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Dawn Tripp: Why I Write

June 13, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Guest Posts

[Without question Dawn Tripp (The Season of Open Water, Moon Tide) is a literary artist weaving both subtle shadows and bold, clear-cut emotions into her most recent novel, Game of Secrets, just released in paperback last week.

The author’s poetic, yet realistic prose can transport readers’ minds into a different state of consciousness — a state that Dawn seeks for herself in explaining why she writes.]

Why I Write

10th grade English. It was winter, snow falling through the windows outside. And our teacher Mr. Rossiter was talking about a poem by T.S. Eliot. I don’t remember what poem it was. I don’t remember what he said about it. But I will never forget the passion in his face, his eyes lit, as he spoke about that poem. And I remember thinking to myself: when I grow up, I want to write something that makes someone feel THAT.

From the time I was a child, I hung around with people who didn’t exist. Whether I met them through the books I loved, the stories I fell into, or whether they came to me out of the elsewhere place where the Muse lives. From the time I was a child, I wrote. I would look at something as simple as a pool of sunlight on a leaf and it would begin to form itself into words in my head. Or I would see a man in Boston Common sitting on a park bench, and I would begin to construct a story about why he was sitting there, where he had just come from, where he was going.

My novels start as tiny glimmers—of character, story, scene. When those pieces surface in me, I feel them—not with my mind, but in the body—they have a certain feverish intensity, a certain dreamlike immediacy—they feel alive. And I begin to write into them, longhand at first. I’ll fill a notebook with these fragments even if I can’t yet see—with my daylight mind—how they will all come together.

To me, secrets are key to strong storytelling. And by ‘secrets,’ I mean those things that strike closest to the heart—things we cannot always look at head-on, and yet they move in us. Even buried or barely glimpsed, they impact our lives in ways both explicit and oblique. My characters and their secrets—the sense and burn of them—always come to me before the plot—they drive the story. And I write to discover things about them: about what they want, fear, hide, remember, dream, what they will not let themselves dream.

In Game of Secrets, one of the most powerful characters for me was Huck as a fourteen-year old boy. I saw him first as that boy, driving fast down an unfinished highway in a stolen car—heat in his hands on the wheel thinking about a girl. And I wanted to know: Who is that? What does he want? What drives him? Who is that girl he’s thinking of? I fell into the novel through that scene—which in the paperback appears on pp. 113-115. Huck is not the main character of Game of Secrets, but he impacts the lives of the three women the novel revolves around. And for me, as a writer, Huck was a galvanizing force. He is deeply flawed—even as a boy, he has that James Dean kind of doom about him, and he grows up to be a man whose insular views and past stand for things that are easy to dismiss or disdain. I didn’t see that coming, and it broke my heart a bit. I wanted more for him. When he first appeared to me as that boy in the car, driving, he was like fire underground, and I wanted him to get out from underneath the dark weight of the life he had been born into. And as I wrote the story, that hope drove me. Even when I began to learn things about him I wished I didn’t know, I couldn’t quite outrun that raw and simple desire he felt once not just for that girl, but for the freedom of a dream she stood for.

When the burn of a story is in me, it’s always with me. Whether I am out for a run with the dog, picking my kids up at school, folding laundry, it’s like a parallel skin laid over every other thing. It’s like being in love. It’s like having the flu. It’s a fall-off-the-cliff kind of feeling—liquid silver in the veins—that rush of air and speed through space. And I have to be honest. I live for that state.

* * * * *

A Boston Globe bestseller
:

Jane Weld was eleven years old when her father, Luce, disappeared in 1957. His skiff was found drifting near a marsh, empty except for his hunting coat and a box of shotgun shells. No one in their small New England town knew for sure what happened until, three years later, Luce’s skull rolled out of a gravel pit, a bullet hole in the temple. Rumors sprang up that he had been murdered by the jealous husband of his mistress, Ada Varick. 


Now, half a century later, Jane is still searching for the truth of her father’s death, a mystery made more urgent by the unexpected romance that her willful daughter, Marne, has struck up with one of Ada’s sons. As the love affair intensifies, Jane and Ada meet for their weekly Friday game of Scrabble, a pastime that soon transforms into a cat-and-mouse game of words long left unspoken, and dark secrets best left untold.

Reviews and Praise:

“Drop-dead Yankee storytelling . . . Elizabeth Strout fans will find a lot to admire about Game of Secrets, cleverly framed around the idea of revealing old family mysteries through a continuing series of Scrabble games.” 
—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Like a Faulkner novel, Game of Secrets weaves in and out of time. . . The varied points of view and fragments are rendered with such poetry, each sentence is a pleasure.” 
—The Providence Journal

“A gracefully told character study of three intelligent, forbidding women and the men who love them, wrapped up in a taut, suspenseful mystery.” 
—Booklist

“A page-turning thriller—a game of Scrabble helps two families spell out the history of a small-town murder.”
—Better Homes & Gardens

“A combination of thriller, mystery, and literary fiction; the secrets of a murder are revealed through an intense Scrabble game…An intelligent beach-read.” 
—Boston Phoenix

Although there is even more, Caroline Leavitt, bestselling author of Pictures of You describes the novel best:


“A hypnotic literary mystery . . . Startlingly original, Dawn Tripp’s haunting novel explores the secrets we keep even from ourselves.”

TRUTH: Game of Secrets is a gorgeous novel about the games people play with themselves and each other. However, by including an ongoing game of Scrabble, the author’s use of this unique element allows the storyline to develop and unfold to an end that’s almost certain to surprise. This is a book to savor for its characters, plot, description, and mystery. As lush and beautiful as a perfect summer day, Game of Secrets will be enjoyed in the present and become a memory keeper in the future.

For your instant gratification, please read an Excerpt.

Much more about Dawn Tripp can be found on her website as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Game of Secrets by Dawn Tripp — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight! The winner will be notified by email tomorrow.

Guest Dawn Tripp on What’s in a Game?

September 23, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Welcome fall! With the arrival of the autumnal equinox at 9:05 a.m. GMT this morning, summer’s gone as is my vacation. Yes it was lovely, thank you, and one of its highlights was reading Dawn Tripp’s (The Season of Open Water, Moon Tide) latest novel, Game of Secrets. This extraordinarily haunting story — written in poetic prose — unfolds through a game of Scrabble and tells of the secret games all her characters play.

In today’s guest post, Dawn describes her inspiration, writing process, and true meaning of what’s in a game.]

What’s in a Game?

Game of Secrets has been called a ‘literary thriller.’ It’s the story of a murder that divides two families, a deep-seated feud that is overturned when a young man and a young woman fall in love. It’s the story of secrets played out through a Scrabble game. But it didn’t start that way.

Like my other novels, Game of Secrets started in pieces—on the page for months—fragments of character, story, scene. I write longhand—often first on scraps of paper—the backs of receipts, the leftover white space of a grocery list. There is a certain artistic freedom that comes when I write on throw-away things and, in the first stages of a novel, I crave this freedom. I might have a vague sense of the overall narrative arc, but I try to resist the impulse to pin everything down into place. I try to let those early fragments have their room to shift and grow, to let the twists and turns of the plot deepen and evolve. In those early months, I turn my back completely on the old adage ‘write what you know.’ I write what moves me, what I am impelled by. I start where I feel led to start. It’s like wind-marked ocean, this early work. Everything is possible. That doesn’t mean a structure isn’t there. It doesn’t mean some dark side of my mind hasn’t already mapped that order out. I have faith that there is such an order. And I write to discover it.

Game of Secrets started with four primary fragments—the real-life story of a skull that surfaced out of gravel fill with a bullet hole in the temple, and three images: a fourteen year old boy driving fast down an unfinished highway, two lovers meeting in an old cranberry barn, and two women playing Scrabble. I did not know their names. I did not know the details specific to their lives, but I could feel the undercurrent of tension between them as their hands arranged those blonde Scrabble tiles into words and laid them on the board.

The image of the Scrabble game hit me especially hard. Not just because the unfolding of the mystery in the novel mirrors the playing of a Scrabble game: clue after clue is revealed, the story comes together piece by piece, like a puzzle, as in Scrabble, disparate letters are arranged into words, which in turn are arranged into a larger cogent grid.

It hit me because I have always loved Scrabble. I grew up playing with my grandmother. She taught me cards as well—pitch, gin, poker, bridge. But it was Scrabble that I loved. I remember the thrill I felt when I was old enough to keep my own letters, to have my own rack. We would play with my father after lunch and, after a game or two, my father would drift off to something else. “You want to play again, Nana?” I’d ask. And my grandmother would nod, light another cigarette, and start flipping over the tiles. We would play game after game. Until it was time for her to fix supper. Then we’d eat, clear the table, wash the dishes, I would dry them for her, then I’d ask to play again.

The idea for Game of Secrets came to me years after she was gone. The story has nothing to do with her life; the women in the story are not modeled after her, but the sense of my time with her—generational, intimate, lost—is strung all through it. As I wrote, I remembered those long childhood hours: the stillness of the house, the light tick-tack as she lay down her tiles, the smell of her cigarette balanced on the ashtray, just resting there untended, dwindling down.

And I remembered, too, things she had taught me over the years as we played. She played Scrabble for the words, as many women in her generation did. I always played for the numbers. How we play that game can reveal so much about how we tick, how we live, who we are. In Scrabble, some play to keep the board open, some play to shut it down. Some play with an eye to the sum of the total scores of all players; some play, simply, to maximize their own score. Most players will look at the board and see the words that fill it. But a really good player, a canny player—and she was one of those—will also see opportunity in the skinny spaces still left open in between.

As I wrote the scenes for Game of Secrets, the game for me became the perfect lens for a story about two women and their families bound together and divided by unspeakable secrets—a brutal past, a murder, a love story. Because what are words if not a bridge—in a game of Scrabble or in a novel? Between one person and another. Thought and reality. Past and present, present and future. Words bridge silence. Words, and the stories they comprise, bridge time

* * * * *

Note: This Fairy Godmother has her own secret. Please return next week to learn what it is!

The Divining Wand’s Summer TBR List

June 28, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: News

Dear Authors/Readers/Friends —

What a spectacular year it’s been here at The Divining Wand. From authors revealed, guests posts, responses to writing/literary questions, and the presentations/reviews, this Fairy Godmother — with great pride and joy — believes she has introduced the very best of the best for everyone’s enjoyment.

But what about this summer? After asking the authors for their summer TBR lists, I decided it might be worthwhile to share my personal list too.

Catching Up On:

~The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer

~Twenty-Somewhere [Kindle Edition] by Kristan Hoffman (Yes our most loyal commenter Kristan!)

~Here, Home, Hope by Kaira Rouda

Looking Forward To:

~Centuries of June by Keith Donohue

~Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

~Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand

~Game of Secrets by Dawn Tripp

~The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin

~Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto

~Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

~The Winters in Bloom by Lisa Tucker (e-galley)

First To-Be-Read:

The entire Harry Potter series. It’s time for this Fairy Godmother to meet the Boy Wizard!

Since the list grows daily, you might be wondering where I’ll ever find the time? Well, after almost five years of blogging, I’m granting myself a summer vacation. Imagining two months free of posts and deadlines is impossible, I don’t remember what that feels like but will savor every bit of reclaiming the experience.

If you follow me on Twitter and/or are a friend on Facebook, I plan on being there as well as making personal blog tours.. So, if you see me, please at least wave.

Happy summer to you and thank you all!

As ever —
Larramie