Before I’d ever written a novel, I imagined that authors must be able to point to two dates on the calendar and say, "Here’s when I began writing this book, and here’s when I finished it." I knew that the middle part--everything in between the moment when you sit down with a blank page and the moment when you type "The End"--was going to be murky. But I figured that this much, at least--the calculation of how long you spent working on it--would be clear.
As it turns out, I was wrong. The layering of questions and images and half-phrases that eventually coalesces into the seed of a novel is subtle and complicated and begins before you commit to a single word. And, as I probably should have known, the work doesn’t end the day you turn the manuscript over to your editor. The day of publication, at least, serves as a convenient endpoint. Finally, the author can say, "Okay. I’ve done all I can. Time to move on." At least, that’s what I always thought.
Then I heard a story about an author who had made the decision to revise a short story she’d written more than thirty years earlier. The story had been published, anthologized, taught in university classes... and she’d decided it wasn’t finished, after all. Honestly, I found the idea unsettling. I was a little annoyed with the writer in question for opening a door that I had assumed to be closed.
But like it or not, the idea stayed with me. Soon I had a premise--what would happen if a writer decided to change the endings to every one of her books?--and in that premise, there was a character whose desires and motivations were opaque enough that I wanted to figure them out. I was already thinking about the novels this author might have written, and how I would construct their last chapters: An epidemic which wipes out people’s memories, but only the bad ones. A survivor of the Titanic finds himself haunted by strange images appearing in the cartoons he draws. A ghost-mother wages a custody battle between the living and the dead. I was already wondering: Why is she doing this? Does she think she can rewrite her past? Or is she hoping to create a new ending for her own future?
I began writing The Nobodies Album the day I heard that news story. Or else it was the day I saw the first sentence in my head and typed the words onto a page: There are some stories no one wants to hear. Or maybe the day when I realized that there was going to be a murder to solve. I can’t really say.
As for when I’ll be finished with the story? It remains to be seen. --Carolyn Parkhurst
(Photo © Marion Ettlinger)
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
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