Meg Mullins to Booking Mama. She is the author of THE RUG MERCHANT (which I read in my pre-blogging days), and she has a new book out called DEAR STRANGERS which sounds right up my alley! Not only does it sound perfect for book clubs (reading guide), but it touches on some great topics like family dynamics and acceptance. I can't wait to read it!
In the meantime, Ms. Mullins wrote a terrific guest post, and I'm very excited to share it with you. I thought this essay provided a unique insight into her writing because she explains how much her main characters mean to her. Plus, I think you'll get an idea of her writing style. Enjoy!
I haven’t felt like such a flirt since high school. Let me explain. As an adult I’ve been completely monogamous. I fell in love with my husband when I was eighteen, we married five years later—that was twenty years ago. So, too, with my recent writing life. Ushman Kahn, the main character of my first book, THE RUG MERCHANT, was my main squeeze for over three years. Nightly, I would open the laptop that perched on a small table in our living room and spend hours with this Iranian immigrant who’d lost everything in an earthquake in Tabriz. He was an imperfect man (all the better for a writer) but it was a deep and abiding love. He was fascinatingly different from everything I knew, but also mysteriously similar to me.
Then, I conjured up the main character of my next book, DEAR STRANGERS. Oliver, the sweet, innocent little boy who watches his father die on the kitchen floor one hot summer night and is still struggling to deal with the consequences of that death as he’s approaches thirty. He and I had the kind of affair that leaves you feeling as though you’ve been out in the sun too long—your eyes burning, your lips chapped, your skin tender. He could be reticent, moody, fragile. I spent nearly four years with Oliver and though he ripped me open, he also helped put me back together.
So now, I’m on the market again. Newly single, looking for my next everything. That’s how it has to be with novels—those characters have to grab you and hold you hostage while the rest of the world goes to movies and plays tag and tidies their cupboards and drawers. But a funny thing is happening to me. I’m finding it hard to settle down. I really do feel like I’m dating. I’ll write twenty pages, which is kinda like a first date, and be ecstatic. This new character seems exciting, thoughtful, funny. But, then, when I come back for the second date, it’s like I’m sitting across from a guy with no brain. Radio silence. So I push him aside and begin again. (Which, from what I’ve heard, is no less painful than trolling through profiles of online dating sites or getting all dolled up to go sit at a bar and stare at the TV, waiting for someone to notice you). Pretty soon, I’ve got piles of twenty page beginnings and a whole lotta heartache. As I climb into bed at night beside my real--life husband, who still seems exciting, thoughtful and funny, and whom I knew from the moment I saw his hands that I wanted to be with him--I wonder when that writerly moment will come again. When will I get to step off this dating treadmill and settle down for several years of a productive, yet troubled (yes, always), love affair? I breathe deeply, glad for the flesh and blood monogamy, and dream of the literary kind.
Meg Mullins was born and raised in New Mexico. She attended Barnard College and earned her MFA from Columbia University. Her short stories have appeared in numerous publications including The Sonoran Review, The Baltimore Review, The Iowa Review and TriQuarterly. The story that formed the basis of her first novel, THE RUG MERCHANT, appeared in THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 2002. She lives in New Mexico with her husband and their two children. DEAR STRANGERS is her second novel.
Summary: As children, Oliver and Mary Finley awaited the arrival of their adopted baby brother-until their father's death shattered everything. Dear Strangers unfolds twenty-one years later, when attempts at a family reunion take a shocking turn, revealing hidden truths about the southwestern town where all of them came of age. Luminously written, with the taut emotional suspense of Dan Chaon and Kazuo Ishiguro, Meg Mullins weaves multiple perspectives into a masterful portrait of a community and the consequences of destiny and choice, grief and atonement, and the unexpected bonds formed with family and strangers alike. -- Penguin