Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Emily Arsenault

Emily Arsenault has worked as a lexicographer, an English teacher, a children’s librarian, and a Peace Corps volunteer. She wrote The Broken Teaglass to pass the long, quiet evenings in her mud brick house while living in rural South Africa.

From her Q & A at The First Novels Club:

What was your creation process for The Broken Teaglass? Meaning, what was the original nugget that inspired the book? How did it develop/evolve from there?

The first glimmer of an idea came to me on a particularly long day at the office when I worked at Merriam-Webster in my early twenties. I was flipping through some old citations and daydreaming about finding a mysterious note or citation in the files. I didn’t consider writing it up as a story at the time. It really was just a passing notion. But years later (long after I’d left the company, and after I’d written another book—a YA novel that was never published), I started playing with the idea as a concept for a novel. The hard part was answering this question—why would anyone hide a secret in the citation files of a dictionary company? I found this question so difficult to answer that after a couple of months of brainstorming , I gave up. But then I started writing an unrelated story about a bizarre crime, and eventually it occurred to me to combine that story with the dictionary setting. I wrote the draft of the “story within the story” first, then wrote the present-day narrative around it.

The Broken Teaglass is narrated by editorial assistant Billy Webb, a recent college grad. Why did you choose him for the central role (as opposed to his coworker, Mona Minot—or a completely different character altogether)?

When I first decided that I would attempt to write a mystery at a dictionary company, I was wary of the story being (or being perceived as) autobiographical, since I’d worked at a dictionary company myself. One easy way to separate my personal experiences from the plot and characters was to...[read on]
Read an excerpt from The Broken Teaglass, and learn more about the book and author at Emily Arsenault's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Broken Teaglass.

--Marshal Zeringue