April 13, 2010
Glass Hearts was the first novel I ever wrote. It grew out of my close friendship with my late aunt, Sarah Grossman. Several years before she died in 2000, she had a very serious heart operation. We were both afraid she wouldn't survive. Luckily, she did, and those extra years were quite a gift to both of us. I recorded her recollections of her early childhood in Hungary and found out exactly how my mother's family came to the US right after World War I, something I had never known before.
Sarah had such stories to tell, and I recorded them all, during many laughter-filled afternoons. I wasn't sure what to do with this wealth of material, so I did nothing, until one morning I woke up with the first sentence in my head. Truly, it felt like it was pasted on my forehead. ("Papa melted away one night, like the butter in Mama's frying pan.") I started writing and never looked back.
After the book came out, I did lots of interviews and readings. People wanted to know how I had come up with all of the tall tales and whether I had simply transcribed what Sarah told me. I didn't. In fact, one of my favorite things to talk about was the difference between what she told me and what appeared in the novel. For instance, she said she saw her first movie around 1914-15 in a small theater, projected on a sheet and accompanied by a bad piano player. She also said the movie had a train in it. From that fragmentary description, I constructed a lengthy scene in which the narrator of Glass Hearts and her aunt see a melodramatic film about two lovers who reunite on a train. Later on, when the narrator tries to describe what she saw, no on believes her.
This past week, while redoing my web site, I ran across a review of the book in which the reviewer said I had promised that I was working on a sequel. Uh oh. Why did I make such a claim? What was I thinking? Sarah had so much to do with Glass Hearts. Should I really go on without her?