If you’re a writer, you no doubt know the dictum, “Write about what you know.” It remains sound advice. Another side, though, is equally valid — write about what you don’t know. It’s a means of exploration and discovery.
What’s Left takes that approach more than any of my earlier works. As an 11-year old, Cassia’s living in a financially secure extended family quite unlike any I’ve known intimately. She suffers a tragedy that prompts the action of the novel, again quite different from my own experience. Cassia tells most of the story in her teen years as she investigates the central questions in her life.
For me, this also required constructing a back story beginning with her great-grandparents and moving to the present. What do I know about running a restaurant, managing a family business, being Greek-American or Greek Orthodox, for that matter?
Well, as she advised me (and you readers) at one point, “You better be good to toads.”
I simply recorded what she dictated to me.
Read the book and you’ll see why.
I thought about “correcting” that to “You better be kind to toads,” but my sense is that it’s closer to what an 11- or 12-year-old may say under the circumstances.
To be honest, I don’t remember much from when I was that age. There may be good reasons I keep blotting it out.
Give me some help!
What do you remember of being age 11?