Good evening and thanks to all of you for coming tonight…and to Nicola’s for setting up this event. It’s a privilege to be here.
Tonight I’d like to share a little about my process of writing novels, in particular, and then some background on A Barroom View of Love. I’ll read some excerpts and then take questions.
About twelve years ago I was taking a walk on our rural, dirt road and I started noticing how I was stepping into my own shadow spread out before me. This captured my attention as an interesting metaphor so later I began to write a poem. The more I wrote, the more I began to see a character emerging. But what to do with a character? I’d never written fiction and didn’t see myself as a storyteller.
But there was something very appealing about taking on a project bigger than a poem. It was the time of my life that my children were transitioning to be out on their own. I needed to let go of my former, intense involvement in their lives. But what else could fill that void? A novel? And that had the added benefit – so I thought at the time – of control. I could write my characters lives however I wanted. There is some truth to that but I found, quite happily actually, that the characters took on lives of their own. I remember one chapter that I put off writing for weeks because I knew the character was going to have a bad experience and I couldn’t face it.
In the first novel I wrote, called Mornings One Winter, I wrote without knowing where the story was going. I finally sorted it out but it took a long time and was very frustrating. I was beginning to shop that novel when I got the idea for A Barroom View of Love. Within an hour and a half I had the major plot outlined and I thought the story would be more marketable than Mornings One Winter, so I put that one aside. Because I knew how the new story ended, the writing went much quicker. The challenge I faced, though, was with point of view. The omniscient narrator seemed too old-fashioned, so I chose to write from the main character’s POV and in third person. This gave me a lot of freedom and the story flowed. I had the book professionally edited and began to query agents.
Then one day I was in a bookstore and saw the book “Enlightenment for Idiots.” As I flipped through it I noticed how engaging it was and that it was written in the first person. I don’t think I could have started A Barroom View of Love in the first person, but with the story down I knew Katherine Sullivan better. So I took the next year to rewrite it from her point of view and in the first person. It was more difficult than I thought it would be. There are many things that a narrator can say about a character that a character wouldn’t say about herself.
I also liked that the book now sounded more like a memoir, which is very popular currently. But, I want to alert you: A Barroom View of Love is fiction. One of the editors I worked with kept telling me about her favorite pizza places in Ann Arbor. Finally one day I mentioned that I didn’t eat pizza. She laughed with embarrassment. Because Katherine Sullivan is very choosy about her pizza, she assumed that I was, too.