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What is the date you began writing this piece of fiction and the date when you completely finished the piece of fiction? It started out as a short story written about 7 years ago. Then each time I looked at it, I wrote more, and then realized I had a novel on my hands. I played with it for about 7 years and last summer I decided ‘enough is enough’ and sent it to a publisher who did two other books of mine.
I wrote some of it while sitting next to my mother’s hospital bed when she was ill. She was a poet and loved hearing what I’d written. It was a nice thing for both of us and broke the dreary hospital routine. It also calmed me because I was so worried about her. I think in a way I was trying to entertain her, and she had a zany humor, like I do. We both laughed like crazy over these characters. So the book is pretty zany.
But I don’t outline, or pre-think the work. I don’t have a special routine except that I do write almost every day. When this material grew into a ‘novel’ the first winter I was working on it, the weather happened to be very cold and icy. The plot seemed to move quickly in that direction, starting out during pleasant fall weather and going straight into the dead of winter. I had so much fun with these characters that I didn’t want to let go of the MS. But eventually, it was the right time. I’ve come to believe that timing is everything.
Should I come with you he thought of asking then knew it would sound idiotic. Maggie. Magpie. Good ole Mags. Marching room to room shoving clothes and other things in suitcases. He watched her put her address book and little tin recipe box into an already jammed bag; kneeling on its canvas side in order to get it zipped. Maggie was strong – he had to give her that. Russell followed behind, room by room, refusing to help. Why should he? None of it was his idea. Not that she’d asked for help. Not her. When she was done, bags zipped, coat on, she phoned for a taxi. Dark-blue suitcases like sentries standing guard in the kitchen. Russell stood in the hall, just past the archway. They waited it out in silence. When the taxi finally got there its horn blared. Russell stepped further back into the shadows. Let her leave all alone, he thought. Let her wonder what will become of me. He heard the back door slam. Went to the living room and sat on the sofa. He heard the taxi start up then pull away, down the long hill of their driveway. He could feel the taxi driver's foot on the brake pedal all the way down to the road. Hesitation he thought; hoping. The taxi noise fainter and fainter. After that Russell felt nothing.
An award-winning author, Tepper has been nominated eighteen times for the Pushcart Prize, has received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for the novel ‘What May Have Been’ (currently being adapted for the stage), Second Place Winner in Story/South Million Writers Award, 7th Place Winner in the Francis Ford Coppola sponsored Zoetrope Contest for the Novel (2003), Best Story of 17 Years of Vestal Review, a nomination for NPR’s Selected Shorts Series, and other honors.
by Karen Hugg