The book-as-baby analogy, birth as a metaphor for publishing a novel, is just a little too pat. Some talented folks who write diligently each day can conceive of and pop out a book annually. And when I grow up, I aspire to do that too, to write for three hours a day, every day. But that doesn’t seem possible right now. I wear too many hats, and the truth is I enjoy it. I’m not good at saying no or making the outside world go away.
Me? The author? I’m more the elephant model of gestation. Elephants take 22 months to give birth. The alpine salamander has a three-year pregnancy and the frilled shark is 3.5 years. That was certainly more akin to my style in creating this first novel. The goal is to get a little faster.
On September 11th, “Those We Love Most” will come out. This process, about as long as the Spiny Dog Fish takes to reproduce, has been roughly three years in the making.
Over the past few months I’ve been toying with how to describe my book in a few sentences. Here is what I have so far…… “Those We Love Most” is about generations in a family, the seasons of a marriage, and whether or not a relationship can survive secrets. It deals with how one moment of inattention can result in paying the ultimate price. In the story, as so often in life, everyone is both right and wrong. What endures is faith in the people we love despite their loyalties or betrayals. Ultimately it is a love story, love of family, spouse, lover, friend and even stranger. And it’s about forgiveness and resilience, the getting through it. Most all of us can relate in some form.
Recently, I read about a survey that claimed during these tipsy economic times, people want to read stories about fantasy, happy endings and sex. And I understand the “take me away Calgon” effect of imagining yourself bound and gagged with silk Hermes scarves. I get that escaping into a fight-to–the-death nihilistic futuristic world might remove us from the reality of the mortgage, the potential for job loss, the stale marriage or life’s paper cuts of disappointment. But I tend to be drawn to stories about real life and the complexities of human emotions. I enjoy reading all kinds of genres but I love discovering a book that details how we move through and overcome the hard things life can throw at us to find lessons and community and resuscitation.
It’s these stories that connect us as human beings. They are the ones that make us say “ahh, me too” or “if they can do it so can I” or even “look how much worse I could have had it.”
I love the fiction of Anna Quindlen, Sue Miller, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Ann Hood or Sue Monk Kidd with their searing autopsies of interior lives. The authentic dialogue of Adriana Trigiani's generational characters brings them to life. I hated coming to the end of “Little Bee” and “The Namesake,” nodded my head with Annie Lamott’s honest memoirs and marveled at Ann Patchett's prose and intricately woven tales. The characters in the fiction of Lionel Shriver, Ian McEwan and Jonathan Franzen stayed with me for days.
“Those We Love Most” grew out of a real-life experience. I was out of town and a friend called me in a panic. I can still picture that hotel room I was in all these years later. A seventeen-year-old driver in her town had struck a child, and she wanted to know if I would talk to the parents and provide some hope based on my own family’s experiences. After I hung up, I kept thinking about that one pivotal “in-an-instant” moment and all the lives that had been affected by a split-second action. That call formed the basis for a fictional story about how one pebble dropped in a pond ripples out in many directions.
The intricacies within families—the secrets people hold, the love that ebbs and flows in marriages and relationships, and the bond between a parent and child—are themes all of us can relate to. The business of living is chock-full of so many extremes, and while there are parts of my book that deal with sadness, real life is defined by a bubbling stew of love and loss, joy and sorrow, betrayal, triumph, and achievement.
I wanted to examine the process of life coming unglued and then look at all the strengths and the wonderful qualities that lie within us to do the right thing for the ones we love most.
There are a few months before I give birth. I’m getting the nest ready, booking engagements for the fall and preparing to usher this new project onto the stage. I hope like hell people want to read it. And I look forward to sharing it with you. I hope I have the opportunity to cross paths with you on this birthing journey in one manner or another.
Stay posted for the next installment about "Those We Love Most." I'll be dishing about the cover selection process and how it feels a little like picking the outfit you will be buried in.