I’m a writer who has been writing and loving books since always…yes, one of those kids walking to school with an open book clutched in both hands, reading. My new novel SILVER GIRL is just out, and while it’s not about me exactly, the ripples from a complicated female friendship I had in college inform the action. The book’s set in 1980s Chicago, during the time of the Tylenol murders, and though I went to college in Chicago, this still isn’t a book about me…except in that way that all my writing secretly pulls and tugs at the various threads of my life.
Here’s a nice little quote about the book from Publishers Weekly: “A profound, mesmerizing, and disturbing novel that delves into the vagaries of college relationships and how the social-financial stratum one is born into reverberates through one’s life.” (Honestly, I’m pretty proud the book is “disturbing”!)
As a writer, I respond to questions, and my question here was, How can a woman (or girl) shed her past? How does the culture respond when she sets out for uncharted territory? Literature offers Huck Finn jumping on a raft and the Beats hopping into a car…how do girls get out? What’s the price paid by a girl who dares take that bold action, who tries to break free?
SILVER GIRL is a collage novel (I’ve decided!) because the story doesn’t move along a tidy, chronological path. I structured it the way memory works, the mind making connections and sliding from one point to the next. I’ve also noticed that when remembering events in the past, especially traumatic events, there are often moments we just don’t want to think about, because they’re uncomfortable. Of course those are exactly the things I want to write about! So my unnamed, first-person narrator is perhaps a bit unreliable, hoping to protect herself as she works through what happened during this time in her life. The book is a journey through a relationship between two college girls who thought they would be friends forever, but who realize the unspoken secrets resting between them may not allow their precarious relationship to continue.
I spent many hours staring at all the pieces of this book trying to find the shape that could hold all those thematic elements, plus the plot: two college girls; one working class and one affluent; two sisters; two fathers; one boyfriend; a book of lists; pizza; fried chicken; a poetry professor; Lake Michigan; Marshall Field’s; and the Tylenol murders. What a thrill everything locked into place. Surely that’s the ultimate why: to feel that, to feel the writing work at that beautiful moment in time.
Leslie Pietrzyk is the author of the novels Pears on a Willow Tree and A Year and a Day. Her collection of unconventionally linked short stories, This Angel on My Chest, won the 2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. A new novel, Silver Girl, is out from Unnamed Press in February 2018. Her short fiction and essays have appeared/are forthcoming in Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Southern Review, Gettysburg Review, Hudson Review, The Sun, Shenandoah, Arts & Letters, River Styx, Iowa Review, Washingtonian, The Collagist, and Cincinnati Review. Pietrzyk is a member of the core fiction faculty at the Converse low-residency MFA program. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of the award-winning novel In the Context of Love, a gripping story about one woman’s need to tell the truth without shame.
Angelica Schirrick has been running from her past ever since the devastating discovery that her life is not what she thought.
2017 New Apple Book Awards Official Selection
2016 Sarton Women’s Fiction Finalist
2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
2016 Readers’ Favorite Finalist
2016 USA Book News Best Book Finalist
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