CONCRETE ANGEL is the story of a mother and daughter. Flipping the idea of MILDRED PIERCE, it's the daughter who is self-sacrificing and the mother who uses their relationship for her own evil purposes. Of course, a child has almost no recourse when a parent neglects their duties, subverting the natural order of things. So coming to a resolution requires growing up for Christine Moran. And that takes her eighteen years. The book takes between the sixties and the eighties in Philadelphia and Bucks County. Eve Moran gets into a lot of trouble over those years.
Can you describe your writing process? What is your work day like?
I write off and on all day--or at least until mid-afternoon. I write for an hour or so and then scrub a floor while I am working out the next bit. Then I write some more and make the bed. This goes on until I run out of words or chores.
But the first thing I do each day is rewrite what I wrote the day before. Since I don't outline at all, this serves to polish it up, remind me of where I left things. And I love editing. Early on, an editor said he could see the red pen better than the black one on my stories so I tried to tame the beast. To give the story a little breathing room.
With short stories, I rewrite the whole story before moving forward most days. I'm still most comfortable with short stories because they allow me to do this. Moving ahead all the time is scary.
I try to write almost every day. The longer I am away from a story, the harder it is to get back to it. My husband, who has written many scholarly books, always told me this when I used to try to get him to knock off and go do something outside. It wasn't until I started writing myself that I understood what he meant. A two week vacation can practically derail the mood of a story. My brain has trouble going back to that spot, getting in the same frame of mind.
Do you outline?
I wish I did. I was able to get away without doing it with stories. My stories are not plot-driven so as long as the character stuck it out with me, I didn't need to outline. With CONCRETE ANGEL it would have helped me a lot. Since so much time passes over the course of the book, I wouldn't have to keep figuring out their age at various points, what was going on in the bigger world, if enough characters were moving the story along. Maybe next time.
What do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing?
The plot. Again, I am very content to just pass the day with a couple characters. Go about their daily business with them, see how the put on their socks and shoes. What they eat for dinner? What music they like? But most people want more of a story than this so inventing one is my job and I find it difficult. As a kid I was a terrible snoop-peeking in screen doors to see what people were having for supper. And this was when I was four or five. I was the neighborhood joke. Seeing what people ate for dinner entertained me then, and it still does.
What turned you on to suspense as a writer?
Any good writer has to have suspense in their writing. Think of the amount of suspense there is in my favorite book THE GREAT GATSBY. It is all suspense really. People die, people do horrible things, people fall in love with the wrong person But if we're talking about what gets characterized as "suspense" I would have to say Margaret Millar, Patricia Highsmith, and Ruth Rendell caught my interest very early. Oh, and Daphne DuMaurier and Mignon Eberhart. Domestic suspense is my very favorite. I can still peek though screen doors and see that roasted lamb on the table.