Note: Readers have written, asking what happens to Savannah, who was six years old when “The Comfort of Lies” ends. This epilogue was in the original manuscript—I thought some readers would enjoy seeing how my lovely girl (I adored her every minute of writing the book) made out. Someone talked me out of including it (too much of a tying it up with a bow?) but I sort of miss it. So–below is the fast-forward for “The Comfort of Lies”
How does a writer, working alone, manage isolation?
The initial spark of a novel and putting words to paper is a solitary thing—but even introverted authors need a band of brothers or sisters. Come hear the secrets of one writing community that has balanced isolation and creative collaboration for eight years—and has a lot to show for it! Between us (Nichole Bernier, Kathy Crowley, Juliette Fay, Randy Susan Meyers, and E. B. Moore ) we’ve twelve published books (with five more in the works), many published short stories and articles, a literary blog, awards and residencies, and even, (coming soon), a big bricks-and-mortar local bookstore.
With every listen, the Trump sex assault tape sounds worse. Every syllable engenders feelings of being small and wretched and humiliated. I search for the genesis of these emotions, for the source of my desire to curl up into an invisible ball.
And the truths wash in:
The time my neighbor’s boyfriend covered my six-year-old crotch with his (fifty? sixty?) year-old fingers, inserting them through the fabric, while giving me a swim lesson in Coney Island. My shame, even now, floods back. My shame. My sister was with me. We were two little girls.
We shouldn’t judge the behavior of a perpetrator by their victim’s personality.
Nobody deserves abuse.
Nobody learns (not children, not adults) through terror.
Not in fiction.
Not in real life.
A few years ago, when speaking about my then-just-released novel Accidents of Marriage, a reporter mentioned how surprised she was by her negative reactions to the main character—how the character seemed to ‘provoke’ her husband and how the reporter sympathized with the husband’s anger. The next day, participating on a book festival panel, the moderator spoke of the husband in the book as a virtual out-of-control monster and his wife Maddy as a frightened woman battling emotional abuse.
I’ve been mid-book since my addiction began at age four and I pray to have a TBR stack until the moment I die. On that heap I want it all: pounding plots, the wow of discovery, the comfort of recognition, and astounding characters. If I’m lucky, some will have all of the above. Whichever book I’m holding, I don’t want to be judged or lauded for it and I don’t want to shelve my books by race, class, or gender.
Books are a many splendored thing. If I could, I’d decorate my home with framed book covers (perhaps I will convince my husband . . . ) Already my home is decorated with books of every type—soothing me each way I turn. Now, I see books being made into art and these creations remind me of Kintsugi, described this way “a Japanese method for repairing broken ceramics with a special lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum. The philosophy behind the technique is to recognize the history of the object and to visibly incorporate the repair into the new piece instead of disguising it. The process usually results in something more beautiful than the original,” on Colossal.
The Widow of Wall Street: A novel about the seemingly blind love of a wife for her husband as he conquers Wall Street, and her extraordinary, perhaps foolish, loyalty during his precipitous fall.
Phoebe sees the fire in Jake Pierce’s belly from the moment they meet as teenagers. As he creates a financial dynasty, she trusts him without hesitation—unaware his hunger for success hides a dark talent for deception.
Recently, a thread in an online writer’s community popped up, beginning with someone (who hadn’t begun querying) asking why folks sent query letters to so many agents.
Did they have that many “dream agents?
Why not send to just one or two top choices?
And, really, how long does it take?
Answers flew in—achingly honest and reminiscent of everyone’s distant and not-at-all-distant (often painful) publishing journeys. I thought back to how long it took me.
The answer? You got some time?
“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” – Abraham Lincoln
Selling–the worst part of writing. Writing a book takes a certain set of skills: intense concentration, imagination, the ability to read the same 400 pages time after time, and the fortitude to take criticism (excuse me, ahem, critique) without weeping. You must learn to shut out all noise at a given moment and you must love solitude.
“The library was a little old shabby place. Francie thought it was beautiful. The feeling she had about it was as good as the feeling she had about church.” A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith.
Some books etch themselves on your soul. I don’t remember how old I was when I first read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Perhaps eleven? (Francie’s age when the book begins.) How many times did I read it after that? Ten? Twenty? Enough so that every scene, every character indelibly marked me.