A great part of my writing past is about to see the light of day on October 1. For twenty-five years, I have been layering and reconstructing the novel now known as Pieces of Paris (which my long-time editor claims is my best work so far). My original title, back in the eighties, was Paddle on the Right, named after a humorous canoeing incident in some river in Missouri where my husband and I capsized. That scene has long been axed, and the novel has evolved to such an extent that it has gone through at least ten titles. However, one thing remains. The question: “What do you do when you find out you are married to a stranger?”
I am not talking about a dangerous stranger, a criminal, or any kind of person with a “shady” past. I’m talking about a fairly familiar phenomenon. We never know who the person we marry is in a complete, eternal sense. As my heroine’s father says, “Why shouldn’t a good marriage be an endless process of exploration and discovery?”
I didn’t know that this book was emotionally biographical. I was just confused about a lot of issues in my life that had never been resolved. Alone with my three children most of the day and many nights while my husband worked, or was away, I began having flashbacks to these issues and experiencing long suppressed anger and feelings that had been been put to rest. In my efforts to deal with these, I entered a sort of twilight life where I existed in the present, but my mind was caught up in the past.
Annalisse Childs, my heroine, has a very dramatic, passionate past, just as I did. However, hers is full of different and far more interesting issues. Once a European concert pianist, she is endeavoring to partner her idealistic husband of four years in his “Walden” experience on a farm in Southwest Missouri. To his credit, Dennis knows nothing of her past except that she grew up on a farm in Wisconsin. Because of tragic memories Annalisse has no intention of revisiting, she has cut music out of her life. But, bit by bit, the pieces she once performed in Paris, accompanied by their ecstatic and terrible memories are the thin edge of the wedge. Once she goes back to the piano, she cannot help the flashbacks from recurring.
As her husband witnesses the transformation of his stoical, practical wife into someone who makes public scenes, cries in closets and basements, and yet clings with superhuman tenacity to his heroic version of reality, he feels as if the ground beneath him has crumbled. What should he do? Does he have anything in common with this woman? Why does she suddenly hate farm life and express a desire to sit up all night in Paris discussing the Opera? Where is their marriage headed?
As nearly everyone who has read this manuscript has noted, Dennis is a thinly veiled version of my husband David. Both are truly one-in-a-million amazing men. And hopefully, reading the account of the hairpin turn in the fictional story will cause you to think deeply about your own relationships, and be filled with the kind of deep-seated well-being that accompanies the truest kind of love.
A MOMENTO: Pieces of Paris is now available for pre-order on Amazon. Anyone who pre-orders and e-mails me (through my website http://ggvandagriff.com) a copy of their confirmation and snail mail address will receive a sterling silver charm of the Eiffel Tower! Deadline is the end of August.
EXAMINER CONTEST: The winner of the three copies of The Last Waltz are: Wendy Pop, Mary Deborde, and Kristine Armstrong!