About me? It’s about time!
Seriously. It took an age to write The Mapmaker’s Daughter. My first novel. And I can report from where I stand today- 22 years after starting a book that took 20 of them – that late-blooming is to blooming what the new 70 is to 70: The same thing. And I’ll tell you how I know.
To start in the middle – which is when the book idea came along: I was in my late 40s when my mentor from Princeton – Bernard Lewis - suggested I leave (non-fiction) ghost-writing in favor of an historical novel. He assured me that knowing little about Ottoman history and zero about writing fiction would not be problems. That I took him at his word and leapt was usual behavior for me.
Okay, that’s the middle. The beginning was being the middle child (between sons) of pyrotechnic parents -an Iraqi father and Irish-American mother raised with slow-growing privilege in NJ, sent to boarding school at 14, engaged at 16 to the 45-year-old I’d marry after two semesters at Barnard - the year Martin Luther King Jr, and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated and the Vietnam War was roiling campuses, including Barnard’s, coast to coast. We’re talking 1968.
Life for front-edge Boomers has always been…and will always be…a trip. Mine included two children, divorce, college for real at 27, living in Egypt in the 80s, marriage to the perfect man (for me) in the 90s, pretty soon after which I began the book whose eventual publication is the reason you’re reading this.
My husband Robert was one of the few people who ever knew I was working on it. That is how scared I was of not being able to do it. My fears were not misplaced. The drafts – first, second, fourth, seventh – elicited interest and turn-downs in exactly the same measure.
It was brutal. And then the publisher who loved it came along. Never forget - that’s all it takes - someone who loves it. And, badoom, everything changed. The diffidence, the covertness – gone. When the book came out, I did, too. For years I’d hidden from my own ability - behind a shield of artistic deference. All at once I was disclosed - by a work of fiction no less! When the first copy of The Mapmaker’s Daughter arrived, I took it from the envelope with obstetric care and was aware I was feeling something I had never felt before. I was proud. Not of the book. Of myself. I haven’t looked at the world the same way since.
When I was 44, I wasn’t married, hadn’t dreamed of writing a novel and wasn’t a grandmother.
Now I am on Medicare, my grandchildren are in college, my husband has died, and I …well…I am here. And so are you – reading this. Good! Maybe you’ll read The Mapmaker’s Daughter. I hope so. And if you’d like to get in touch, I’d like that, too. A lot. So would Allen. Such a copy-cat.