Excerpted from Reunion by Therese Fowler. Copyright © 2009 by Therese Fowler. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Therese Fowler is the author of Souvenir, Reunion and Exposure. She has worked in the U.S. Civil Service, managed a clothing store, lived in the Philippines, had children, sold real estate, earned a B.A. in sociology, sold used cars, returned to school for her MFA in creative writing, and taught college undergrads about literature and fiction-writing -- roughly in that order. With books published in nine languages and sold world-wide, Therese writes full-time from her home in Wake Forest, NC, which she shares with her husband, four amiable cats, and four nearly grown-up sons.
Random House Reader’s Circle:What was your inspiration for writing
Therese Fowler: This will sound crazy, but the first seed of inspiration
was my reaction to the ending of the movie Something’s Gotta Give. I
wanted to write a younger-man-older-woman story that turned out the
way I thought the movie should have.
That gave me a basic plot frame, but the substance of the story really
grew from my longtime interest in celebrity, and from my own
childhood experiences of growing up yearning for a better life than the
one I was living.
RHRC: This is your second novel; did you find it easier to write Reunion?
TF: Not really. In fact, second novels are widely considered to be
harder to write, and I have to agree. There is the difficulty of figuring
out how to craft a new story that’s both similar to and different from
the first. There is the distraction of the first book’s publication and the
activities that go along with it. With the second book you do a lot of
second-guessing. Sometimes you have the pressure of a looming deadline.
And you can only hope that you can figure out what you did right
the first time and do it again.
I’m starting on my fourth book now, and as far as I can tell, the next
book is never easier than the one before it. I just worry about different
things with each one. Even so, I love writing novels, and feel so fortunate
that this is my job. I’m living out a dream that took forty years to
RHRC: There’s a great line in Reunion about how some people are
spotlights and some are reflectors. What did you mean by that? Which
of the characters are spotlights and which are reflectors?
TF: Some people live outwardly; they shine with their own power,
drawing attention to and illuminating whatever they come into contact
with. Others live more inwardly. They’re quiet about their passions,
blending into the scenery and only shining when light is turned their
way. As for which characters are which, I’ll turn that question back to
you and the readers.
RHRC: I loved all the bird imagery in Reunion. Are you a bird
watcher? Did you have to research the different types of birds you
TF: My husband was a casual bird watcher when I met him, and as I got
to know him, I grew more and more interested in both him and birds.
Where the birds were concerned, I became fascinated by the amazing
variety of colors and markings, the differences in sizes and habits, the
fact that some birds are carnivorous predators while others are passive
seed-eaters. (My husband, incidentally, is an omnivore.) We love traveling
and spending time outdoors; searching out birds we haven’t seen
before gives every trip an extra bit of purpose and pleasure.
I did have to do a fair bit of research in order to know which kinds
of birds can be seen in which locations—which is how I discovered
that macaws and parakeets live in the Keys not by nature but because
they escape or people release them there. Key West is a haven for all
kinds of orphans and runaways.
RHRC: Key West is so wonderfully portrayed and described in
Reunion—you really made it come alive. Did you make a special trip to
Key West for this book? Have you ever visited the Hemingway Home?
TF: Thank you! Key West has always intrigued me, so it was a treat to
do the research for the book—and yes, I did visit as part of that research,
including an extensive Hemingway Home and Museum tour.
The fact that Hemingway’s writing studio is painted the same soothing,
pale shade of blue as my home office makes me wonder if there’s
something about that shade that’s conducive to writing.
Blue’s fascination with the house during Mitch’s tour for TBRS is
really my own. It isn’t so much that I revere Hemingway—his work is
for the most part darker than I like—but there’s no discounting his
place in literary history.
Key West, with its multiple personalities, its varied history and
unique location, is such a rich setting to work with. It’s also a lovely
place to spend time. Whether or not I set a future story there, I can’t
wait to return.
RHRC: Daniel is such a fantastic and charming character and I love
his split personality. Why did you choose Ken Mattingly as his alter
TF: Really, this happened of its own accord, odd as that sounds.
So much in my storycrafting process and the choices I make is subconscious,
and occurs literally the moment I’m typing the words. Of
course, the information that inspires such choices has to be rattling
around somewhere in my brain, right? I’m sure I learned about Mattingly,
and all the Apollo astronauts, in elementary school—and I was
struck by his role in the events of Apollo 13, which Gary Sinise portrayed
beautifully in the movie Apollo 13.
Now, why he came to mind in conjunction with Daniel and the
stroke is beyond me, but I can tell you that when that happened, I loved
RHRC: Marcy waited years for Blue to reveal what brought upon her
teenage rebellion and angst. Do you think that you could be as patient
a friend as Marcy?
TF: Marcy assumed all along that it was a case of love gone wrong—
but even at the time she and Blue first ran into each other at the convenience
store, she didn’t probe for information. I think Marcy lives in
“now,” and so is never burdened by or especially concerned with
what’s past. Patience, then, is easy for her.
As for me, I’m pretty laid back, definitely more patient than not, so
unless I felt there was something important to accomplish by probing
for information, I probably could let the matter lie indefinitely. Like
Marcy, I’m primarily concerned with what’s going on in my friends’
lives now, along with how things are shaping up for their futures.
RHRC: Do you believe that people in show business have to sell their
souls or lose an essential part of themselves in order to become successful?
TF: No, but I do think that those who are willing to do so stand a better
chance of success. And I think the business certainly can be soulsucking
even to those who didn’t intend to give in to the pressures. It’s
heartening to know that there are many who’ve resisted and still managed
to become hugely successful, even iconic: Paul Newman comes to
mind, and Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep, Barbara Walters. Nice guys
don’t always finish last.
RHRC: I’m really intrigued by the opening quote for Part Four. “Make
the most of your regrets . . . To regret deeply is to live afresh”—Henry
David Thoreau. Why did you choose this quote?
TF: I chose this not only for the way it frames the part of the story
that’s ahead, but because it’s a message everyone needs to hear. Regret
is often seen as a waste of time and energy, something to be avoided
lest it weigh us down and prevent us from moving forward. Thoreau
knew, though, that if a person truly embraces the emotion, he or she
will be compelled to make important changes, to understand, learn
from, and amend mistakes, and to live a fuller, better life from that
RHRC:What are you working on now?
TF: I’m doing a lot of planning for the release of my third novel, Exposure,
which my publisher is calling “a deftly crafted, provocative, and
timely novel that serves as a haunting reminder of the consequences of
love in the modern age.” It’s based on real events my family endured
in 2009. It will be in stores on May 3, 2011; I hope readers will look for
it, as well as my debut novel, Souvenir, with my thanks.
1. Blue had a flighty mother who frequently left her to take care of herself, while Julian grew up torn between a mentally unstable mother and a distant father. How much can we blame our parents for our troubles later on? Do you feel Blue and/or Julian blame theirs?
2. Do you think Blue would have kept the baby if she’d sought out and received her mother and sister’s support?
3. Should Mitch have fought harder against Renee’s bullying and threats? What was at stake for each of them?
4. Was it selfish of Blue to try to locate her son?
5. Blue’s sighting of Daniel is a catalyst for the nostalgia she experiences while walking through Old Town and while at the house there, which is then brought to a fine point when she sees Mitch later at dinner. Is nostalgia always behind the rekindling of an old romance? How might it be dangerous? How might it be beneficial?
6. Do you think the best photographers are connected to their subjects, or disconnected from them? In what ways might both be true about Julian?
7. What did the shop owner mean when she told Blue “you brought it all with you”? Do you believe strangers can be so attuned to people they’ve just met, or was this more likely coincidence combined with Blue’s guilty conscience?
8. Julian and Brenda both thought that Mitch would be a sell-out if he sold Literary Lions to a cable show. Do you agree? Why is PBS seen as more respectable than a cable network?
9. Why did Renee wait so many years to tell Julian the truth about what happened between her and Mitch? Why do you think she chose that moment to reveal all the facts?
10. When Blue asks how her mother knows that Calvin is “The One,” Nancy tells her that she and Calvin like the same things, and want the same things—but that such a simple-sounding truth is really not so simple. What does she mean?
11. Might Blue have forgiven herself for her choices and moved forward sooner if not for the way events unfolded? Conversely, was the crisis exactly what she needed to get her moving forward?
12. The author has said that the ending was not intended as a cliff - hanger. Since that’s the case, what do you think she intended by it? What, if anything, should happen next between Blue and her son?