I write fiction; I love spinning tales. Each of my three novels began with a small spark that grew into a book. In the case of House Arrest, it was a one-paragraph article in the Boston Globe that intrigued me. It described the Court assigning a home care nurse to make prenatal visits to a pregnant young cult member under house arrest. At the time, I was a nurse practitioner working with children and families from around the world, all with different beliefs about health and illness. So how could I resist that?
With On Hurricane Island, it was a character. I imagined Gandalf Cohen in front of me in the security line at JFK Airport, and I “saw” her being taken away by officers; I had to write the book to find out what happened to her. The new novel, Kinship of Clover, was sparked when one of the child characters from House Arrest started pestering me, whispering in my ear, “Don’t you want to know what happened to me?” And I did, so I jumped into writing that story.
I write first and foremost because I really love a good story and writing it is even more exciting than reading it. And because I believe that fiction is one of the best ways we have, in this perilous period in global history, to explore our world, with all the big injustices and small kindnesses, and to imagine a better way to live.
I particularly like novels that balance on the tightrope between big social and political issues (climate justice, civil liberties, racism) and the lives of individual characters trying to make change, to resist. Some of my favorite novels, the ones I admire enormously, are Kindred by Octavia Butler, Solar Storms by Linda Hogan, Strange as this Weather has Been by Ann Pancake, Civil Wars by Rosellen Brown, and Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie.
When my first novel came out and my publisher urged me to write essays to help promote it. I learned that I also really like writing essays, particularly essays that braid together politics and memories, family and the difficult questions we face as a nation and a planet.
I’m not a very cerebral writer. I don’t outline, and I have no idea where the story is going until I get there. I write by Kurt Vonnegut’s line that “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” I write the first draft to discover the story and then go back and revise and revise and make it work. Sometimes that comes easily, sometimes not. The manuscript I’m working on now has been in the works for 17 years and I’m still not sure I’ve got it right.
But most of all, I’ve learned to trust the process, wherever it takes me. I was surprised when my second novel turned into a political thriller, because it’s not a genre I read often. I was even more surprised when my new book expanded into some elements of magical realism. I love the process and I love the surprises.
Ellen Meeropol’s characters live on the fault lines of political turmoil and human connection. She is the author of one previous novel, House Arrest (Red Hen Press, 2011). A literary late bloomer, she began seriously writing fiction in her fifties. Her short fiction and essays have been published in Bridges, DoveTales, Pedestal, The Rumpus, Portland Magazine, Beyond the Margins, The Drum, and The Writer’s Chronicle. A former pediatric nurse practitioner and part-time bookseller, Ellen holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the Stonecoast program at the University of Southern Maine. She lives in Western Massachusetts.
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Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of In the Context of Love, adult contemporary fiction about one woman’s needs to tell her story without shame.
2016 Sarton Women’s Fiction Finalist
2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
2016 Readers’ Favorite Finalist
2016 USA Book News Best Book Finalist
2015 Great Midwest Book Fest Honorable Mention.
“…at once a love story, a cautionary tale, and an inspirational journey.” ~ Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage, and critically acclaimed Once Upon a River,and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters