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Bestselling author Jennifer Crusie claims she was born to write novels rather than short stories, but her newly-released collection of short stories, Crazy People: The Crazy for You Stories, proves that she is a versatile writer. The Ohio native has written 16 books, and over thirty of her essays have been published in magazines and anthologies. Crusie originally compiled this collection for her MFA in fiction at Ohio State University.
Anyone who has read her book Crazy for You, will recognize characters such as Quinn and her best friend Darla. Crusie first wrote about Quinn and Darla here, and they helped her develop the subsequent novel, which was one of the top ten romances of 1999 as selected by Romance Writers of America.
The collection is unique in that you get to follow Crusie’s writing process. Crusie illustrates the development of her characters through notes at the beginning and end of each story, providing readers with an insider’s look into what Crusie was thinking when she wrote them.
The voices of the different stories vary from pre-teens struggling with adolescent love and family drama to a grown woman whose husband has left her for the ‘Bank Slut.’ The characters vary in age and personality, but they feel realistic as they tell their stories.
The stories share a common theme: love. But the stories are not the typical romance stories that Crusie is famous for. Crusie covers all the different types of love, from one-sided love, to true romance, to love between family members.
The book starts out with a story entitled, “The Day My Sister Shot the Mailman and Got Away With It, Of Course.” Told by the fifteen-year-old version of Quinn, this story rambles on in an honest, funny way. Quinn notices everything about her attention-hogging older sister’s love life, and she tries to give the mailman tips on how to date her. Crusie says many of her fans do not recognize the narrator as Quinn in this story, but she reminds the reader that this story occurred seventeen years before Crazy for You.
“I Am At My Sister’s Wedding”, includes characters who got cut from the published version of Crazy for You. Written from the point of view of Caroline, the story follows her as she attends her older sister Stephanie’s multiple weddings. The story begins when Caroline is fifteen and continues over the next thirty years as Caroline attends five weddings. The two sisters seem to be polar opposites: while Caroline never settles down, Stephanie has settled down too many times to count. But in the end they have more in common than what appears—they both struggle to find that perfect guy. Caroline describes each wedding in vivid detail, from the crazy relatives in attendance to how the color of the punch had to match the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses.
Crusie tells us in the note before the story that the story was originally intended to be a way to learn more about Stephanie as a character. In the first drafts of Crazy for You, she was one of Quinn’s best friends. But Crusie realized the story was less about Stephanie and more about Caroline—who Crusie describes as having a “wacked-out view of men and relationships.” Crusie states that Stephanie was such a simple character that it was easy to cut her from the book.
“Just Wanted You to Know” takes the form of a letter written by Debbie, Darla’s sister, to her cheating husband. As the letter progresses, the reader sees Debbie go through the different phases of dealing with her cheating husband. In the beginning of the letter, Debbie is in denial that her husband has left her for a woman known locally as the ‘Bank Slut.’ Once she accepts the truth, she is still willing to forgive her husband, but throughout the story Debbie continuously changes her mind. Although written as a letter, it reads more like a diary. Debbie pours her emotion into the note, making it a form of therapy. She vents all her thoughts of the affair, the divorce, and even the problems it is causing with her nosy mother. The letter is complete with several postscripts in which Debbie’s feelings evolve, from thinking she can forgive her husband as she explains her plans to win him back, to her affair with her husband’s best friend.
The collection also contains appendices, which provide alternative versions of some of the stories. For example, “The Day My Sister Shot the Mailman and Got Away with It, Of Course” was first written for a seminar with short story and novel writer, Ron Carlson. For one assignment, he required his students to write a 26-sentence story, and the first sentence had to start with the letter A, the next with B, etc. Although a difficult and unusual assignment, Crusie was pleased with the outcome and expanded the story into the version you see published in her collection. Crusie included the original exercise in Appendix A, and it is interesting to see the transformations that took place.
Readers can also read the published first chapter of Crazy for You and the original chapter from the book proposal. Although the two chapters are similar in content, some characters were deleted and some details changed as Crusie’s ideas for Crazy for You developed.
Even though most of us cannot say that our sister shot the mailman, the stories are all very easy to relate to. Crusie’s writing is easy to follow and fun to read. Crazy People: The Crazy for You Stories is available for Kindle, Nook, and iBook. A print version will be available soon.