Rachel Simon is the critically acclaimed author of six books, the best known of which are the novel The Story of Beautiful Girl (2011) and the memoir Riding The Bus With My Sister (2002).
From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:
What sparked the writing of The Story of Beautiful Girl? What usually sparks the writing of your novels? (I know, the truly horrific question every writer is always asked--horrific because sometimes we truly don't know!)--Marshal Zeringue
No single source sparks my ideas. My first book, Little Nightmares, Little Dreams, was a collection of stories that came from sources as varied as single lines that came to mind as I was waking up in the morning, memories both sweet and harsh that returned after many years, and anecdotes told to me by relatives, strangers, and newspapers. My first novel, The Magic Touch, came from temping in an engineering firm and noticing that the women the male engineers tended to flirt with weren’t necessarily the prettiest, but the most full of life. Somehow this led to me coming up with the idea of writing about a woman with magical sexual powers that could restore joie de vivre to those who’d come to feel lackluster about their existence. My memoir Riding The Bus With My Sister was derived from the simple fact that my sister, who has an intellectual disability, rides city buses all day, every day; she asked me to join her and I reluctantly agreed.
I think the simple answer is that ideas can, and do, come from everywhere, but never fully baked. They are only the ingredients, and they cannot blend together without the actual process of writing. A perfect example of this is my most recent novel, The Story of Beautiful Girl.
As I mentioned, my sister Beth has an intellectual disability. When she was born in 1960, it wasn’t uncommon for doctors to recommend to parents that they place children like my sister in institutions, but my parents never considered that option. I had little idea about the way people who lived there were treated.
Many years later, I wrote Riding The Bus With My Sister, and started...[read on]