When novel’s characters eventually leave, author remains a bit wistful PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 24 May 2013 16:03

Hester Kaplan /Sandor BodoHester Kaplan /Sandor BodoPROVIDENCE – Hester Kaplan, a resident of Providence, is the author of “The Edge of Marriage” (1998), “Kinship Theory” (2001) and, most recently, “The Tell” (2013.) The recipient of many awards and honors, including a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, Kaplan is on the faculty of Lesley University’s MFA Program in Creative Writing. Like all good writers, Kaplan separated “the wheat from the chaff” in responding to those questions we sent to her!

Q: Are there characters that live on in your head after your books are done?

A: Picture this: Every morning you go into your one-chaired office, close the door and sit. You think you’re alone, but you spend the next three, four or five – if you’re very determined – hours with one or two visitors, characters who sit on your desk, stare, pinch and annoy you, and never, ever leave you alone; they talk about their problems the entire time.

They tell you their dreams, and then they want you to interpret them. They want to discuss what they had for dinner.

Their love lives are messy, their relationships convoluted, they make the same mistakes over and over and they want you to tell them what they should to do to fix things. 

Because these characters are parts of you – parts you love and hate about yourself – you want more than anything for them to find solace and happiness. And then, one day, they stop coming to your office. They’ve been launched, and you think of them fondly, as you might think, maybe a little wistfully, of friends from a different period of your life, when they needed you and you needed them.

Q: How and where do you get your ideas for books? Do you already know the ending before you start to write?

A: Ideas for a new novel or short story are like items in a giveaway box of used clothes. Stick your hand in and see what you pull out. Try a few things on for size.

Sometimes you get junk, sometimes a sweater at first looks useable, but then you see the holes, the synthetic yarn and bad colors, and it wasn’t really your style to begin with. Those stretchy purple pants?  Maybe they’d be good for a Halloween party or skiing, but you don’t like wearing costumes and you don’t ski.  That pair of white pearlescent high heels?  Who wore them?  What are the red stains on the left toe?  Why are there a few blades of dried grass in one?  And finally, what would happen if I put them on and took them for a spin? 

The stories I’m drawn to explore are the ones that have the complex patina of life about them – they’ve lived, and now they’re ready to live some more. I don’t know where they’ll take me, so I never know where I’m going to end up in them.



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