Please join us in welcoming author Stacey Donovan today, on the tour for her novel Dive.
There are several questions I am asked repeatedly, so I’ve gathered them into an introduction to my first novel, Dive, and how I eventually came to write it.
- Could you first tell us a little more about yourself?
I started wearing glasses the summer I was 4 years old. I walked out of the store with my new specs on and stopped – there was a world I could see! My mother introduced me to the first grade teacher who said that I should sit in the front and let her know if I had trouble seeing anything. When school started I sat in the back and looked at anything I couldn’t really focus on until it made sense. I still do that today, something of a metaphor about being a writer.
- Why did you decide to start writing? What was your inspiration for Dive?
My parents had a bad habit of smacking us around so I took on the role of trying to make my sisters feel better after that would happen by making them laugh. This led to my first book, a book of jokes, when I was about 8 years old (Q: Why did the chicken cross the road? A: To get away from you). I had also started writing poetry by then and still do.
It seems that the inspiration for Dive came from my unconscious; I never know what I’m going to write until I start to write it. Lucky, the little dog who gets hit by a car in the book, started the story. And yes, that happened in real life.
- How did you come up with the plot for Dive?
Various elements in the book came from various experiences in my life: Lucky got hit by a car, my father contracted a fatal disease, a mesmerizing chick walked down the hall at school one day, my best friend stopped talking to me, my mother drank a lot of scotch . . . need I say more?
- Did you do any research before writing your book?
I researched facts about birds, spiders, buffalo, and French, the language, so I could (hopefully) quote Rimbaud with some accuracy (I ended up finding a few translators).
- Was there anything really challenging about the writing of this story? Any obstacles you might have run into?
Trying to make a living while writing a book is probably a challenge for the majority of novelists; it certainly was for me. I had left NYC and was now living out in Montauk, at the tip of Long Island, which was largely a ghost town unless it was high season – summer.
The biggest obstacle I experienced was approaching the end of the book. I realized that I couldn’t finish it until I had forgiven my mother for being the flawed human being she was – that we all are. It was a huge step in my development as a person and a writer.
- What is your favorite part about the writing process? Do you have a special writing spot?
Getting so lost in the story that when I look up it’s dark outside or the middle of the night – hours have passed without my being aware of it.
Any desk at a window is a sweet spot for me; the view doesn’t matter as long as I can look out the window.
- Is there anything about you that would surprise your readers?
Although I seem to perpetually create very internal characters (loners, outsiders, iconoclasts, poets, etc.) I am actually a total ham and love to be on stage.
- If you could spend time with any author, who would it be and why?
Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic, because most every word he wrote causes what seems the deepest part of me to vibrate in response.
- What are you reading right now? Do you have any book recommendations for the young adult/ new adult reader?
In the fall I always reread T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets and Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. It seems the changing colors and the falling leaves bring out the poet in me. Fall also feels like such a solitary time and I find the company of the masters soothing.
If there were only one book I would recommend it would be James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. It changed my life when I read it as a teenager and became aware that it was possible to put consciousness into words. That’s when I realized that being a writer would not only help me make sense of life, but would help me connect to other people.
About the Book
When V’s life crumbles around her, she has two options: let it take her down with it or dive straight in
Virginia “V” Dunn is alone when her dog is hit by a car. Lucky’s back leg is shattered, and when she comforts him, his blood is wet on her hands. Suddenly, the monotony of V’s suburban life dissolves: Lucky is in a cast; her best friend, Eileen, is avoiding her; her mother’s drinking is getting worse; and her father is sick with a mysterious illness. Although V is surrounded by family, she is the loneliest girl in town.
As V begins to question everything—death, friendship, family, betrayal—she finds there are few easy answers. The people she thought she knew are strangers, and life’s meaning eludes her. Into this mystery walks the captivating Jane, and V soon realizes that the only way forward seems to break every rule, and go beyond all limitations.
Sometimes the night never ends; it just breaks into light and we pretend. I am alive, though I tend to forget that when I’m pretending, and I’m fifteen. I have sweeping dark hair and hazel eyes that turn green when I cry. Sometimes I rub my hands together, maybe just to see if it’s really me. I wear the glasses I’m supposed to wear when I’m in the mood and when- ever I remember my sunglasses because the day hurts my eyes. Maybe the pretending has torn the edges of who I am, so the result is a frayed and sensitive me.
If the night never ends, who can see? The day boils down to pretending what is and is not there. Because she does not want me to, I do not see the black eye on my mother’s face as the bruise changes, fades a blotchy red to a tattered purple, then spreads to flat green.
Because he assumes nobody does, I do not see the increasingly bloodshot eyes of my brother as he stares past me at dinner. And I do not see the raised eyebrows on Baby Teeth’s face that settle more frequently into surprise as she watches and help-lessly learns this pretending game. I wish I could tell her she doesn’t have to play, though if she’s to survive life in this house, she will.
So I do not notice that on the days that we do not go to the hospital, she spends every afternoon at other people’s houses now. And I especially do not see the absence of my father at dawn when he does not kiss the sleeping Baby Teeth good-bye before he climbs down the stairs in his solid brown shoes and goes to work. And I do not see his absence as I pass his empty chair at night when I walk into the kitchen to feed my dog. The last thing I do not see is my tilting, limping Lucky as he waits by his empty bowl, or the image of the vile green VW that hit him.
So what do I see? That I have learned to pretend so well, I can do it with my eyes open. April has ended, and its cruelty too, I hope, when we weren’t looking, or were busy pretending, or maybe while we slept.
So it’s May. And what does it bring? April showers bring May flowers. Well, really. I try to remember, uncertainly, if there was a lot of rain last month. No. But please flower anyway, all over me. I’ll keep my eyes open. Maybe it won’t happen all at once, the way change seems to. Now that’s something. Change blooms.
About the Author
Stacey Donovan is a critically acclaimed author of fiction and nonfiction for adults and young adults. She is the founder of Donovan Edits, and has edited or ghostwritten more than twenty-five books, including three New York Times bestsellers and several nonfiction titles that have become leading works in their respective fields. Donovan lives in New York, where she continues to write and edit.