Christine Whitehead, a full-time Hartford divorce attorney and part-time novelist, admits that she has little in common with Ernest Hemingway. She doesn’t like bullfighting, hunting, fishing, heavy drinking or a lot of other pursuits that Hemingway enjoyed and described in his novels.
But she is captivated by Hemingway, his writing and his life, nonetheless.
“He was such a fascinating man,” Whitehead said. “I feel like I shouldn’t be drawn to him, but [his writing] makes you feel something intense” through his powerful writing style.
So as a way for the Hemingway fanatic to share her appreciation for his work, Whitehead launched The Blog Also Rises in early October at www.theblogalsorises.com, which chronicles her “obsession bordering on madness for all things Hemingway and related [and what isn't?]. She takes a chatty approach to Hemingway’s work — explaining how he portrayed his wives in novels, posting a Hemingway trivia contest or providing casting ideas for film adaptations of Hemingway’s novels.
“I made a commitment to write the blog for a year and see if anyone reads it, comments on it and has fun with it,” said Whitehead, taking a break from her busy practice last week.
She also uncovered a connection that Hemingway had to Connecticut. Shortly before his suicide in 1961, Hemingway briefly spent time at The Institute of Living, a psychiatric hospital in Hartford, as he battled depression.
She believes in Hemingway’s literary importance as a writer whose work is known for its concise, vivid and simple prose.
“His style changed how writers write,” Whitehead said of the novelist and journalist. “He is an icon even if you don’t care for that style.”
She added, “I’m having fun with the blog. The trick is finding the time to write.”
For Whitehead, that’s a familiar feeling. Back in 2001, she went from avid reader to active writer when she began working on her debut romance-mystery novel, “Tell Me When It Hurts.” For four years she developed her characters and story until the book was published and met with many positive reviews.
“It took a long time because I was in the middle of trying a case,” she said. “I didn’t do much writing during that time.”
She benefitted from the success of her debut novel by booking events at libraries throughout the state and participating in the Connecticut Authors Trail with other accomplished writers from the state.
“The most fun is you create this little world and wonder if anyone is reading it,” Whitehead said. “Then you discover that other people are reading it and they’re really interested in this world you created. I find that very gratifying.”
Over the past 18 months, Whitehead has completed the manuscript for her second novel, “The Rage of Plum Blossoms,” and the book is currently going through the final editing stage before publication.
Whitehead pours much of her personal life and interests into the characters in her novels. Her female characters have attended Smith College (Whitehead’s alma mater), own horses and dogs, and work as divorce attorneys. Whitehead became a divorce attorney after a tumultuous childhood during which she endured a fierce custody battle between members of her extended family after her parents died five months apart.
“My personal life and legal life form the backdrops for the action” in the novels, Whitehead said. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and makes you capable of dealing with people and their problems while feeling more empathic.”
Whitehead used reading as escapism during her childhood, and she was constantly reading. She soon discovered how the powerful effect Hemingway’s writing had on her, and she was later inspired to write her stories.
“Everyone has a story rattling around in their head and it’s a matter of who takes the time to write it all down,” Whitehead said. “Now, whether it’s a good story is a different question. I feel I can tell a good story and that was my goal. I’m not going for a Pulitzer (Prize).”
While she’s blogging about Hemingway separately from her own work, she welcomes any attention the blog gives to her novels. Meanwhile, she’s starting to formulate a third novel as she waits for “The Rage of Plum Blossoms” to be released.
“I have an idea [for the next project],” she said. “But I try to make sure one is launched before I start writing another.” •