The secret at the heart of 'The Memory Keeper's Daughter' is something everybody, except for some of the characters, knows in Chapter 1. Some of the narrative tension comes from that distance between what the readers know and what the characters know.
I love 'Memory Keeper's Daughter,' but in some ways I think 'The Lake of Dreams' is a stronger book. I was able to tell the story I wanted to tell. That's all you can ever do as a writer. From there on you have no control over it.
Though Lexington is not a small town, it sometimes feels like one, with circles of acquaintance overlapping once, then again; the person you meet by chance at the library or the pool may turn out to be the best friend of your down-the-street neighbor. Maybe that's why people are so friendly here, so willing to be unhurried.
'The Lake of Dreams' grew gradually, over many years, elements and ideas accruing until they gained enough critical mass to become a novel.
Your understanding of a place changes the longer you stay; you discover more, and your own life gets woven into the fabric of the community.
I swam across Skaneateles Lake, about a mile, when I was 11 years old. I remember feeling when I was in the middle of the lake that I would be there forever, and having no idea where on shore I'd end up. I made it, and I'm proud of the determination and persistence that took.
As a writer and as a reader, I really believe in the power of narrative to allow us ways to experience life beyond our own, ways to reflect on things that have happened to us and a chance to engage with the world in ways that transcend time and gender and all sorts of things.
I had a great life even before 'The Memory Keeper's Daughter' took off. I really enjoy teaching.
It's impossible to control the reception of your work - the only thing you can control is the experience of writing itself, and the work you create.
I've always set my stories in places I know well. It frees me up to spend more imaginative time on the characters if I'm not worrying about the logistics.
My first job was in a nursing home - a terrible place in retrospect. It was in an old house, and the residents were so lonely. People rarely visited them. I only stayed there a couple of months, but it made a strong impression on me.
I don't think we'll ever lose the desire for people to tell stories or to hear stories or to be entrapped in a beautiful story.
I love to swim, and I love being near water.
I never know as a writer when I set out into a novel where it's going to take me.
Though my stories aren't autobiographical, I do sometimes use things from my life.
We all have secrets. We've all kept secrets. We've had secrets kept from us, and we know how that feels.
You don't want to engage in road rage when the person in the next car might be your child's future teacher or your dentist's father.
After 'Memory Keeper's Daughter,' it took me a few months to shut out the world. I really had to turn off the Internet and sort of cloister myself away from the world again and sink into that psychic space to write again.
I find my husband's family history fascinating, as they can trace the family lineage back to ancestors who fought, and died, in the first battle of the Revolution, as well as to many other interesting people.
I grew up in Skaneateles, a small town in New York's Finger Lakes region, where parts of my family have lived for five generations. I can walk the streets there and point out my father's childhood home, the houses my grandfather built, the farm where my great-great-uncle worked after he emigrated from England in the 1880s.