Writers are often asked where a story or novel came from.
Is this true? Did this happen to you? One would like to respond to such sweet curiosity with something definitive, “Oh, I took this from an article that appeared in the New York Times on October 4, 1965.” But rarely is the muse so accommodating as to serve you a story the way the waitress delivers your order at the A&W.
Mending What Is Broken, like all my novels, grew out of a short story I had written. Although “The Teardown Party” was published and I thought myself done with it, the story was not done with me. A suspicion lingered that the story was only the start of something larger—of what, I was not sure. The urge to expand the story into a novel began to grow out of a confluence of themes merging that like a carillon of tolling bells elicited my sympathies.
“Hmmm,” I kept thinking, “something could be made of this.”
Family dynamics, particularly families whose bonds are threatened, marriages under stress and unraveling, children caught in emotional crossfires and pressured to choose sides.
Failing businesses, particularly manufacturing concerns, and the businessmen caught up in in such collapses; even more particularly, the lives of salesmen.
Character, the inner fortitude—or lack thereof—a man demonstrates who has lost most of what is dear to him, his second marriage and his family’s business, and is now in jeopardy of losing that last thing he most cherishes and clings to, contact with his ten-year-old daughter.
House Tear Downs
House tear-downs, how neighborhoods roll over their idiosyncratic pasts and incline toward affluent homogeneity.
To wit, I live in a neighborhood that is popular with developers. On my walks I pass fenced properties with gaping craters where once stood somebody’s modest dwelling. I think of those vanished houses as scenes of displaced memory. For instance, I watched what became Jacob Wiener’s small colonial that is torn down in Mending What Is Broken being flattened and replaced by a multi-million-dollar monstrosity.
The physical Peter Sanguedolce resembles a salesman who almost succeeded in selling me a car. I liked the fellow very much, just not his car.
I have always treasured small businesses. I founded a consulting firm and operated it for many years. I was owner, manager, course developer, salesman, and frequently the product being sold. Every corner store or drycleaner brings out a small rise of sympathy (and condolence) from me.
The psychology of sales fascinates me. The product in me used to plead, “Please don’t fill in every square of my calendar with a job.” The salesman in me responded, “But that’s my goal.” When I am in any kind of business meeting, I am as interested in the dynamics at the table as the issues under discussion.
And although I do not have a personal family history as turbulent as Peter’s, my imagination and empathetic feelings have long been drawn to families in duress, those once-in-a-lifetime moments of disintegration that become the strongest tests of a person’s character.
Out of all that—and more—a novel began to spin its web around me.
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