After writing more or less seriously for several years, I am fascinated by a question: ‘why people write?’
I know why I started. My father already died, and my mother was getting older. They both went through hell in their lives together. Father didn’t talk much, but mother was a bottomless well of stories. And she knew how to tell them. When mother was still living with us, I asked her first to put on paper our family tree and later on poems and rhymes from our childhood she still remembered. I kept in memory all the stories from her childhood, from tormenting times of war, German occupation and from disastrous communist interference with our lives and our culture. And from fifty-plus years of my parents’ marriage.
First, I wanted to know. But then I also wanted my children to know. When I tried to tell them my childhood’s stories, they couldn’t believe most of them. So I took my wife, my two boys and the twins back to Poland, one by one, to show them the places I was referring to. Stories sound much better when told in the places of origin. They realize I didn’t confabulate. Well, most of the time.
I loved to hear about all the events which happened in my family life before and after I was born. How did I end up in a place I am now? Our heritage fascinates me. It came with a little surprise that some of my children are more interested than others in our family history. But I’m convinced that they will want to hear it later on in their lives. But then I may not be around to tell them our stories any longer.
So I decided to write them down.
I started my blog. I wanted to write down the most memorable, sometimes funny, sometimes gut-wrenching events from our lives. There are things there to be proud of. There are events some of my family members didn’t expect to survive.
However there still remain an excess of the stories from my personal and professional life, and it was enough to write my first novel, ‘Fathers and Sons.’ This story was intended not only for my closest family but also for a wider circle of friends and readers.
So why do I write? I started writing for my family, then transitioned to my friends, and now the ripples are getting wider. I hope to have more readers who will be interested in what do I have to say.
There are many reasons why people write. People want to make money, some to get Pulitzer’s, many just to hold in their hands a new book with their name on it. Just like their baby. Or to be acknowledged by the ‘big five.’ I would like to enlarge my circle of readers. One reader at the time. And find out how they react to my writing. And this can be an eye-opening experience. Usually, a good novel has a multi-level story, skillfully crafted by an author. For any writer, it’s a fascinating discovery to see how many of these layers are uncovered by his or her readers. Reading of the best writers is like excavating Rome: the more you read, the deeper you go, more layers are there to discover.
The best opportunity to find out what the readers think is in face-to-face conversations. And for the author, participation in a book club event is priceless. First, it’s an honor to meet people who’ve read your book. Then, to put them in the same room at the same time and have an opportunity to listen to their opinions is a treasured event.
The book club meeting in Briar Chapel gave me a chance to listen to what the readers think. And their insights were thought-provoking. One person’s husband recently had undergone open-heart surgery, and events in the book struck the chord. Another always wanted to know what’s going on in the operating room, when she goes to sleep before surgery. Then one realized that doctors, who operate on them, have also private lives with drama as do everyone else. Some said that the book was too short, which I took as a complement. Some said they in their lives experienced described in book events, which I simply made up. It’s fascinating to me how differently people read the book. I would attribute all diverse personal reactions to different experiences, different personal backgrounds and different upbringings. And I still see that some elements in my book are not discovered by readers. Oh, well….
So, for me, readers are my ultimate judges. Not big book houses, editors, booksellers, money people. And not professional critics. Just everyday readers. For me, their opinion counts the most.