Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Melanie Benjamin

Melanie Benjamin is the author of Alice I Have Been, Mrs. Tom Thumb, and her latest, The Aviator's Wife, about Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

You’ve focused on some of the most startling and original women in history, including Alice of Alice in Wonderland Fame, and Mrs. Tom Thumb. What drew you to Anne Morrow Lindbergh?

I'm always interested in finding women whom we think we know, but don't, really - or whose stories are lost to history. In Anne's case, it was the former. We know who Anne Lindbergh is - but not really. The name's familiar, some parts of her story are, but the entire scope of her life is really lost to most modern readers. And even her most lasting legacy - her writing, particularly GIFT FROM THE SEA - isn't as well known to readers today. And Anne is one of those elusive figures that attracts writers like me; she's always there, in the background of history, but it's hard to pin her down. She's a name, one that's both familiar and vague. That always attracts me as an author. I always thought she was a heartbreaking figure; I suppose that's what initially attracted me. But I was surprised to discover her hidden strength. And her hidden passion!

What surprised you in the researching of the book, and how do you do your research? Do you have help?

I do my research in a very unscientific way. I look at a life, I read enough about it to give me a good solid foundation. Then I pick and choose the details that will make a compelling novel - knowing that I will be leaving out, or not fully exploring, many of the stories that make up a remarkable life. I allow myself to ask the what ifs. I look at a life, even one that's as documented as Anne's, and I see the hidden corners, the locked closets; I wonder what she didn't tell us. I never take anything on face value; I'm always seeing things that others don't, even in the most mundane, every day objects. That's what drives me as a writer and a storyteller. I have learned...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Melanie Benjamin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Alice I Have Been.

The Page 69 Test: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.

My Book, The Movie: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.

Writers Read: Melanie Benjamin (August 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue