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The Memory Keeper’s Daughter Author Returns

By Betsy Mikel in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 10, 2011 8:00PM

2011_01LakeofDreams.jpg Kim Edwards hit it big with her first novel, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, a story about twins separated at birth and family secrets. Now, Edwards is back with a new book. Lake of Dreams once again involves a complex family history. Lucy, the main character, has developed a life of her own abroad when she decides to return to her family home in upstate New York for a visit. She quickly realizes how much has changed in her absence; despite past family tension, her bother has entered into business with their uncle, her mother is thinking of selling her home and has started a new relationship and Lucy’s high school boyfriend is once again in the picture. Furthermore, her family is getting involved in opposing sides of a dispute over local land. As Lucy tries to figure out where she fits in, she accidentally uncovers some mysteries about her family’s past. What follows is a treasure hunt into the area’s stained glass and suffragette history.

Kim Edwards will be reading from Lake of Dreams in the suburbs tomorrow, and we were able to chat with her for a few minutes about her work and her writing process.

Kim Edwards at Oak Brook Borders, January 11, 7 p.m.

Chicagoist: What did you learn about promoting a book when you were on tour for The Memory Keeper’s Daughter? The process of writing a book can be very isolating, but you were constantly in the spotlight for your first novel.

Kim Edwards: One thing I learned is I can't write and promote at the same time. It takes so much energy to do the book promotion, and it comes from a different place. I don't write when I promote, and I kind of have to block off that time and give it to a different process other than writing. It's very tiring, but also very exhilarating. I went to several different countries and the amazing thing is that every place I went, there were both questions I had heard before and questions I had never hear before.

C: I read that Lake of Dreams is a version of an old novel you wrote long ago. How did you decide it was time to come back to it?

KM: I didn't really come back to it. I threw that first draft out. This was really different novel. But all that preliminarily writing brought me to this place. There are some elements that came from that first draft; one of those was the comet that links the generations. But I threw out all those old drafts. I think it has something to do with my deeper understanding of myself as a writer. I was interested in the structural challenges presented to me… When I started writing Lake of Dreams, I was writing a contemporary story. I knew there was something that needed to be resolved, but I didn’t have a clear sense of what. In Memory Keeper’s Daughter, the readers know the secret and no one else does. I thought it would be interesting to write a story where no one knew the secret, including me! The story kept evolving as I kept writing.

2011_01KimEdwards.jpg C: You are familiar with the setting of the novel, because it’s where you grew up. Are the elements of the stained glass and the suffragette movement also things you were familiar with before writing this novel?

KM: There are different layers to understanding a place. I pick places I know well geographically. I’ve always done that as a writer. It’s easier to step into that imagined world if I am in a familiar place.

I grew up in that area close to Seneca Falls. We knew it was an important area for suffragettes, but never really thought about it. Going back as an adult, I knew the place very, very well, but the stories from the past were very new. The more I read, the more intrigued I became; when I walked the same streets as some of these characters, it brought new life to those streets.

I was interested in the glass because it is a substance that moves between different states of being - solid, liquid, and even in-between. I was interested in the process. Again, it grew from something that was in my consciousness. In researching this book, I learned a lot more than I initially knew.

C: What selection are you going to be reading on tour?

KM: [On tour], I switch it up a little, mostly for my own interests. I try to pick a selection that captures the essence of the book. It’s hard to do that with a novel, especially one that contains so many little stories. I’ll start off by reading from the prologue and the first chapter.

C: When you are reading to an audience, do you find tweaks you’d like to make in your writing or things you would like to change?

KM: When I finish a draft, I mail it to my readers first. I really need to get to a point where I feel it's done and have reached a level of completeness before I let anyone else see it. The editorial process starts out wide. By the end of that process, I feel complete. Every time I read it it's a little bit new, but it still feels finished.