The stranger asks:
The author answers:
|You’re a novelist? Have you published anything?
|You’re a surgeon? Have you ever operated on anyone?
|Have you written anything I might have read?
|Do you read novels?
I read a couple every year.
Still haven’t figured out the formula.
|Literature or fiction?
Any of your novels
made into movies?
|Only in my nightmares.
Who do you get compared to,
as a writer?
My brother compares me to a
volcano of repressed anger.
My therapist doesn’t disagree.
|So self publishing, how difficult is that?
It’s a challenge, from what I can tell.
I am not self published.
|You have a publisher? how did that happen?
|I wrote a proposal and a first chapter. My agent tapped the right editor on the shoulder, the publisher bought it, and that started the ball rolling.
|You have an agent? how did that happen?
I wrote a lot of letters and talked to a lot of people
and had a really good proposal and first chapter.
|Could you introduce me to your editor, publisher, agent?
|Wait, you write fiction?
I plan to give it six weeks.
That should do it.
Now that’s a coincidence. I was planning on
learning how to take out an appendix this summer.
|That’s a no to the agent, editor, publisher intro?
|Technically it’s a no, no, no.
|So you’re writing a novel now?
|Are you still practicing medicine?
|What are your novels about? Any good reviews?
|Funny you should ask. I’m wondering what kind of surgery you do and how your patients evaluate you.
|You are tough.
|Yes, I’m a published novelist.
|So when is your next novel coming out?
About six to ten months after I finish it.
|Really? So what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be at home working? When will it ever be finished, the way you slack off?
|Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.
A couple times in my life I’ve avoided falling in love. The first time I was aware of doing it was in 1985, which was a watershed kind of year for me: I had a breast cancer scare (that turned out to be benign); My father went into a steep decline and died; A six-year long relationship finally crashed and burned; I met the Mathematician; I started field work for my doctoral dissertation; and I saw a movie that I tried not to see.
The Eric Garden was a tiny theater on Nassau Street in Princeton, just across from the university. I didn’t often have money or time for the movies, but then one day I saw a new movie poster to the left of the ticket booth. Recall that this was long before you could google a movie trailer to see what it was about, so the poster was all I had, but on that basis it was clear to me that this was a movie I would adore.
Look at it, this object of my reluctant admiration. I still get a flush when I see it, all these years later.
The odd part: I simply could not make myself buy a ticket and go inside. I waited until the last day of its run, and then, sure enough, I was very put out with myself for waiting. I would have happily bought another twenty tickets and seen it twenty more times. Assuming of course my graduate school budget had stretched so far. Because I waited, it was a couple years before I could see it again, but I thought about it, a lot.
So now this phenomenon has repeated itself, but this time with a novel. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society came out in 2009 so it has been about eight years that I’ve successfully avoided reading it. I somehow knew that I would love it, and so I stayed away from it.
I’m here to confess that again, I was wrong to wait. I just finished it, at 2 a.m., and I’m kicking myself because now I know that The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is one of those novels that I will re-read every year. I’ll start feeling lonely for it first. Then the story will keep intruding into whatever I’m thinking about until I give in, sit down and read it again. There are maybe six novels and just as many movies that have this ability to kidnap my attention.
As I just finished reading this novel, I need to think about it for a while before I’ll be able to put into words why I like it as much as I do. Of course that will mean reading it again. Once or twice, at least.
I’ve been looking for something like this for last last five years, at least. Ergonomic, adjustable to the nth degree, a built in, well design laptop arm. Expensive, but not completely in the stratosphere. This is the Interstuhl Mitos Mobile MS 14. And it’s nowhere to be found in this country, as far as I can tell. It may not even be in production any more.
Back to the drawing board.
Your questions, my answers (these all kind of fit together, which is why I’m handling them as a group):
Of your published work, is there any writing that you wish you could take back and rewrite…anything that makes you cringe now?
Who, of the characters that you’ve written, is your favorite?
Are there any characters in the Wilderness series that you have killed off and then wished you hadn’t because they would have fit in really well in one of the later books? I don’t have any particular person(s) in mind, I just wonder if it is common for Authors to ever think, “Darn, I should not have killed off so-and-so because they would have tied in perfectly with this storyline.”
My sense is that published authors always have regrets. I suspect that few of us ever sit down to read (or listen to) earlier work, unless there’s some compelling reason. On a couple occasions I’ve had to read from an older book, and two things are always true. First, I’ll find something I don’t like, sometimes something that makes me cringe; second, I’m usually relieved that it isn’t worse. Once in a while I’ll be pleased with a turn of phrase, or happy that the scene flows the way I wanted it to.
In my case, my regrets are always about wording or phrasing. I can’t remember ever regretting a plot turn. Which brings me to the question about killing off characters.
It’s really hard to explain this without sounding silly or melodramatic, but here it is: Characters decide for themselves when they’ve had enough. And probably for that reason, I’ve never looked back. I can’t remember ever feeling the lack of somebody who has moved on. See? I told you it would sound odd.
As for favorite characters: I have many of them. Some are more persistent than others — a few from Homestead still make themselves heard now and then. It would be easier to name characters I never much liked. But I’ll let you guess. Except, don’t guess Jemima, or Julian. Because you’d be wrong. There are other characters I liked much less.