August 19, 2010 Leave a comment
Giving Birth Everyone’s heard the old standby that publishing a novel is like giving birth. I assume that’s a fitting analogy. It seems right. This time around the new life was first conceived in the form of a sloppy, hand-drawn chart on a piece of notebook paper. Thirty months later, almost to the day, I held a hard back copy of The New Road in my hand. Like any new parent, I stared in awe at it. And like most parents, once you’ve confirmed the appropriate number of fingers and toes, you begin to wonder what she’ll be like when she grows up. “We’ll see,” you say. Two and a half years is a long gestation period. By the end of it, the little chart had morphed into a door sized sheet of poster board covered by an ever shifting, multi-colored collage of 120 Post-it notes, designating scenes, chapters and important conversations. A funny thing about fiction writers. We sometimes have trouble remembering our own phone numbers. But point to any page in one of our novels and we can tell you where we were and what our state of mind was when we came up with that particular idea. I was watching a PBS documentary on Columbus when I decided Michelle’s father, Buddy, and his much younger girlfriend would spend Christmas in Jamaica. And when I heard a man in Denny’s apologize to a young woman for not removing his hat I knew that Mr. Caruthers would be saying those very words to my heroin, Michelle. On a bitterly cold day last winter I was in the library, struggling with how best to introduce the rather sleazy senator Schnee. I saw an older gentleman step up to the second story widow as if it were a one-way mirror and unzip his pants to tuck in his shirt. Even as he zipped up, I wanted to thank the old guy because I knew then what the senator would be doing when that scene opened. I guess the birth analogy is a good one. Sending this book child of mine out into the world involves the full range of parent emotions, joy, fear, hope, anticipation. Will The New Road touch someone today? Will the story of this young mother’s courage make someone’s life just a little more hopeful, a little brighter? Will she make someone smile today? We’ll see.