Monday, February 2, 2009


Key West -- during the January back-to-back Literary Seminars an idea for a new book came to me. Usually ideas come slowly over a long period of time. Characters live inside my head, sometimes for years, before I'm ready to write about them. I usually fill a notebook with everything I can think of about my characters before I'm ready to type Chapter One. But this came like a bolt out of the blue!

I'm always inspired at the Key West Literary Seminar (it's more theater than seminar) but I've never come away with the burning need to start a new book. Maybe it was because of Rachel Kushner, a first time novelist, whose book, Telex From Cuba, was fascinating. I couldn't put it down. It takes place in 1950's Cuba, just as the revolution is beginning. It was during Rachel's talk/reading that the idea came to me. Who would have believed that this year's topic - historical fiction - would so inspire me, taking me back to a time in my own life -- the early 50's -- when my friends and I believed our city was under siege?

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that in my idea folder was a story clipped from a newspaper about the very events I wanted to write about! I'd forgotten I even had this article. I took it as an omen. This is a story I was meant to tell. Suddenly, the structure for the book seemed so clear. The characters started talking to me. I didn't waste any time. I created a notebook for them. I even did something else I never do. I called my agent and editor and told them both I have an idea for a YA novel (I think that's what it will be, anyway.) Now there's no turning back.

In my early enthusiasm I blabbed to George that I'm going to finish this book in 18 months. He found that funny. We'll see. If I put aside everything else I'll bet I could do it. It's the putting aside that's the problem. Already I don't want to go grocery shopping this afternoon. And forget laundry. And the party I've been planning for Key West friends.

But really, I knew it was time. I've been feeling antsy. I've been between writing projects since I finished Friend or Fiend? last summer. (It will be published in May, the 4th book in the Pain & Great One series.) Then I went through my Maybe I don't want to write anymore phase. George reminds me I do this after every book. Really?

So, many thanks to Rachel and the other writers who gathered here a few weeks ago. I've been doing research for several days now. I hope I can write this story as if it happened yesterday. To me, it feels as if it did.
Stay tuned,