Curious Readers Ask Me
I say this without fear or shame—YES! The love of art and dogs. The impulse toward workaholism arm-wrestling with a deep longing to hole up with a book and a glass of wine. The neuroses—too numerous to list. Like Frances, I lie about my weight on official documents and read myself to sleep at night. And I still miss my dear father with all my heart. In short, this story couldn't be more revealing if I broadcast my therapy sessions, posted my DNA on Twitter, and ran in the Naked Olympics with my social security number tattooed on my rump! Unlike Frances, I'm not dead—yet.
It was a slow-motion epiphany. I watched my mom sail past her ninetieth birthday with no sign of stopping, and I wondered what I'd be like at that age. Still going to the library? Drinking way too much coffee and tending a garden? The assumption being that I'd actually live that long. Then another question sneaked in under the radar. What if I don't? It lay dormant in some disused part of my brain until one afternoon when I was in bed with my favorite person, a prime location for writerly inspirations.
In truth, there were probably some mood-elevating substances involved when suddenly the whole book—title, concept, and main character—popped into my brain, a bit like Athena bursting from her father's head fully formed. Luckily, my darling is also a writer, so we keep blank notebooks and pens stashed under our pillows to capture these elusive treasures. I scribbled out the basics—a longevity guru determined to live to 100 is smacked by a taxi and catapulted into the afterlife—and I was off and running. I'll be forever grateful that Frances and the other characters chose me to tell their story.
Absolutely! And they were amazing people! Samuel Smiles, Olympe de Gouges, Saint Perpetua, the Oracle of Delphi, John Gerard---they all walked the earth. Just google them. They're worth exploring. And then there are all the gifted artists who haunted Frances in the afterlife: Edward Hopper, Willem de Kooning, Kathe Kollwitz, Toulouse Lautrec, Edvard Munch. What would life be without the work they left behind?
I have two books in progress, both involving the afterlife. You could say that I'm proposing scenarios in the hope that whoever's running the universe will take a hint, even plagiarize me. But it isn't like that. The ideas just arrive, and I scoop them up. Lucky for me, there haven't been any farm-inspired notions since I'm urban to the core.
When I sit down to write, I'm greeted by a tiny sign that says: I'm living my dream. That's because, for decades, I went to an office by day and wrote by night, at times falling asleep at my computer. I can't tell you how often I longed to just roll out of bed and start writing while my brain was fresh. So now I can. And I do. I write in the morning and during the day, on weekdays and weekends.
I write in airports, hotel rooms, and anywhere there's a scrap of paper and a pen because when I'm writing a novel, the characters are all wide awake inside me, sifting the environment for bits of conversation they can steal, prospecting for ideas that will bail them out of trouble or promote their cause. It seems that part of my brain is in dialogue with them all the time, working on getting their story right. When I finish a book, I miss them. It's like showing up at the playground, and none of my friends are there. Time to make new friends.
Do you have a question of your own? I'd love to hear from you. Just shoot me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll try my best to respond.
BOOK GROUP RESOURCES
Are you lucky enough to have a group of book-loving friends who meet to talk, eat and drink, sometimes even managing to discuss the book of the month? I'd be happy to send a list of questions to use for your discussions or simply to stimulate your own thinking. I'm also available to Zoom with your group. Just send your requests to email@example.com. Please include your full name, e-mail, and where your book group meets.