects in the hopper– including my first collaboration with a visual artist and a book I have secretly been working on for years, it’s the most challenging project I have ever taken on and I suspect it will surprise some people. Suffice it to say, it celebrates all ways of knowing, which is more important to me than ever before. More soon. For now, immense gratitude for your time and support. It means the world to me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Love and Light,