I was delighted to receive Maud Carol Markson’s newest novel Looking After Pigeon for a TLC Book Tour. There was something compelling to me about a five year old girl finding her way in the world after being abandoned by her father…and the book did not disappoint me (read my review). I was equally delighted when Markson agreed to write a guest post for my blog. Do you wonder where authors find inspiration for their books? I do. And so it was with great interest I read Markson’s words about how her writing seeks to find the truth in human experience and how that experience is a reflected in her characters.
A little bit about Maud Carol Markson:
Maud Carol Markson is the author of the novels When We Get Home, and Looking After Pigeon. She has taught writing at University of New Hampshire and Cabrini College and now lives in California with her husband and son, and her dog Molly, who is her constant writing companion. She can be reached at www.redroom.com and www.goodreads.com. Learn more about Markson and her work on her website: http://www.maudcarol.com.
Guest Post: Maud Carol Markson
Some writers find it very easy to write about themselves, but I am not one of those authors—I guess that is why I write fiction. And that is why I am submitting a somewhat modified version of the guest post that I did for Meg Waite Clayton’s 1st Books blog.
From the time I was told I would never grow up to be an elephant, I decided instead to grow up to be a writer (of course, to the adults who knew me, both probably seemed equally implausible). I wanted to be the person who wrote all those books I loved as a child, and all those books that kept my father engrossed every night so that when I talked to him he barely heard me. I wanted to be the writer of the books that filled my local library shelves. There I would walk once a week in the summer, and sit among the books, in the air-conditioned stacks, staring at their covers as if they could reveal the magic within. And then stacking up my selection of books to carry on the walk home, where they bumped against my side, reminding me with each step of what awaited me when I actually opened their covers and read their pages.
Books are still magical to me. I look at novels not as a means to escape from myself (although, happily, they often serve that purpose), but as a means to discover myself. As a young child, I discovered aspects of myself and my world in the characters of Harriet in Harriet the Spy and Julie in Up a Road Slowly, or Kit Tyler in The Witch of Blackbird Pond. As an adult, I cherished other favorites. It is not that the authors of these books are writing about me, or even about someone like me. What they are doing is finding some truth in their characters and in the human experience.
That is what I aim to do with my own writing. I wrote my first novel, When We Get Home (Bantam, 1989), when I was pregnant with my son and anxious about being a parent for the first time. It begins with the line: “In my family we are all disposable,” and it was that line that ran through my head over and over again until the character that speaks that line emerged. And then the rest of her family soon followed—the father with multiple divorces, the step-mother, the brother who flees from one relationship to another. Perhaps I felt that in writing about a family that disintegrates, I could keep my own family safe from a similar fate. And so far, it has worked.
In my novel, Looking After Pigeon (The Permanent Press, July 2009), it was another line that echoed: “My mother named her children after birds.” What kind of mother gives her children bird names? How does growing up with such a name make us who we are? In this novel, five year old Pigeon’s father disappears, leaving her to face a new life in an uncle’s house on the Jersey shore. My father never left me as a child, and I don’t even have an uncle, much less one who owns a house at the beach. My older sister never got pregnant. But like my character, Pigeon, I do find memory an “odd thing.” I call it selective memory: we remember what resonates most deeply for us. And of course, we all to some extent want someone to look after us. So although these characters are not me, the way they experience the world is me. They all in some way reveal parts of who I am. And hopefully reveal parts of my readers as well.