Melbourne writer, Heidi Catherine joins me on Words and Leaves and we agree to disagree about the best kind of books.
Not long ago I met Weezelle through a group of book lovers who gather once a month to discuss all things books, and many things that have nothing to do with books.
Despite having a long list of things in common, we’ve quickly come to recognise that our taste in books isn’t one of them. Fortunately, we enjoy a friendly debate.
We recently caught up in a Melbourne café. As I sat with my latte and Weezelle clutched her English Breakfast tea (our taste in hot beverages is not synchronised either), we realised there was a speed dating session in progress at the next table.
Double take! Mr Darcy, wealthy gentleman and owner of the Pemberley estate and Edward Cullen, the world’s most sought-after vampire, were sitting but metres away – both with vacant seats before them. (N.B. Some license may have been taken for artistic purposes).
As you can imagine, we promptly forgot our drinks, and our husbands, and sashayed over to the speed dating session. Fortunately there were no arguments about which literary heart-throb we chose to sit with. Here’s a recap of how our dates panned out.
Heidi: Hi, Edward, is that really you?
Edward: Yes, it’s me. Hey, you remind me of someone. Do you mind if I call you Bella?
Heidi: [Blushing] Yes, of course you can.
Edward: I noticed that other guy over there in the stuffy jacket had a vacant seat. Why did you choose to sit with me?
Heidi: It was an easy decision. You come from a better book.
Edward: Wow, that’s a pretty controversial comment.
Heidi: I know, I know. And I have to admit that I do like Mr Darcy, and Pride and Prejudice is a terrific book, but …
Edward: Go on.
Heidi: Well, it’s just that if I were stranded on a desert island and could choose between having either the complete collection of Jane Austen or Stephenie Meyer, the vampires would win every time.
Edward: Why’s that, Bella?
Heidi: I can appreciate the classics, but when I read I like to be so swept up in a story that the pages turn themselves.
Edward: So you don’t like to have to think too hard?
Heidi: I like to think about the plot and the characters. I don’t like to have to think about every sentence as I try to figure out what it means.
Edward: Ah right, so it’s easy reads you like?
Heidi: I hate that term!
Edward: What’s wrong with it?
Heidi: Maybe it’s because as a writer, I know how difficult it is to write something that’s easy to read. It means the writer is skilled at being able to tell a story in a way that makes it easily digestible. Not many people have that talent. Saying a book is an easy read should be a compliment, yet people say it in a way that belittles the book. It’s as if they’re worried they’ll look unintelligent if they admit they enjoyed it.
Edward: So was Twilight an easy read?
Heidi: Yes! Which is why I loved the series. Stephenie Meyer has a wonderful talent for telling complicated stories in a way that everything makes perfect sense. The reader can’t help but care about her characters and what will happen to them. You included, of course. I’ve devoured all her books.
Edward: [Eyes turn black at word ‘devoured’ and licks his lips] So you’re on Team Edward then?
Heidi: Well, when you’re up against Mr Darcy, then yes.
Edward: And when I’m up against that feral werewolf, Jacob?
Heidi: [Shifts uncomfortably in her chair] Do I have to answer that?
Edward: Well, Bella, you’re making this up, so probably not.
Meanwhile, over to Weezelle who reported that her speed date transpired like this:
Weezelle: Excuse me … Mr Firth?
Mr Darcy: Madam, you are mistaken; I am not Colin Firth. People often presume it and it does vex me. I struggle to keep my indignation silent.
Weezelle: My apologies, I’m mortified.
Mr Darcy: Apologies accepted, madam. If you wish, you may take a seat.
Weezelle: Why, thank you.
[Long awkward silence]
Weezelle: So … How are you enjoying Melbourne?
Mr Darcy: It is most agreeable. A little like London at the height of the season.
Weezelle: [Becoming visibly animated] Oh really! I love reading about that stuff.
Mr Darcy: [arched eyebrow] ‘Stuff’?
Weezelle: You know, the crazy ways of Victorian England – the rituals and the rules. I love being swept up, in the case of Jane Austen, into her world of petticoats and social hierarchies. Being enveloped in the sumptuousness is so appealing to me. But then you also have the Brontes and their tales of governesses and the wild Yorkshire moors. And in so many of these books, the tragic story of thwarted love. [Sigh]
Mr Darcy: My dear Weezelle, it is a truth universally acknowledged that thwarted love does capture a reader’s attention and does indeed make a book a page turner, even though the reader can reasonably predict the outcome.
Weezelle: Indeed. And then there’s the fact that throughout this period women were defying social norms by writing and finding a vehicle to voice their opinions on property laws, on social rigidities and on marriage. George Eliot is the perfect example of this. There’s an element of the subversive there that I love.
Mr Darcy: Being subversive is not my strong suit.
Weezelle: Probably not, but you’ve got lots of other things going for you. As do most other characters of this period. I think they’re timeless. So many of these books have been televised, pastiched and made into movies again and again, which is testament to that. There can’t be many adults who haven’t at least heard of Heathcliffe.
Mr Darcy: Upon my honour, Heathcliffe is a disagreeable, horrid man, not at all worth pleasing.
Weezelle: Oh … yes, totally. I know. Absolutely. Categorically.
Mr Darcy: Madam, the lady doth protest too much, methinks …
Weezelle: Mr Darcy, you’re confusing your milieu. That’s Shakespeare.
The bell rings; the speed dating has come to a close. Weezelle and Heidi return to their table to argue over who chose the better date.
What do you think? What type of book would you take to a desert island? Let us know in the comments section below.
Heidi Catherine has written a trilogy of young adult novels. The first novel, The Soulweaver, won Romance Writers of Australia’s Emerald Pro Award in 2015 for the best unpublished novel written by a published author. She has also been a finalist in RWA’s Little Gems competition for the past three consecutive years, which saw her short stories published in an annual anthology. Her recently completed novel, Surface Tension, is about a successful internet blogger accused of poisoning her husband with a chocolate brownie.
Weezelle is a blogger, with no intention of poisoning anyone, but quite fancies being successful. Subscribe to her blog and make her dreams come true.