Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Apr 17th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Wally Lamb pens another winner

ae-hourcover1The author of 'The Hour I First Believed' talks about coping with bestseller stardom.

A number of years ago I came to believe that Wally Lamb was one of today’s great storytellers. I knew of the hubbub surrounding his second Oprah Book Club novel, “I Know This Much Is True,” and taking a chance, I cracked it open to see if it lived up to the hype. It did. Then I went back and read his first novel, “She’s Come Undone.” Again, the rave reviews were accurate. Now, in 2008, Lamb’s third novel hits bookstores. Curiously titled, “The Hour I First Believed,” the read is full of rich and complex characters and plenty of heart-wrenching storylines. It also uses Columbine High School in Colorado as a backdrop to the story. Quite simply, the book is pageturner. It chronicles a troubled couple, Caelum and Maureen Quirk, who both work for Columbine High School. Maureen is onsite the day the horrific shootings take place and the tale story follows the duo as they reel from the tragedy. GT recently caught up with Lamb, who heads to Bookshop Santa Cruz at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6.

GOOD TIMES: HOW Does IT FEEL KNOWING THAT YOUR NEW BOOK WAS SO WIDELY ANTICIPATED?

WALLY LAMB: After bestsellerdom, I sat down to write this. I was scared to write the first sentence. I [finally] chased everyone’s expectations out of my office and dug in.

GT: WHAT’S YOUR WRITING PROCESS? DO YOU OUTLINE?

WL: I wish I could outline. It doesn’t work that way for me. I can’t do it that way because I’m writing in first person. First of all I find their voice and let them tell the story to me. I’m confounded a lot, actually, and it’s not an easy process for me. I have to sometimes be patient until the character defines himself or herself and brings me deeper and deeper and deeper. It’s like peeling an onion or something. … Writing groups have very much been a part of my process.

GT: YOUR CHARACTERS ARE SO RICH AND REALISTIC. HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH THEM?

WL: With Dolores in “She’s Come Undone,” she started out as a voice. She was kind of funny and self-deprecating and a wise ass. I was working on her for a while and I had a fair number of pages in her voice and one day I thought about a kid [when I was student teaching—an obese girl in high school who had walls and defenses and was very quiet and didn’t take part in class. Everybody treated her like she was invisible. That’s when “She’s Come Undone” propelled.

GT: WHY DO YOU THINK TOPICS OF FAITH AND THE TRAGEDIES AT COLUMBINE ARE SO COMPELLING TO PEOPLE:

WL: I think that in terms of the Columbine stuff, these past 10 years have been scary ones for many of us—the school shootings, 9/11, the ravages of the hurricane in New Orleans. Columbine has become a metaphor for some of these chaotic things and how you survive them. The spirituality thing—in all three of the novels I’ve written, there’s a balancing act between hope and despair. If you look at the cover of “The Hour I First Believed,” for me it represents the two parts of the novel. Part one is about chaos and lives reeling out of control and part two is sort of holding open the possibility that there is a guiding principle to it all that life does make sense.

GT: WERE YOU AT ALL NERVOUS TO ‘GO THERE’ WITH SETTING A STORY TO THE BACKDROP OF COLUMBINE HIGH SCHOOL?

ae-wallylamb2WL: Yes, I was very nervous and uncomfortable with the research. Those two kids (Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris) really began to play with my psyche. I was a high school teacher for 25 years. They were hiding in plain sight … dressed mainstream. Who could have imagined they were planning this horror show? My decision to use them rather than fictionalize [them] and name the victims … challenged me to write it as responsibly as I could.

GT: I NOTICED THAT IN THE BOOK, YOUNG CAELUM BRINGS HOME A PRaYING MANTIS EGG CASE AND YOUR OWN SON DID THIS AS WELL …

WL: He (my son Teddy) was 8 at the time. It was the last day of school and he brought home a praying mantis egg case. It lived in our garage. One day, the case had beat the odds and hatched. That became for me the symbol of hope that carried me through the dark material. Life, against the odds, can go on and babies can be born against the odds. It was hard writing this material and living it every day. That egg case carried me through.

GT: DO YOU AND CAELUM HAVE ANYTHING IN COMMON?

WL: We are both English teachers and we’re both imperfect people laboring to become better people, but that said, what’s different about us is that he … is a pretty cynical guy and I’m not a cynic. … I think cynicism is wounded idealism.

GT: WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING RIGHT NOW?

WL: In my briefcase I have Ethan Canin’s novel, “America America.”

GT: WHO’S YOUR FAVORITE AUTHOR?

WL: Dickens and Mark Twain, Flannery O’Connor … Richard Russo, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood.

GT: WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW AND WHEN CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE THE NEXT BOOK FROM YOU?

WL: I’m still officially in recovery, and as I’m traveling things come to me—it’s like a satellite dish. I’ve got my radar up and as I think of things … I have a notebook that I’m filling up with these disparate things—jellyfish to quotes I see on a wall.


Wally Lamb will be speaking at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 6 at Bookshop Santa Cruz , 1520 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. His new book, “The Hour I First Believed,” sells for $29.95 at local bookstores.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Growing Hope

Campos Seguros combats sexual assault in the Watsonville farmworker community Farm work was a way of life for Rocio Camargo, who grew up in Watsonville as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her parents met while working the fields 30 years ago, and her father went on to run Fuentes Berry Farms.

 

Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Animal Magnetism

Bear, mouse dare to be friends in charming ‘Ernest and Celestine’ It’s not exactly Romeo and Juliet. It’s not even a romance, although it is a love story about two individuals separated by prejudice who find the courage to form an unshakable bond despite the rules and traditions that keep them apart.
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.