I just started draft four of my newest novel.
And it’s an excellent reminder that when you sit down to do the work, the muse meets you there.
The story structure is in place and my excellent writing group composed of two pro editors confirmed it’s solid. This draft will be all about going deeper with the characters and refining the POV and backstory for each of them.
Here are the main players:
Martha Fitzgerald at 15—You may remember 10-year-old Martha from The Cat, the Cash, the Leap and the List.) She’s still Martha, she knows what she wants and is determined to get it. She wants to be a grown-up already. And an artist. But now, her hormones have kicked in and threaten to overcome her innate good sense.
It feels a bit risky to use the pre-pubescent character from my middle grade novel for this book—which is shaping up to be either young adult or just plain adult. (This will be a book for you instead of your middle graders.) But I’m respecting my initial instinct. I wanted to write a novel inspired by the movie Rushmore (directed by Wes Anderson) but with the main character as a girl who goes to Waldorf School instead of a boy who goes to an exclusive prep school. When I started imagining the story and the character, I immediately knew it was Martha.
Mateo Alano—Mateo is the new music teacher at Martha’s school, and the subject of her hormonal surge. But his intentions couldn’t be more honorable, even if he doesn’t always know the best way to deal with Martha. He plays guitar and hails from Spanish. Does any young woman stand a chance?
Evelyn Shepherd—Evelyn is a new teacher too. She teaches handwork: knitting, sewing, crochet and the like, which is an important part of the Waldorf curriculum. And she befriends Martha, who’s acting as her assistant this year. Evelyn is still very young, just twenty-five. And her professional and personal boundaries are not yet fully developed, to put it kindly. She admires and cares about Martha, and tries to keep her out of trouble, but ends up being the cause of Martha’s broken heart.
I’ve really been struggling to come up with a title for this book. But yesterday after working on Chapter 1 of the new draft, a word dropped out of the sky and straight into my head that is helping me understand Martha more and that I believe will guide this draft: Pastiche.
Martha is imitating what she thinks adults are like. And, as a budding artist, she’s imitating the style of those she admires. She needs to come into her authentic self, and her authentic age.
I’m thinking Pastiche is the title of the book.
Which lead me into some research on art and artists for Martha imitate.
And here’s who I found: Carrie Walter Stettheimer (1869–1944) who created an amazing replica of the Manhattan apartment she shared with her feminist sisters (one was a painter and one was a writer and they all eschewed marriage) and that served as a salon to Jazz Age luminaries like Marcel Duchamp, Carl Van Vechten, and Georgia O’Keeffe.
There was already a gigantic dollhouse in the story, but this is helping me see how Martha got the idea and what types of things swirl around in her head.
I’m now down a beautiful rabbit hole and can’t wait to see where it all ends up. You can read more about the Stettheimer sisters here.