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Flip Turn by Paula Eisenstein

Flipturn

Paula Eisenstein is a wonderful author who I interviewed here earlier this year. You can check out that post for more information about her and the story of how we met–today I’d like to focus instead on her debut novel, Flip Turn.

Let’s start by glancing at the back cover copy:

“In Paula Eisenstein’s spare and provocative first novel, a young girl must come to terms with the discovery that her brother killed a young girl. Feeling alienated and not knowing how to ask for help, she decides that suppressing her sexual development will ensure she doesn’t do the same thing.

In Flip Turn, Eisenstein has created an unforgettable narrator whose success as an athlete leaves her conflicted about the attention she receives. She fears it will remind people of what her brother did and draw negative attention to her family. As her swimming triumphs lead her to the Olympic trials, she recounts her own sexual abuse at the hands of a swim coach and must decide if she should give up her passion to try to find a more normal life.”

My thoughts:

Flip Turn is written like a diary. The narrator goes on tangents fairly regularly, which wouldn’t work in an adult book, but helps give the book a teenage feel. On top of having a murderous brother, Flip Turn’s narrator faces the same issues as other teen girls: too much homework, moving, trying to make friends and a constant internal debate about her own self worth. Flip Turn deals with many issues common to teenage girls in an honest way without focusing too hard on any one issue. Flip Turn is also a distinctly Canadian book taking place in London, Ontario, and I’m a sucker for Canadian books.

This book is written for teens but I can certainly see an appeal for adults. It’s an interesting look at competitive swimming, which I knew very little about before reading the book, and a fascinating look at the impact one person’s crimes has on their whole family. I find this particularly fascinating because in the news they never talk about these people. We always hear about the impact on the victim’s family, but never about how violent crime impacts the perpetrator’s family.

The writing style feels very true to a teenage girl’s voice, and the editing is incredibly clean. In fact, this is the best edited book I’ve read in a long time. I noticed a few places where phrasing was weird and a sentence sounded awkward, but not a single typo made it through. This is incredible when even most traditionally published books have a couple errors that made it through.

My only complaint about Flip Turn is that it didn’t truly feel finished at the end. I can’t help but think that there’s more to the story, that something got missed somewhere or perhaps intentionally left out, something that would’ve rounded out the story more. Still, the ending was appropriate even if it felt a bit abrupt, and it wasn’t a Disney happy ending or a tragedy. I’m always happy when an author respects their story and chooses to take the middle ground with their ending, rather than conforming to formulas in the hopes of selling books.

All in all, Flip Turn is a fantastic novel. It’s a window into the life of one teen girl, and her story is powerful enough to reach across all generations. My biggest hope for this book is that nobody will turn it away because it’s about a teenage girl–this story isn’t just for teens, even if the story is about one.

I’m going to rate Flip Turn a 4 out of 5 on the Awesomeness scale(yes, ‘awesome’ is a measurement).

Would you like to read Flip Turn? If so you’ll be thrilled to know that Paula has donated a copy to be given away when I reach 400 subscribers. Don’t want to wait? You can purchase Flip Turn here.

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Author Interview: Paula Eisenstein

I meet most of the authors I interview online through Musa’s author group or other online writing groups. Sometimes I read a book and I’m so stunned by it that I simply have to interview that author. Today’s author, Paula Eisenstein, I met in a very different way–I just so happen to go to school with her son. She’s a generous lady who has even sent me a print copy of her novel, Flip Turn, for review(I usually only get ebook copies), so you can expect to hear more about her soon.

Please give Paula a warm welcome.

* * * *

1. Can you tell us a bit about your book, Flip Turn?

Flip Turns’s narrator is a young teenager, who is also a competitive swimmer. She is dealing with the death of a young girl that was caused by her brother. It is written in the first person in short episodic bursts or vignettes. The voice is distinct. Flip Turn touches on a lot of different issues but I think it especially looks at the difficulty a family faces, internalizing and trying to take responsibility for impossible levels of shame and guilt, when when one of its members commits a crime.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

I always had that ambition. The real impetus to act on it came when I was studying astrology (with renowned psychological-needs astrologer Noel Tyl). While working with the inherent symbolism of my horoscope, I found myself in a funny bind. The more I developed my astrological prowess, the more what I was seeing in my horoscope was telling me to stop with the horoscope studies and get on with my passion for writing!

3. You’ve lived in Canada your entire life. How do you think your Canadian heritage influences your writing?

When I discovered Canlit in high school I was instantly a fan. Here was literature about me (and us), I thought. I love writing to place and time, so inevitably, since where I am is mostly Canada, I write about Canada. Flip Turn is set in Canada, and there are a couple of funny vignettes I think of as being particularly Canadian, one is about the relationship of my mother’s side of the family to Sir Isaac Brock and another is about how my father chose to come to Canada.

4. Flip Turn is a YA novel. Is there any particular reason why you chose to write YA?

YA was more of a label that came after the fact. Flip Turn is told from the perspective of a young adult hence it has a natural appeal to young adults. I wouldn’t say it is only a YA novel, not only young adults are interested in what goes on in the minds of young adults. The shift from childhood into adulthood is one of the biggest developmental adjustments in human lives, or at least the biggest thing we remember. So, naturally, to my mind it makes sense that everyone relates to the theme of the passage into young adulthood.

5. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Why does your chosen method work for you?

I think how I wrote Flip Turn was neither, or both. I didn’t want to use a conventional plot strategy, which I find prescribed and not in touch with real human development. Or if plotting is in touch with true developmental passages, I think the kind of passage it describes is more of a traditional male oriented one. Instead I used my personal development as a guide, I tried to stay pretty faithful to its passage, hoping that a different kind of truth or structure would emerge. It was, for me personally, most evocative. I kind of didn’t realize what happened to me, what was really going on for me, until after I wrote it. So if that “found” structure is plotting, then I’m a plotter, or alternatively if the acting of not imposing a structure, but rather finding one is pantsering, then I would be the latter.

6. Can you tell us a bit about your editing process?

I really enjoy editing my work. I love working in Word, honing and rearranging, trying different ways of writing things, and in the editing playing with and finding the voice, and as well playing with the grammar. For me, the editing is a part of the creative process.

7. How did you find your publisher?

I have to say I have a great “how I found my publisher story.” I had befriended writer and editor Stuart Ross through taking a writing workshop of his, and he actually, of all things, posted a request for novel submissions on facebook! Of course I had tried more traditional avenues previous to this, but it was through this unorthodox submission request that I found my publisher Mansfield Press.

8. What strategies are you using to market Flip Turn?

I am learning as I go about marketing and promotion. Even prior to its publication, I guess you could call attending readings and getting to know people in the literary community, the beginning of promoting myself, or at least putting myself out there as a writer. Flip Turn launched with the three other fall Mansfield books at a reading here in Toronto, then went on the road to Ottawa and Kingston. Plans are in the works for a London launch. I started tweeting. My publisher is applying for prizes. I’m going into a high school in February to talk to some students. I’m doing this interview with you!

9. What do you think is the most important piece of advice for aspiring writers to remember?

The thing I’m struggling with right now is finding writing time. So my advice to aspiring writers is my advice to myself; find/make/create the time to write. It will make you feel so good.

10. What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?

My husband and I collaborated on a project comprised of his drawings and my writing. It is based on a family trip to the Pinery Provincial Park. The writing is funny and my husband’s drawings are beautiful (and strange). I am also slowly starting the beginning mulching of another novel which picks up where Flip Turn ends.

Bio:

Paula Eisenstein is a grown-up woman who lives in Toronto with her husband, son, and the vitally necessary two cats for families with writers in them. She was born and came of age in London, Ontario, and received a Bachelor of Arts from Mount Allison University. If a teacher were making comments about Paula on a report card, the teacher might say; Paula fails to understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction.