Interview With Caroline Leavitt about MORE NEWS TOMORROW
I always suspect that writers are haunted into writing a particular book, that there’s a “why now” feeling you can’t resist. Was it this was for More News Tomorrow? Was there something haunting you that you had to write?
I was looking through my mother’s photographs and came to one of my grandfather and grandmother who never knew sitting side by side n a rowboat on the lake of the boys camp in Northern Wisconsin which my grandfather owned.
By the time I had put away the box of pictures and gone downstairs, the man in the photograph had become a Lithuanian Jewish immigrant in June 1941 at a campsite called Missing Lake where has stopped to spend the night with his cold, anti-Semitic wife and four year old daughter.
That night his wife is strangled and in the morning he confesses to the murder and is taken to the state prison.
Where that story came from I do not know…but there it was and I was driven to write it.
I loved the canoe trip, which terrified me, but kept me reading with panicked fingers. Is this something you are brave enough to do?
Obsessed, I might. But no. I like canoes but not on rivers.
Memories—what we forget, and what we only think we remember—figure prominently in this novel, which brings me to the question. Do you think the brain knows the difference between a real memory and one we have somehow pushed ourselves to believe?
I do think the brain knows--but memory is fickle and sometimes, even often, we tell ourselves the story that we want to believe is true. And then it is true.
You always have such a deep, exquisite understanding of family (and human) relationships in every book, especially this one. Do you think that writing about families has taught you something that you could not or did not learn living in the midst of real relationships?
I am from a very small family, almost no extended family and what I longed to have growing up was a large family who filled the house. I wanted safety in numbers and dependable company. I had four children and filled the house with people and my head with characters. It was of course more complicated than my imaginings but I feel as if I’ve been a student of families since I was a child for themselves and as a microcosm of the larger world.
You’ve had such a long, brilliant career, that I want to ask: has every book changed you, both in how you write and personally? How did More News Tomorrow?
I used to know the end of the book at the beginning and that was reassuring. I knew it would end. But sometime in the late nineties I would start a book with no sense of what exactly I was writing and no anticipation of its conclusion. There was a wonder in trusting that the end would surface inevitably and since then I have been conscious of my own change in the books I write.
What’s obsessing you now and why?
After my husband died three years ago, I discovered the sweet, heartbreaking suicide note his first wife had left him when she died. He was 28. And I’ve kept the black note with white script as a strange treasure. Reading it over again and again, I have fallen in love with my husband as if for the first time.
Why? There it sits—waiting for something to happen. A book. A short story. A play. Maybe a play. I l used to write plays, quite bad ones. I’d like to try again with the suicide note.