Amity Gaige's new novel, Schroder, is the story of a flawed but loving father, a man of secrets and lies who kidnaps his daughter to escape a custoody battle--and his own mysterious past. Selected as one of our Best Books of the Month for February, Schroder "limns the limits of self-made American identity, while paying tribute to the irrational exuberance of parental love," said our reviewer, Mari Malcolm.
This line came to me early on in the writing process. It was one of my first inklings of what would
happen and why. The book is, literally,
"written" by a man in prison--Eric Kennedy (aka Schroder). He is writing to his ex-wife to explain how
and why he ran off with their daughter during a parental visit. Immediately after this line, he explains how
the whole book/letter was written at the suggestion of his lawyer, to possibly
help mitigate the charges against him. But Eric can't really stick to the task of representing himself in a
positive or flattering way. He confesses
things he shouldn't, and betrays his own lack of awareness and his messy
emotions. But I hope the effect on the
reader is one in which we wincingly sympathize with his need to confess and to
reach out. He cares very much about his
daughter and his ex-wife, and his separation from them fills him with real
loss. This line comes back into the book
much later, by the way, in one of the final scenes where his first lawyer
suggests that any mother separated from her child would "want to know everything" about the days they were
apart. Schroder is also Eric's attempt to give his ex-wife back those
Lately I've written out of the house,
mostly in libraries, because I like the sort of carry-in carry-out aspect of
it, that there's nothing to identify me or distract me, and I leave no
trace. But I have a beautiful desk at
home, which I bought at a craft show after selling my first novel. It's made out of a barn door. The things that are on my desk or near it are
very significant. They are too many to
name, but here's a sampler: my late Latvian grandmother's pincushion, an image
the Hindu God Ganesh (the Creator and Remover of Obstacles), an image of an
early 20th century boxer, photos of my husband and children,
including the first ultrasound of my baby daughter. I have many things taped to the wall, mostly
notes from loved ones, alive and gone. I
have several quotes from writers, and I'll just share this one, from Mario
Vargas Llosa: "That is what authenticity or sincerity is for the novelist: the
acceptance of his own demons and the decision to serve them as well as
Just my laptop. A Mac. When I write in libraries,
I wander around sometimes and look at the books, and often this is where I get
names of minor characters. Is there some
kind of software I should be using?
Maybe I should look into this.
Lots of tea--black tea or chai. I'm so sensitive to caffeine that when I drink
coffee, I can write for eight to ten hours straight. So I drink coffee when I get the rare chance
to have that stretch of time, for example at a writing colony or a weekend away
by myself. And then I just write, write,
write like Kerouac on benzedrine.
Chocolate also helps. I find if I
eat and drink these things, I completely lose my appetite, which is efficient,
because cooking wastes too much time.
I read mostly poetry before I write. A book that is sheer brilliance, and that
covers the same emotional terrain as Schroder,
is The Book of Nightmares, by Galway
Kinnell. The only other literature I can
really read while writing without the dangers of influence or impatience is
non-fiction--historical or personal narratives that teach me more about the
place or times I'm writing about. For Schroder, I relied heavily on books
about Berlin and the inner-German border, and am indebted to the authors of
>See all of Amity Gaige's books.
>Listen to Amity Gaige interviewed on NPR's All Things
>On Thursday, Feb. 21, she'll be a guest on the Diane Rehm Show.