By SHERIDAN CYR
Author Julia Glass ignited the Aqua Turf with stories about her life growing up in New England, her first job at her local library, and her experiences majoring in painting at Yale University only to find her true passion as a novelist. In her short time at the podium, her audience went through bellowing laughter, to utter silence, to gasps and to near-tears.
On March 7, the Southington Public Library introduced the national book award winner and best-selling author to a packed room of readers for the 14th annual Southington Reads event at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville.
“Writers always have favorite quotes from authors, and one of mine is a quote from Margaret Atwood,” said Glass. “’Wanting to meet the author because you read the book is like wanting to meet the duck because you’ve had the pate.’ And, it’s kind of true, because fiction authors pour our innards into our books.”
In preparation for the event, audience members read Glass’s novel, “A House among the Trees.” Inspired by the 2012 death of American illustrator and author Maurice Sendak, the story unfolds with the death of fictional character Mort Lear.
At the time of Lear’s death, caused by a freak accident in which he has fallen from the room of his home, his caretaker Tomasina Daulair is suddenly left behind as the sole beneficiary and literary executor of his legacy. At the same time, Lear had been in communication with a British actor Nick Greene who planned to become Lear in an upcoming biopic about the author’s life and work.
Greene decides to travel to Lear’s home to meet Daulair, all the while museum curator Merry Galarza is on her way in a frantic hope to talk to Dauliar. Lear had made verbal commitment to the museum in Long Island City that he would leave his literary and artistic remains with them, but his will included nothing of the sort.
“He left essentially his caretaker in charge of this legacy. The character was part of the innermost circle of the life of a creative genius—not a parent, not a spouse, not a child, but sort of a muse,” said Glass. “I began to think of what this might look like… the wind beneath his sails. What she was left with was not only his legacy and reputation but also some secrets.”
The three main characters—Daulair, Greene and Galarza—all perfect strangers suddenly find themselves unraveling the life of Mort Lear together.
“Each character presented a new challenge,” said the author. “Even though Mort was dead from page one, you learn about him all throughout the book.”
When creating characters, Glass said a concept of a character will come to her, and soon enough, she is whisked off into their worlds.
“I imagine the character in a dilemma. Then, I imagine the people around the character—their parents, coworkers, friends, pets,” she said. “The plot is a sum of the choices the character made, and I think I go in sort of blind. I might think a character will make a certain choice at a certain point, but when I get to that point, I’ve changed my mind.”
Glass said it takes both determination and denial to be a novelist.
“You have to know how to spend time with yourself,” she said. “Be with your own voices, stew in your own juices.”
Glass is the author of six books of fiction, including best-selling “Three Junes,” which won her the national book award, and “I See You Everywhere,” winner of the Binghamton University John Gardner fiction book award, according to publisher Penguin Random House. She is a recipient of fellowships from the national Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Glass is a distinguished writer in residence at Emerson College.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.