The novel I have just (just!) finished writing is a story about a fabric collector. Well, it’s a love story and it’s a mother-daughter story, but one of the characters happens to be someone who loves fabric. She buys it all over the world, and hoards it, and, revels in its possibilities and in the end, finally discovers the best reason of all to use it. I can’t explain why I chose to write about a fabric collector, or what excited me about it, or why I bothered to spend so much time learning about fabric and weaving and sewing, but I did. And now I am in the strange position of taking a book out into the world and having to face real live fabric collectors.
I have been here before, with a character who was a food photographer, one who was a painter, one who was a building contractor, and I always worry about getting things wrong, or seeming presumptuous, but mostly, I can’t wait to connect with people who understand my character, in some ways, better than I do myself. And I know it will happen, because it always does. Books spark these amazing moment of serendipitous connection – and whether you’re a reader or a writer, they’re like gold.They make you feel alive with possibility, and connected to the whole universe, and filled with joy. At least they do me!
So last week, there were two such moments. The first came when a former student asked if I would come to her book club if they chose to read one of my books this year. I said that I would be delighted, and sent along a blurb about the new book (The Threadbare Heart, due out in May 2010) just in case they were interested in waiting for that one. Well, this student wrote back to say that she had read the blurb about the new book and that I had, in fact, written her life story! I had no idea that she was a seamstress and a fabric collector and that she had held onto a piece of fabric inherited from a grandmother and that, like my character, she lived in the fire-prone hills of California. But this woman is all those things, and so is my character, and the serendipity of that—of just knowing that – made my whole day.