BlogHer Talks to Kim Edwards
By Karen Ballum on December 21, 2011
BlogHer Original Post
BlogHer: You pack a lot of topics into The Lake of Dreams. There are environmental and economic issues. There's the history of suffrage and the beautiful stained glass. How much time did you spend doing research?
Kim Edwards: All the issues in the book are interrelated and grew very naturally as the characters and the story took shape -- the environmental and economic concerns, for instance, are very closely connected, since members of Lucy's family are torn between a love for the land and the need to make a living in difficult times. As I see it, all the issues -- environmental, economic, the history of women, art, and spirituality -- are connected by the same fundamental question: What in our lives do we value, and how do we integrate all the things that matter? It's never an either/or situation, but I think it's very true that at times, both as a culture and in our individual lives, we get out of balance. That's what interests me, as a writer -- how characters respond to the things in their lives that are out of their control, how they grow and change. Lucy, for instance, is in a very narrow place as the novel opens despite all the traveling she's done, thanks to the dynamics of history and of her childhood family, as well as to loss and grief. Her return to The Lake of Dreams is really a desire to make peace with the past and to live differently. She's seeking some kind of healing or wholeness, and she doesn't find it until she confronts the full truth of what happened on the night her father drowned.
I did a great deal of research for The Lake of Dreams, and all of it was fascinating. I spent time in a glass-blowing studio when it became clear that this was Keegan's calling, and once I tried my hand at blowing glass, too, just to have the feel of the experience as I wrote. The women's suffrage movement formally began in Seneca Falls, NY in 1848, when the Declaration of Sentiments was read and signed at the convention there. It was heartbreaking to learn that none of the women who signed it lived to see women earn the right to vote, which didn't happen until 1920 -- 72 years later. I went to the archives at the Women's Rights National Park, and walked the same streets that Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony had walked, and they became alive to me. I researched Halley's Comet, too, all the fascinating myths and stories; its steady return every 76 years was the perfect way to tie an intergenerational novel together.
BlogHer: I know some authors are outliners and know exactly what's going to happen and how. Others let their stories fly and find their characters going down unexpected paths. Are you an outliner? Lucy strikes me as the type of character who could lead one down unexpected paths.
Kim Edwards: I'm definitely not an outliner! Each story or novel begins with a lot of exploratory writing, when I give myself great freedom. I'm discovering the characters and the stories as much as I'm writing them; I don't know, when I start a book or get interested in a character, where any of it will take me. That's one of the great pleasures of writing, actually -- the element of surprise. Of course, at some later point, I start to have a sense of the shape of the story or book, and then the intellectual editing and revising begins. When the characters begin to surprise me, I know the imagined world is alive and vibrant. That's always a very exciting feeling.
BlogHer: In The Lake of Dreams, Lucy says that her ancestors' histories were established long before she was born, and they likely would have stayed that way had she not found Rose's letters. In the age of email and the Internet, we write far fewer letters than ever, and it makes me wonder what researchers will use in the future. Do you still write letters?
Kim Edwards: For the most important things, I write letters. For the rest, I rely on email, and sometimes -- such as when I'm traveling for a long time and writing lots of long emails -- I print off the emails and save them. For the most part, however, I don't do that, and I think something is being lost, both in what we leave to the future and in the luxuriousness of putting pen to paper and letting the thoughts flow. There's something very intimate about letters that email can't capture.
BlogHer: Everyone loved Keegan. Is there any hope of Keegan getting his own story some day?
Kim Edwards: I loved Keegan, too, though I've never thought about centering a book around him. It is interesting to me that some readers have wanted Lucy to have chosen differently. I didn't know myself, during much of the writing, how Lucy would choose. Yet there was a sureness and realness in writing the scenes where Lucy makes that choice which let me know it was the right one, and I can't imagine another outcome. In this novel, Lucy needs to come to terms with the past in order to free herself for the life she's meant to live. She grows in this book, she changes, she comes to some hard realizations about her family and even about herself. The experience tests her, but ultimately she's freed to move forward into the life she's created for herself.
BlogHer: You've said that you were already working on The Lake of Dreams when The Memory Keeper's Daughter hit the bestseller lists, so I'm going to guess that you are already working on your next project. What can we expect to see next from you?
Kim Edwards: It's hard to say exactly. I do have the next book in mind, and I'm now just in the very early stages of writing and discovering. Each book takes its own time, but two to three years seems to be my average speed for novel writing.