As a teenager in St. Lambert, Quebec, a small town just south of Montreal, I literally devoured the contents of the local library. From time to time—for reasons I did not fully understand at the time—I put my thoughts down on paper, just for me to see. But I had no ambition of making a career out of writing. I was headed to medical school.
Later, caught up in the hurly burly of life as a wife, mother and physician, I put writing for pleasure aside. But I was still writing. A lot. As a professor at the University of California, I was subject to “publish or perish.” Possessing impeccable survival instincts, I published and published and published some more, producing a tumult of lectures, scientific papers, book chapters, and grants. Carrying out the scientific work about which I wrote was exhilarating. The process of putting words to the work was, however, very much an afterthought.
When I retired from the University to enjoy the three G’s (grandchildren, golf and gardening), I found to my surprise that I missed the daily act of putting words up on the computer screen. The interest in writing for its own sake resurfaced. I realized that what I had been doing as a teenager was a very necessary form of self-expression. But before I sat down to write “Guess What She Did,” I asked myself what I wanted to accomplish as an author. The answer, shown below, came to me very quickly, actually within a minute.
Why I Write
To add meaning to my life and to the lives of others,
To entertain and inspire, and
To gain and give insight into the ways of the world.
Finding such immediate clarity about my goals as an author persuaded me that writing a novel was something that I needed to do. And writing “Guess What She Did” turned out to be a total joy. At first I wondered whether I could create a story from scratch, without the benefit of laboratory data to use as a starting point, but, to my delight, the ideas flowed exuberantly. No longer constrained by narrow scientific dictates, my imagination was unleashed. Coming up with plot twists and turns was a ton of fun. In fact, the whole process of writing the novel was unbelievably liberating.
The tone of the early drafts was lighthearted. But as I delved more deeply into what made each of the main players tick, I found that the storyline developed along two intertwined paths. On one level, “Guess What She Did” is a fast-paced mystery, but on another level, it’s a nuanced study of the difficult choices people confront in life. At its core, the novel explores how an individual’s character impacts those choices.
In the end, I hope that “Guess What She Did” gives the reader an enjoyable escape from everyday reality while, at the same time, offering up the encouraging message that each one of us can be who we truly are, live by our values, and find happiness in the world.
This post originally appeared on the book blog “Moonlight Gleam.”