Thinking About Anna

So I have 10,000 words done on Anna’s book and Carter is in it, and for some reason it has mob back story, which I had not planned, and I have no idea what happens in Act Two or Three (or really most of One); Act Four ends happily but we already knew that. I mean, the Girls definitely have a direction they’re going in, and I have this whole double identity thing to play with in the romance, and I’m starting to really love the heroine, and the hero isn’t bad, either, but I am once again confronting a wimpy antagonist who probably isn’t the real antagonist.

I just don’t understand how all this mob stuff got in here.

Or exactly what Anna does. I know she works for a very small, private museum/library, I know she takes a lot of classes, I’m not sure whether she’s an art expert or a librarian (both?), and I know why she wears twin sets and stays in the dead-end job, I mean I understand Anna, but there’s all this weird stuff showing up. Of course, that’s because it’s a discovery draft, but still, the Girls seem to be dumpster diving here. I think Anna’s mother is the daughter of a mob boss, and Anna’s coping with her. Maybe the family has ill-gotten gains and that’s why Anna doesn’t need a high profile, well-paying job?

The thing I like about Anna is that she presents as a conservative–hair pulled back, sensible shoes, twin sets, glasses–but then she opens her mouth and she’s as unleashed as her mother, albeit with less swearing. In the struggle between ego and id, Anna embraces the id. I think she’s going to have other skills that she rarely uses. I also think she’s one of those people that people who don’t know her patronize and people who do know her tread carefully around. She’s a nice person, but don’t fuck with her because she takes both ears and the tail. Like I think Grandpa was a hitman and passed down some tips to his favorite grandkid. I see research in my future.

And then there’s Nate, who is now looking pretty conventional in his narrow suit but who has a colorful past as a juvenile delinquent. See, I like the whole not-what-they-appear-to-be thing, both of them trying to live down colorful (criminal) pasts, coupled with the fact that they spend the first several thousand words of the story calling each other by fake names, which evolves into them both having two identities. I love confused identities, integration, doppelgangers. Plus she’s hiding something and he’s an investigator. Somebody’s committing an art crime.

Crap. I think it’s a book.

So now I need a title. Might be nice to make it fit with Stealing Nadine and Haunting Alice since Carter is Nate’s boss.

Also, I think this might be Anna, only with red curly hair. I think I might have gotten the “Anna” from her, too, although it goes well with Mafia granddaughter, too.

And here’s Part One. See, there’s a reason you read through all the babbling.

71 thoughts on “Thinking About Anna

  1. This was excellent. (Actually, Anna said “Excellent,” which reminded me of Alice.) I truly enjoyed it. I didn’t need graphic language to tell me the sex was amazing — that’s one of the things I love about your sex scenes. Good chemistry. I hope “Charlie” got some sleep on the plane; I already care about him and Anna.

    Thank you for sharing with us.

  2. It’s obvious to me that she must have killed a Viking in a previous life, and she has a cousin named Lily. I love her. Write her well.

  3. Buy your girls snicker bars and champagne, because they had sent up good stuff. Anna is a wonderful character and brought me into the story straight away. I’m struggling to read right now, but could not stop reading this. Start researching and don’t park this one Crusie, please!! Going back to read it again. Thank you.

  4. Okay I haven’t read this, but I think I love it already b/c –

    “I also think she’s one of those people that people who don’t know her patronize and people who do know her tread carefully around. She’s a nice person, but don’t fuck with her because she takes both ears and the tail.”

    – is me. I have friend of many years, who has said, “sometimes Angry Jill has to come out. Angry Jill is not cruel or irrational. Angry Jill is effective.”

    And it’s true, I don’t enjoy being an angry person, but I can definitely channel rage effectively when need be. And most people who don’t know me super well are blindsided.

  5. This is WONDERFUL! Please develop this! Chant with me, “Book book book!”

    Angering Anna. Crossing Anna. Debauching Anna. I’m hopeless at titles, help everyone.

        1. Okay, “parlez” is supposed to be pronounced (or pronunciated) with a certain southern accent, such that it sounds like “parley.” Parley-Anna. See? Pollyanna? No?

          I’ll show myself out. 🙁

      1. I accidentally posted the comment below, an hour ago, under the Happiness blog. (Both posts were announced in the same email, and I’m easily confused).

        “Any possibility “Finding Anna” would work as a title, with “finding” referencing the confused identities and the fact that her outer presentation is so different from the person inside? Or possible “Learning Anna”? (“Discovering” is likely more accurate, but doesn’t fit as nicely with “Haunting” and “Stealing.” Seems better to stick with two syllables.)”

        I’ve read the draft now and, like everyone else, I just love it. Fantasy is fun, but my favorites are delightful stories that take place in the more-or less “real” world. This is my very favorite thing that you’ve posted for a long time–nothing negative about past posts–but for me, this one just soared to the top of the list. It doesn’t read like it even needs much editing; it’s SO good.

  6. Unleashing Anna? Uncovering Anna? Inventing Anna?

    And I see her as an edgier, taller Jane Levy:
    but with untamable hair like this:

    She definitely needs to have a cat to sit on her books/manuscripts while reading. Perhaps called “Charlie”?

    And she can’t leave him at home for some reason but he objects to prolonged stay in cat carrier under her desk and escapes out to lead her to some caper clue as she chases him clandestinely through the stacks/exhibits. Now for some reason I picture Myrna Loy with Tina Fey’s voice.

  7. Ugh. How are you so GOOD? Don’t mind me, not jealous at all. Also now I’m deeply invested. With our Viking & Waitress, you left them in the same town communicating with and smiling at each other, so I know they’re ok, even if their book never happens. Anna meanwhile clearly needs self-esteem and to see not-Charlie again. And not-Charlie clearly needs Anna in his life. And as far as I know, they’re on the other side of the country from each other, their paths never to cross again.

    Book, book, book, book!

      1. Whew. That’s a relief. 4 hour bus ride on Best Bus, if she’s the part of Jersey that bumps up against New York.

        I don’t know why I love the name Best Bus for a business, but I do.

        1. Right now, I have her somewhere near Montclair, but I think that’s going to change. I’m still riffing in discovery. Eventually I will have to dig out Mapquest and get serious.

          1. Let me know if you need DC background for him. My neighborhood knowledge is 4 years out of date, but it was such a cool place to liv.e

          2. Four years is about right; I’ll set this before the insanity of the last four years, so it’ll probably be about six years ago.
            He works for the FBI art crimes unit, which I have not researched yet. He’s a simple-needs guy, probably an efficiency would do him just fine, but he wouldn’t live in a place he couldn’t keep fairly secure. And he’s in his late twenties/earlt thirties and single, so some place near restaurants, bars, etc would appeal, unless DC is like NYC and you can get anything delivered.

          3. So, if he cares about efficiency, D.C. probably drives him crazy. Multiple government systems have input on the public transit system (VA, MD, and D.C. city gov), so that’s a mess. The traffic is also a mess, probably for real reasons like over congestion, etc. but it feels like it’s because half of the drivers in D.C. all learned to drive in other parts of the country, and now they’re all trying to apply their hometown’s driving culture. Add in roundabouts and tourists and it’s a shit show.

            For neighborhoods, if you need him in the city, I think I’d put him in Gallery Place/ Chinatown. It’s about a 5/10 block walk to the F.B.I. headquarters. It’s also in between two big metro stations, so if he cares about being able to reach the rest of the city with as little fuss as possible, it’s probably the way to go. It’s not cheap (nowhere in D.C. is cheap) but it’s in-between several cooler neighborhoods and tends toward a lot of offices & businesses. There’s great restaurants in the area, but most of them tend toward take-out & lunch. Basically, it’s a bustling neighborhood but not most people’s first choice of place to live, so if someone found an efficiency they could afford there I’d think “Huh. I never looked over there” as opposed to laughing in disbelief. It’s also by the Portrait Gallery and the American Art museum, which is free, so if he’s into art I could see him stopping by to see his favorite painting every now and then when he needs to recharge.

            If you actually want realism, Howards/Shaw has cheaper housing and it would be a relatively quick metro (20 min) to get to work. (Historically Black neighborhood, gentrifying, but more slowly than some other parts of D.C. Lots of college students and young people, good food, plus a Target/ some other big and useful chain stores).

            If you need him to have a car, he probably lives farther out, either in the parts of D.C. that buts up against Maryland and Virginia, or actually in Maryland and Virginia. He probably has to be making at least $45,000 a year to live in the city without a roommate, and even that would be really tight.

            I’d say 1 out of every 15 of my friends had a car when we lived in the city (college educated, working full time, but freshly graduated with no experience). Whereas most of my VA/MD friends had them.

            You can get takeout anywhere, but it might be slow and a limited selection if you’re not in a neighborhood with good restaurants.

            If you want to justify putting him in a cooler neighborhood, a lot of the townhouses in Dupont, U Street, Howard, etc. have basement apartments and you can make the person who lives upstair be some D.C. old timer who bought it before the neighborhood gentrified and only rents to people they like.

            The three general groups of the city are
            1. People who are there for a few years for their career and then leave (college students, people working for a politician who just got elected, etc.)
            2. People who came for their careers, but fell in love with the city and stayed even after the thing they originally came for ended
            3. People who grew up in D.C. and whose families are the working class people (teachers, bus drivers, nurses, waiters, etc.) that the city runs on, but who everyone else seems to forget when talking about D.C. Most of them are slowly getting priced out of the city. There are a lot of Black families who have been in the city forever in this group.

            Groups 2 & 3 are the most fun to talk to. Group 1 has some normal people, but also a lot of self-important ambitious types who haven’t realized yet that a Congressional internship doesn’t make you special.

            Oh! D.C. has really good Ethiopian food. Good other food too, but when an Ethiopian woman I know in Portland who runs a restaurant heard I was moving to D.C. she nodded sagely and said, “they have good Ethiopian food” and she was not wrong.

          4. This is all very helpful. Thank you!

            Edit: Studios in Chinatown run about $1500 to $1800, so that seems reasonable. He just wants a place to sleep, plus they have w/d so that would streamline things. It’s basically a hotel room for him. I think that works.

  8. A real-world Crusie! Well, that’s what it looks like so far. I do hope this one gets finished to your satisfaction – after all, you are your own worst critic. And even more importantly, that your editor will like it and buy it. And then we’ll be able to buy the book!

  9. Ok, this is fabulous. And thank you so much for mentioning RBG. Xoxo

    I read a book once where the main character was an antique book restorer. waiting for the flood by Alexis Hall maybe? This might be a good profession for Anna. Lots of research and painstaking craft?

    1. You’re right about ‘Waiting for the Flood’, although his day job was at the Bodleian, and I think involved archiving ephemera; he restored books for fun (I think).

  10. I love, love love this!! Thanks for sharing.

    The only thing that will drive me crazy is the time zone stuff. 9 am Pacific time is noon Eastern. But that’s the kind of thing that you’ll fix when you edit.

    Thanks for sharing!

      1. I talk to people across the country all the time with my job. Time zones are embedded in my psyche by this point. 🙂

        I even talk to a woman who lives in Mountain Time, but crosses the river and works in Central Time. I don’t know how she does it – I think she only lives 15 minutes from work.

      2. Oh, and you’ll probably need to research this, but what I remember is that if you’re heading east via plane, you can leave about midnight PT (which is 3 am ET) and arrive about 6 am ET. If you leave in the morning, say 9 am PT, you’ll arrive in a place like Atlanta about 3 or 4 in the afternoon.

        1. I just deleted the time headings and that first line. They weren’t necessary, and it doesn’t matter either of them got back because they both went to bed jet-lagged. Thanks for the time catch!

  11. I don’t need a finished book- love this and love the characters! I will settle for any scenes you are willing to post.

  12. Wow, wow, wow.

    Best line for me: “Anal and German Shepherds.”

    Glad she eats, and that you avoided the new boss stereotype.

    A few nitpicks. Could you please ask your Girls
    1. Does she have to be blonde? I know you probably don’t feel comfortable with representing diversity, but blondes are disproportionately written as protagonists and, well, all characters. I’d breathe in relief at a brunette, a curvy woman, an older woman, an immigrant, an indigenous person, basically anyone who wasn’t The Usual.

    2. Love Lucy in the sky with screwdrivers, but it did make me think of Getting Rid of Bradley.

    3. “A few minutes later, when he’d gotten rid of the condom and she’d collected her scattered brain cells, both of them still breathless … ” made me think of breathless brain cells. Which amused me.

    4. Oral sex is sex. Unless they didn’t come with it? So the second time it’s referenced, how about “Plus two oral.” or extra oral. Or something. I’d count it because it seems Bill Clinton not to, and you already covered this in Welcome to Temptation.

    Please feel free to ignore all if this impedes your Girls is any way. Kris Rusch says never to share your discovery drafts, and I want to let your Girls run free. This is honestly the best discovery draft I’ve seen from you, IMO.

    5. KEEP WRITING. Run, Girls, run!

    1. 1. Anna’s a redhead. The blonde is another agent.

      2. It’s been almost thirty years since Lucy in Bradley. And it’s not her name, so I think I’m good. I just like the contrast between Anna in the twinset and Lucy naked with Snickers.

      4. I think that was more for clarity that it was defining oral sex as not sex. If he says, “We’ve had sex four times tonight, let’s do it again,” I think the willing suspension of disbelief snaps.

  13. Well Jenny you did it again, I saw the outtake and thought “Oh good I’ll just get a cup of tea to drink while I read this”. Guess what!! The tea got cold!! like everyone else I loved it. Off to reheat my tea.

  14. I think it might be Arresting Anna (assuming her name stays Anna).
    Haunting and Stealing are both aggressive acts so Arresting fits better than anything else.Chasing Anna would work except that’s not the story. I also like the idea that Haunting and Arresting are also both adjectives that mean “strongly attractive,” so there’s a double play there. Stealing doesn’t fit with that, but I like it so, what the hell.

  15. I’m at work. Not the best place to be reading this right now, but I needed this in a big way. Please keep going, this is amazing! Thanks!

  16. I can’t wait to read more! But a suggestion, as a former professional bra fitter (yes, truly, for several years!), if your heroine is wearing white bras to be practical, she would be more practical to wear flesh tones, white shows up under white and flesh tones disappear (depending on the shade of flesh tone).

  17. Oh, wow!! This is awesome. I was so invested in both characters that I didn’t sense it was coming to a close. Now I miss them both. Please keep on exploring these two, they’re fabulous!

  18. I’ve not been on this site, but clearly should have been, so am late with adding my more, please, right away. This is so good. As a librarian, I thought, she needs to give Anna some book references, and then you did! (Also as a librarian, I have to say the stereotypes get old, and the American Library Association despairs, although I understand how clunky shoes and pulled back hair and twinsets fit. If this is contemporary, and she is young, she’s likely to have a tattoo (which could be another interesting thing to discover), possibly piercings. And, yes, there are specialized librarians working in museums, but they are generally in big cities. The closest to you, off the top of my head, is the Rosenbach in Philly. I love this beginning–thank you!

  19. But if Anna is lying low, she could have gravitated to the twin sets and the quiet librarian stereotype because it’s a stereotype. She has a tattoo, a maple leaf on her butt, but not because she’s edgy. You really can’t characterize with political correctness; people show up in your stories and they’re complex, and Anna will not work as a young, sexy librarian with tattoos.

    You write that story (g).

    1. Cardigans were popular when I was in library school partly because libraries are cold and partly because it can be fun to play into stereotypes, and when I worked at a museum I also wore them because we were in a conservative town and you want your patrons/board/local officials to forget you’re a young, educated, liberal woman.

  20. This is great, like an ultimate fantasy. I’d forgotten how often your heroines pick up your heroes.

    I’d love some more stuff about not-Charlie. Okay, Cal was perfect, so not distinguishable in human ways. Charlie of Charlie All Night, though, stood out with shaggy dark blonde hair, a leather jacket, and a sense of cleanliness. (Okay, he was supposed to be the opposite of a suit.) But I pictured Charlie of All Night right away.

    Please add to not-Charlie’s description — the skin head part makes me think Neo-Nazi which is ugh. No mention of a cellphone is a plus. The “shaken not stirred” reference to (in my mind) Sean Connery might possibly convey a toughness, a kind of ready for action. Yet, I dunno. I’d really like to know why this guy stands out to Anna. I haven’t met any agents searching for art forgeries, but I had a colleague who used to be a Secret Service bodyguard. Good looking, athletic, could be quiet and almost invisible at times. Mostly a good talker, listener, and observer (we were both boarding school teachers) who didn’t get upset.

    1. Bob said the same thing about the skinhead bit, so I need to change that. He also didn’t know what a twinset was, so I need to get some kind of description in.

      I tried to imply (no infodump) that Anna was drawn to him because he so still, the unflappable bit. No matter what happens, Charlie is calm. She’s usually the one who keeps her head when all those about her are losing theirs, but in this case, she’s vibrating and he’s still, and she finds that attractive. I’m pretty sure that’s on the page, especially once they get to the hotel room.

      I didn’t want to go into detail about his looks because that’s a sure way to undercut readers (see your reaction to “skinhead” and Bob’s, too). So he’s tall and broad with cheekbones and great eyelashes, and his eyes are brown because I wanted Anna to internally babble about Children of the Damned, but otherwise, it’s up to the reader to fill I’m the blanks. It’s build-your-own-hero. The big things I wanted were tall and serious and calm, everything else is up to you all.

      So she sees him as handsome and successful and rich and, unmentioned, in control, not somebody she’s going to have save. On the page, she does think that the unflappable part is a big turn on, but I don’t want to go any farther that, I think I may have too much interiority already.

      The other side of this is that Anna is wrong about him being rich and in control, so I don’t want to spend too much time establishing Charlie as the way she sees him. She’s nothing like his assumptions of her, and he’s nothing like her assumptions of him, but as long as they never meet again, it doesn’t matter. They’re both good people who like each other superficially and treat each other with affection and respect for one night. That’s pretty good.

      Part Two, starts in Nate’s PoV as he’s realizing that Lucy is not a ditsy librarian, and then goes to Anna finding out that Charlie is not a trust fund rich guy. At the end of Part Two, they’re really annoyed with each other for failing to be the people they’d imagined, even though neither of them lied to the other. As I said to Bob, they had no reason to give each other their back stories, they were there to have a good time for one night and then never see each other again. Neither of them lies, both of them assume.

      So the rest of the book, Part Three and beyond, is them really meeting each other and knowing each other and there’s a whole destroying-each-other’s-lives-to-free-them thing (Bob and I talk about this is the HWSWA on Saturday), so I really don’t want to nail down the Charlie Anna meets and assumes things about because that’s not Nate.

      If that makes sense. The other thing is that Part One is entirely in Anna’s PoV, so you don’t get to see who Nate really is until Part Two which opens in his PoV. That goes up on the Works in Progress Page on Friday.

      Now off to delete “skinhead” from Part One.

      ETA: Skinhead is now gone and twinset is defined. Thank you (and Bob) very much.

      1. Thank you for the explanation. As I thought about what I’d written, I realized that what I was taking for lack of characterization was, in fact, a description of a quiet, self-assured man. Don’t meet many of those.

        1. It’s really hard to characterize when your PoV character is unreliable; you have to show the character as he really is in spite of seeing him through her eyes. It gets easier in the next section because we’re in his PoV.

  21. Best birthday gift EVER! Thank you!

    She is clearly one of the people it is criminally easy to underestimate. I worked with someone equally easy to underestimate; she was a tech savvy grandmother who ran everything in the office. We used to chat about quilts, knitting and new operating system releases. I loved her.

    1. You’re welcome.
      That’s what I was going for, since one of the reasons she’s easy to underestimate is that she deliberately projects that, flies under the radar in her twinsets and glasses. I really love writing her.

  22. Anna Kendrick looks good as a red-head. Looking forward to seeing more of your Anna, and I’ve re-read this several times this week.

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