From: Andrea Taylor
I recently stumbled upon your books at my local library and I am hooked on Aud. I had to write and tell you how truly compelling your Aud series is to me. I love her character. I can relate to her thinking. The way you described her grief is exactly how I felt and still do. Despair, anger and grief never touched me until I lost my grandmother and father within months of each other. And all the feelings I experienced then and now regarding that loss was reflected in Aud’s grief. I couldn’t explain it better if I tried. Reading it helped me look closer at my feelings and allowed me to put some things in better perspective. It was a true revelation for me so I would like to thank you for that.
I am currently reading Always and the I am in awe of the self defense teachings that Aud is trying to relay to the women in her class. Some things are purely common sense but you don’t think to apply it. It has really opened my eyes. I think about how many times I’ve had unwanted attention and was too embarrassed to cause a scene or didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings when it was my own safety I should be more concerned about. I turn corners widely now and I would have never thought of something so simple like that if not for reading it in your book. I took a few karate classes and I recognize some things that are mentioned in the book but you have really taken my interest in self defense to another level.
I just wanted to take an opportunity to let you know how much I really enjoy Aud and how glad I am that I found her at my library.
When I set out to write Stay, at the turn of the millennium, I thought I was ready to write about grief. My little sister, Helena, had been dead nearly a dozen years; I thought it would be safe. So I started to write about Aud’s grief for Julia, and it was hard, it was like ripping off a scab. But it wasn’t impossible, so I kept going. And then I realised (yes, I can be dreadfully dim sometimes) that Aud’s grief for a lover she had known six weeks wasn’t, couldn’t be, the same as my grief for a sister I had known twenty-four years. So then I had to junk what I’d written and think about grief as grief.
I weighed grief, I cut it to pieces, I recombined it, took it apart again; I began to distill its essential nature. Then I filtered it through Aud’s experience. I wanted to attempt the paradoxical: to universalise grief by particularising it through Aud.
After that, the writing went very smoothly–still hard, but right. I finished the first draft. I sold it to Sean McDonald at Nan A. Talese. I started to rewrite. My older sister, Carolyn, died.
For a while, I seriously considered shelving the book. Working on it was a nightmare. Aud’s grief, memories of Helena, raw grief for Carolyn all rose up in a wave and overwhelmed me. But I had a contract, and with an undeniably literary publisher. This was my shot. Also, writing is what I do, who I am; it’s my life. And in the life/death equation, life should win every time. So I set my will to stun and kept on.
At the end of the fifth or sixth rewrite, the Twin Towers went down. After much deliberation–I put it in I took it out, I put it in, I took it out–I chose to make no mention of that. (For those who read the amazon one-star meme post, and actually went to amazon.com to read the one-star reviews in all their intact glory, you may have noticed that the longest, most articulate–most malicious–reviewer had clearly had access to an Advance Reading Copy of the book, in which there was still a brief mention of 9/11.)
I rewrote Stay thirteen times. I wanted it to be as perfect as possible because it was becoming my memorial to my sisters, and to the strength of people everywhere who keep going.
It was published in 2002 to, well, not much critical notice. But I’m extremely proud of that novel.
I swore I would never write through grief again but, as the saying goes, man plans, god laughs. When I was halfway through my memoir, And Now We Are Going to Have a Party, my mother died. So now I’m more careful. It’s superstitious of me but here are some book ideas I’ve had in the last few years that I’m not even going to think about writing: a multi-ply novel about the death of a lover; a post-apocalyptic YA novel; a kid’s book about time-travelling cats who rule the world. (How scary would that be if it came true? I mean, I like my cat, but I shudder to think of him being in charge.)
So now I’m writing about something that has already come true, a novel of a woman who lived fourteen hundred years ago. I think I’m doing the best work I’ve ever done, and I know I’m having the best time. Right now, grief is not on the menu.