July 25, 2010

Crossing the Pond

July 25, 2010

I had lunch the other day with a close friend who is going to England next month. Cruise lines are desperate for passengers, so she and her husband are sailing on the Queen Mary 2, instead flying on an overcrowded plane. Kind of a no-brainer, since the difference in fares is minimal.

“You’re in good company,” I said. “Even as we speak, P.D. James is headed to New York on the QM2.”

“Wow!” my friend said.

Wow, indeed.

James will turn 90 in August, and she’s still lecturing, shaking hands with her readers, and signing copies of her books, all of which she’s doing on right now onboard the ship.

According to a newspaper article I read, everyone tells her how well she looks, and she never tires of hearing that. “It’s much better than people saying ‘poor thing, she looks over 100.’”

Then she goes on say that she’s currently working on a novel without her famous detective. Apparently, the new book is shorter.

Another Dagliesh would take three years to write, and “I do hate the thought of not completing it.” But if she does, it won’t involve the detective being called in to solve the murder of a “very disagreeable female passenger” on an ocean liner where she’s giving a series of lectures.

Nothing wrong with this woman’s sense of humor.

More to the point, however, James says, “When you’re a writer, you’re never happy if you’re not plotting or planning or writing.”


I’m always mulling over stories I’ve written or would like to write. The wheels are always turning. My husband says I could compose an entire novel over a cup of coffee because I never stop studying people and places or jumping to conclusions about them.

This quality runs in my family. It’s in my DNA. For instance, one afternoon a dozen years ago I was in the car with my Aunt Sarah, who was then around the same age as James is now.

We passed a guy pedaling a bicycle. My aunt frowned and pronounced her immediate dislike for him. I asked why.

“He looks uncomfortable,” she replied. “His arms are too stiff. So is his back. He likes to be in control. It’s ninety-five degrees out, and he’s not sweating. His helmet is too tight. He’s in a big hurry to get home to do something he shouldn’t. I hope his wife isn’t there, because I think he’s going to beat her.”

“How do you even know he’s married?” I asked.

“Can’t you see his wedding ring?”

“No, I’m driving.”

We had a good laugh.

So, as I think about P.D. James and my aunt, both storytellers with long lives full of ups and downs and some regrets along the way, I take heart. Only a few lucky writers get rich and famous. But for the rest of us—for me, the day-to-day joys and pains of getting what’s inside my head onto the page in front of me make crossing the pond, well, pretty exciting.

No comments:

Post a Comment