Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Trailer and Guest Post: Falcon in the Glass by Susan Fletcher

Some time ago, I was privileged to host a conversation with my VCFA colleague and gifted writer Susan Fletcher and children's literature scholar Taraneh Matloob. Now it's my delight to invite Susan to write a guest post for me on WWBT--this time about her latest book, Falcon in the Glass.

Here's the trailer, with music and editing by that talented duo, Cooper Appelt and Laurel Kathleen

Here's what I asked Susan

Obsession and form dominate in this book--Renzo's obsession with the glass, the forms of birds and children that appear as if magically from the mist, and the glass and what it means. The interplay between these things does so much to help shape this beautiful story. Can you talk about that? What did obsession and form (structure if you will) mean to you in the making of this book?
Her answer is filled with all those internal contradictions that writers know so well--the fragile and the unbreakable, the fleeting and the enduring, the things that create the shifting, shadowy dance between vision and craft.

Susan Fletcher on Obsession, Form, and Falcon in the Glass

I guess I started with three obsessions from the get-go. First of all, Venice. Ever since seeing a video documentary on Venice about twenty years ago, I’ve been fascinated by that city and have wanted to explore it in person and in writing. Maybe it’s all those canals and bridges, or the reflections of water on stone and stone on water, which give the city a rippling feeling of evanescence. Maybe it’s the opulence, or the flamboyant history, or the fact that the city is sinking, which brings to mind the fragility of everything that’s beautiful. Maybe it’s the fact that when you walk through those old streets, you can almost imagine that the 21st century has dropped away and you’re living in some alternate Renaissance—with tourists.

In any case, my second obsession had to do with the shape of the story I wanted to tell. Years before, I had read The Kite Runner, and it had moved me deeply, and I’d gone back and asked myself why. Part of of it had to do with the book itself, which I still admire. But part of it, I decided, had to do with the type of story it is—a story of harm inflicted and later atonement. I can’t tell you why, but this kind of story pulls at me. And it has a particular shape: Someone hurts someone else, for human reasons that we can understand. And he then tries to go back and undo as much of the harm as he can—though undoing it entirely is impossible. So I knew the larger shape of the story very early in the process. A sort of forward movement with the hurting. And an echoing backward reflection with the attempt to undo. Stone on water. Water on stone.

My third obsession is longstanding. It has to do with creating things. Shaping things. The word “art” makes me skittish—but I spend the bulk of my days thinking about, teaching about, writing about, and in the act of attempting to create something original and harmonious: a story. I hadn’t really explored this territory yet in a novel, but I wanted to. So my protagonist, Renzo, aspires to become a glass artist. He is, as you say, obsessed. In this book I got to explore, through Renzo, some of the issues I have mulled over the years in my teaching and writing. How important is innovation in artmaking? What is the relationship between the hard work (and even drudgery) of developing the skills the artist needs on the one hand…and the flash of inspiration required for the art to break through to true originality? For me, finishing a novel requires a kind of dogged persistence. It’s a long process requiring a suite of hard-won skills. But when I approach a book with a sort of grit-your-teeth determination, I can crush all the life out of it. My best writing comes when I lighten up and approach my work in a spirit of play. For me, writing a novel is a delicate balancing act of craft, persistence, obsession, and joy. And I imagine that this is true of other art forms, too.

And finally, I found myself exploring the relationship between art and life. Some artists believe it’s necessary to sacrifice the fullness of their lives to their art. They believe that genuine art requires that level of sacrifice. And truly I have found that if you let it, life can shoulder aside your plans to make art. And if you want to create, you can’t allow that to happen. On the other hand, I think the most important thing I’ve done in my life isn’t writing my books—it’s raising my daughter. So in Falcon, Renzo finds himself caught between the demands of artmaking and life. I won’t say what happens, but I will tell where I come out on this issue: Life can disrupt your plans to make art, but it’s a full life that gives you something to make art about.

Thank you, Susan, for this sensitive post on a book as rich and beautiful as the history, art, and humanity it brings to the page. 


  1. I love this line, "Life can disrupt your plans to make art, but it’s a full life that gives you something to make art about."
    Great interview.

  2. I love it too. And also the balance between work and play.

  3. Wonderful interview. And a wonder of a book. It beautifully portrayed the call to the creative life. I especially loved this line in it: “It is possible, Renzo found, to work through fear. You can push it down, hoard it deep inside you, and breathe it into the glass. . . . With glass, joy is the preferable medium. But fear is powerful and it will do, when joy cannot be found.”