Monday, April 12, 2010

Book Blog Tour of How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly by Connie May Fowler

Welcome to the Book Blog Tour of How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly by Connie May Fowler!

I'm very excited to welcome Connie May Fowler today who is here to share a bit about the inspiration of How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly and to talk about the research that she does when writing. Welcome, Connie - thank you so much for stopping by!

How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly


I'm thrilled that Gaby has invited me to write a guest post for her wonderful blog. Thank you, Gaby! She has asked me about the research I conduct when "creating the characters, describing the places and events" in my novels. And she also asks, "What was the inspiration for How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly?"

Writers must be, above all else, curious creatures. I am boundlessly interested in just about anything. A bottle of Wite-Out can fascinated me for hours! As such, life as it is happening all around is a rich and endless source of research. I keep files on my characters. I look at catalogues and decide not what I would buy but what THEY would buy. Sometimes I go out to eat and order what Clarissa wants, not what I want. Getting into character, when you are a writer, is very similar to how actors approach their craft. You have to know as much as you possibly can about them so that when you sit down to write, they are fully dimensional and believable.

Research fuels creativity. And indeed, it was research that prompted the inspiration for How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly. About five years ago I was researching pre-Civil War Florida and came across information about the 1819 Florida Purchase Treaty. Florida was a Spanish colony and though Spain didn't practice progressive policies throughout the New World, in Florida it did. For instance, women and black people could own land. Black men could sit on juries. It was, considering what was occurring in the United States, an imperfect Utopia. But the treaty called for Florida to be turned over to the U.S. -- a place where slavery and the subjugation of women flourished in 1821. Thanks to a real estate deal, the most basic of human rights were stripped from two groups: women and people of African descent. That haunted me. For years, I walked around with that in my head, creating characters that would have been directly, horrendously affected by the treaty. But I didn't want it to be a historical novel in the traditional sense, so it also became a ghost story with Clarissa Burden being our current day heroine. Clarissa, too, has to find her path to freedom. I was interested in what happens to people who are trapped in cruel relationships (government or familial) -- how that shapes them and affects other aspects of their lives. Clarissa's challenges are many and most of them stem from the simple fact that she is mired in a horrible marriage. Her march toward freedom is tied to the past -- she recognizes that -- and this tension between past and present, the acceptance of cruelty or its outright rejection, forms the foundation of the novel.

Again, Gaby, thanks so much for this opportunity! I hope your readers will love How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly.



Thank you so much, Connie for taking the time to chat. I enjoyed learning the different measures that you take when fleshing out the characters. Clarissa and the other characters came across so clearly in the novel.

The blurb:
Set amidst the lush pine forests and rich savannahs of Florida's Northern Panhandle, this is the story of one woman whose existence until now seemed fairly normal: She is thirtysomething, married and goes about her daily routine as a writer. But we soon learn that ghosts, an indifferent husband, and a seemingly terminal case of writer's block are burdening Clarissa's life. She awakes on the summer solstice and, prodded by her own discontent and one ghost's righteous need for truth, commences upon a twenty-four-hour journey of self-discovery.

Her harrowing, funny, and startling adventures lead Clarissa to a momentous decision: She must find a way to do the unthinkable. Her life and the well-being of a remarkable family of blithe spirits hang in the balance.

In How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly, Connie May Fowler once again demonstrates her keen abilities as a storyteller. A remarkably original and empowering novel about an unexpected midlife awakening, it will resonate and be discussed for years to come.

I admit that when I read about Clarisse Burden in her large, well cared for and beautifully proportioned house with a husband frolicking with nude models in the garden, I didn't sympathize with Clarisse. I kept wanting her to get angry and kick the deadbeat out of her house!

But as Clarisse's personal history, wit and personality unfolded, I slowly sympathized and could understand why she didn't call her husband on his ludicrous behavior. Albeit, I kept hoping that she would. Getting to know Clarisse - her kindness and generosity to the young reporter, her wry internal voice, and interest in her surroundings - helped draw me in.

Once I got into it, I thoroughly enjoyed How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly. Clarissa's voice is smart, observant, and a little sad. As she focuses on other people and their stories, she becomes engaged and you see how Clarissa was able to write stories that touched people's lives. If you're looking for an unusual absorbing read, I highly recommend How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly.

ISBN-10: 0446540684 - Hardcover $23.99
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (April 2, 2010), 288 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Connie May Fowler is an essayist, screenwriter, and novelist. She is the author of five novels, most recently, The Problem with Murmur Lee, and a memoir, When Katie Wakes. Her 1996 novel, Before Women Had Wings, became a bestseller in paperback and was adapted into a successful Oprah Winfrey Presents movie. She also founded the Connie May Fowler with Wings Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to aiding women and children in need.

Participating Sites:

April 12

April 13

April 14

April 15

April 16

Thank you again, Connie for taking the time to chat with us and the chance to review your book! Thanks so much to Miriam, Henry, Brianne, and Hatchette Books Group for this review opportunity!


  1. I came over from Cym Lowell's Book Review Party Wednesdays (BRPW).

    I take it that this is an urban fantasy? Cool!

    "Character immersion" is totally believable method to me. It is logical. And I think would make a very believable character(s) which readers can connect with. Not that I know anything about writing :)


  2. Thank you, Gaby, for all of your support--for me and all the writers and their books you feature. You rock! And BTW, if book clubs are reading How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly, we can have a virtual meeting via Skype. Again, many thanks and happy reading! Connie,