Percolating: It’s a novel, 40 years later

May 12, 2009

From the Washington Post, author Colm Toibin (The Master, Mothers and Sons, Brooklyn) offers insight on the sometimes very long labor a writer must sometimes endure when giving birth to a new novel…

The Origins of a Novel
By Colm Toibin
Wednesday, May 6, 2009

In the summer of 1967 when I was 12, my father died. For a month or more the house in the evening was filled with people, but by September, when I had gone back to school, things were quieter. People called in ones, in twos, to express their sympathy to my mother. They usually came in the evening, stayed for an hour or so, then left. My brother and I wanted this to stop because the television was in the room where they sat talking. I hardly ever went into that room while there were visitors. But one evening I did, and heard an interesting story being told.

A woman was talking to my mother, talking on and on, about Brooklyn where her daughter had been. I began to listen. She’d never been to our house before and was never, as far as I remember, a visitor again. I saw her on the street sometimes; she was a small, stout, dignified-looking woman who always wore a hat. It was almost 40 years later before I took what I had heard, just the bones of a story about her daughter who had gone to Brooklyn and then come home, and began making a novel from it.

Read entire The Origins of a Novel



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