Thursday, October 21, 2010


So…when you’re writing a book, you have moments of great despair. But you also have giddy moments when you imagine yourself and your husband and family and sisters and brother and friends and students all being on Oprah to talk about the book.

There they all are in the audience, smiling. Oprah says how much she loved the book, even that it reminded her of Beloved. You explain which of your characters you love and why, talk about late nights writing, and your husband’s patience. Your older sister starts to cry and then Oprah gives everyone a brand new car, armfuls of Origins cosmetics and a copy of your book. Sigh

That’s not exactly what happened to me yesterday, but it felt just as thrilling!

I met with a reporter named Diane Rey; she writes for the Capital and several online publications. She came to Cottonseed Glory and as I showed her that lovely shop, she took pictures of me and a mock of Solomon’s Puzzle I’d made for such occasions until the finished book is in my hands.

I was happy that she was able to meet my friends at the shop and see how great it is. Next we walked down the street to Regina’s Deli, another Annapolis shop that has been there for years and which is called “Gisela’s” in my book! There’s a scene set there!

Ms. Rey asked the most interesting questions and I have to admit that I loved talking about the book. The writing of fiction is interesting because it is so mysterious. Where do the ideas come from? Why do you stick with it? How do you know how to shape the characters? What surprised you about the process?

For me, writing fiction is like watching a dream unfold. It usually starts with a line of dialog or the words of a description and an image. For one scene in my book, I simply “saw” or imagined a hand held out, palm up, with a crumpled cigarette but on it. Hmmm. What’s that about? I wondered only to peer in my mind and watch the drama unfold.

Diane asked if there were any surprises in writing. There were! The one that delighted me most was the development of the character Joe. Now, don’t jump to conclusions. I have a son and grandson both named Joe (and this was also my father-in-law’s name), but this Joe is not really any of them. He’s drawn from a combination of people I know and love. I’d love for my readers to guess who I mean!

When I began to write about him, he came alive, a distinct character, with a presence that was irresistible. His charming, mischievous, sympathetic personality caught my attention. He’s fun-loving, competitive, courageous—even reckless and he’s loyal. I know this about Joe MacBride from peering at the imagined dream of emerging fiction, but the key to creating fiction is making all those endearing things about Joe come alive through dialog and dramatic action. Joe has to be seen through the words on the page.

So I told Diane Rey how I came to see and love this character, but also how, when I began to write, I didn’t expect him to grow and change the way that he did. It’s as if, once brought to life in the narrative, Joe MacBride was determined to go make his mark, to go deep and get the good stuff out of his unusual, fictional life. It was a great joy to talk about him and about the wonderful, meaningful experience of writing Solomon’s Puzzle.

I have no idea what else I said or I’d write it down. Maybe it will come back to me when I calm down!


  1. Bravo! This is so exciting time, put one of those small recorders in your pocket and capture the whole thing. Don't worry, you'll forget its there and just be yourself.

  2. I absolutely *love* the little orange van/truck that's watching you write in the picture above. I'm so happy that you were interviewed, and you're enjoying the moment! Reading your writing always makes me feel closer to home -- I cannot wait for the book!

  3. You have worked long and hard for this recognition of your accomplishment and the many more that are coming. Savor each moment and hang on to that giddiness. You deserve all the joy this process brings.

  4. My parents just got the postcard for your book. I can't wait to read it!