This week, Mary Glick­man, the author of Home in the Morn­ing , Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award Fic­tion Final­ist
One More Riv­er and the forth­com­ing March­ing to Zion blogs for The Post­script on the the writ­ing process and how read­ers’ feed­back plays in. The Post­script series is a spe­cial peek behind the scenes” of a book. It’s a juicy lit­tle extra some­thing to add to a book clubs dis­cus­sion and a read­er’s under­stand­ing of how the book came togeth­er. 

To host” Mary at your next book club meet­ing, request her through JBC Live Chat

One of the curiosi­ties about writ­ing is that the author often doesn’t know what they’ve got until a work’s fin­ished. You start out writ­ing one thing, with a gen­er­al idea in mind, per­haps char­ac­ter sketch­es, or for the OCD among us, out­lines. As you con­tin­ue, the work assumes an inter­nal log­ic, and con­se­quent­ly, you make adjust­ments. For me, the guid­ing prin­ci­ple here is voice. I go where the voice leads. What­ev­er rings false is anti-voice; what­ev­er is true embraces voice. 

When I start­ed Home in the Morn­ing, I didn’t know much. I knew I want­ed to address the North/​South divide in under­stand­ing about race and class and the Civ­il Rights Era par­tic­u­lar­ly. I want­ed to make a dis­tinc­tion between what I per­ceive as the social warmth between African Amer­i­cans and white South­ern­ers in the New South and the less cor­dial insti­tu­tion­al­ized equal­i­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ty in the North. I thought to use South­ern vs North­ern Jews as my mode d’emploi. Why not? The his­to­ry fit. The activism of North­ern Jews in the Civ­il Rights Era is leg­end. The dan­ger this thrust upon South­ern Jews indis­putable. The voice I chose is a South­ern one I call an oral nar­ra­tor”; one who eschews quo­ta­tion marks, varies point of view, and hops about in time. And I have to say, for me any­way, that voice sang. 

Char­ac­ters came to me I had not antic­i­pat­ed, among them Mick­ey Moe Levy, who was so attrac­tive to both myself and sym­pa­thet­ic read­ers, that I fleshed out his his­to­ry in One More Riv­er. New themes evolved and char­ac­ters, too, includ­ing Auro­ra Mae Stan­ton, a com­plex per­son I explored fur­ther in my new nov­el, March­ing to Zion. But still, after com­plet­ing each work, I looked at the fin­ished text and thought: Now, Mary old girl, what exact­ly have you got here. In part, it’s my read­ers that gave me the answer. 

After I wrote the first two nov­els, a read­er men­tioned to me that I’d writ­ten a nar­ra­tive of African Amer­i­can and Jew­ish rela­tions over the course of the 20th cen­tu­ry. It was a Eure­ka! moment for me. It was not my con­scious intent to do so, but I could see the reader’s point. One of the tragedies of the last decades of the 20th cen­tu­ry is the estrange­ment of the African Amer­i­can and Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties in Amer­i­ca after a long his­to­ry of empa­thy and as broth­ers-in-arms dur­ing the Civ­il Rights Era. So I decid­ed to deep­en my themes in March­ing to Zion with the hope that a reawak­en­ing of old under­stand­ings and com­mu­nal­i­ties might be inspired. 

When I speak to book groups, I like to point out that the feed­back I receive from read­ers is invalu­able as it helps me under­stand what I have accom­plished and informs my next work. I had a 30 year his­to­ry of writ­ing nov­els before pub­li­ca­tion, so I can say with author­i­ty: While many of us write in the dark, the glo­ry of pub­li­ca­tion is that we no longer write in a vac­u­um. Writ­ing and read­ing. Read­ing and response. As they say, it’s a process!

Mary Glick­man has authored five nov­els, Home in the Morn­ing, Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award Final­ist in Fic­tion’s One More Riv­er, March­ing to Zion, An Undis­turbed Peace, list­ed by South­ern Liv­ing as a best nov­el of 2016, and By the Rivers of Baby­lon. She lives on Johns Island, South Car­oli­na, with her hus­band, Stephen, and two demand­ing cats.