Wednesday, February 8, 2012
As my novel The Golden Hour emerged onto the page, it took me into aspects of life that I have explored before. Not surprising! There are subjects that, no matter how much I write, will probably never be exhausted for me. My first two books were memoirs, so I dealt very openly with these areas. In this, my first novel, it was my characters who led me inexorably into well-tread territory.
The first area is death and loss. My father died just after I finished writing the novel. Though a central relationship in the book is between the father Enrico Bellini and his daughter Giovanna, their conflict and dynamics are quite different from those in my own family. I was so affected by witnessing my father’s death, however, that I rewrote the beginning and end of the novel, enclosing the entire story within an account of a much older Giovanna at the scene of her father’s death.
My own son was killed in 1995 in a mountain climbing accident when he was 22. My second memoir Touching the Edge was a meditation on parenting and my journey through that profound loss. I don’t want to give away too much of my novel’s story, but suffice it to say that The Golden Hour gave me a chance to revisit the territory.
Another area in which I love to dwell is religion and spirituality. My first memoir, Taking Root took the form of a journal, a year in the garden, and chronicled my own spiritual awakening. I grew up in a secular and almost anti-religious household, and – in my forties – was baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal Church. During that period of change, I read widely in Buddhist and Christian literature and recorded many of my insights in the memoir.
Writing The Golden Hour offered me a rich buffet of opportunities to explore these same issues. My parents – while secular in their orientation – both lived themselves and raised their children with deeply held principles of religious tolerance. I found it challenging and fascinating to grapple with the evil perpetrated by the Nazis, and to inhabit Giovanna and her Catholic father, who pushed each other nearly to the brink over her love for a Jewish freedom fighter.
I have had a number of mentors in my life – teachers and spiritual guides. I loved writing about Giovanna and the two nuns, Sisters Graziella and Elena, who shaped her coming-of-age in such significant ways.
At first glance, historical fiction seems to take its author into strange and distant lands, to require much research and necessitate a creative leap into the unknown. That is true to an extent, but for me, it also delivered unexpected gifts: fascinating new angles from which to explore beloved themes.
Margaret Wurtele is the author of two memoirs. She and her husband split their time between Minnesota and Napa Valley, where they are owners of Terra Valentine Winery. Visit her online at www.margaretwurtele.com.
Guest Post: Margaret Wurtele Author of The Golden Hour
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