For the record, I am not an 80-year-old woman. Not yet.
The Silence of Trees is not an autobiography. It is fiction set in a historical context.
Last night I paid my first visit to a couples bookclub for The Silence of Trees. I am most often invited to speak at bookclubs comprised predominently of women. If there are men present, it’s for a mixed-gender bookclub, but they do not usually attend as couples.
This group met when they had been seated together for the wedding of one of their children. They hit it off so well that they decided to continue to start this bookclub.
The hosts and guests were gracious and enthusiastic, their discussion lively and a lot of fun, but the hostess was slightly disappointed that I was not an 80-year-old woman.
She was sure that the novel was actually an autobiography, and she was prepared to welcome Nadya to her home. She had decorated the dining room table with a tablecloth and china that she thought would befit an elderly Eastern European guest.
When I walked in the door, she was completely thrown off. She couldn’t shake the image she had constructed in her mind of the author and narrator as the same person. What followed was an interesting conversation about how I could put myself into the mindset and create the voice of an older woman.
I’m thrilled that the character of Nadya was believable, that’s so important, but I couldn’t stop thinking about our discussion all the way home. I wonder if other writers get asked variations of that question, “How did you write this character (who is unlike you in some way: be it gender, race, age, etc.) with such authenticity?”
Clearly, when writing science fiction, horror, or fantasy, the author is creating characters who are magicians, clones, werewolves, monsters, and aliens. There’s an inherent suspension of disbelief when you open a genre book. I wonder if the genre audience is better prepared to accept a character who is unlike the writer in some way?
Can I explain the magic that happens when I sit down and slip into a character to write his or her story? Not really. It’s like trying to explain the terrain of the imagination.
When I sit down to to write, sometimes five hours will pass by in a flash. When I look up from my writing, it will be some ungodly hour in the morning, and I’ll have written thousands of words and feel as if I’ve been out of ordinary time and space for a while.
That’s the magic of writing.
After that comes the hard work of craft: shaping and revising to make sure I’ve told the story in the best way possible.
That’s the work of writing.
I love what I do. I’m so grateful that people want to read my words.
I thank you for reading–wholeheartedly.
Now back to the work.