Since Finny has such a big love story and so many quirky characters, a lot of readers ask how much of the novel is true. I could never just write down the things that happened to me — at least not in a way you would want to read. I wish I could. I think some fiction writers have a much easier time than I do writing about themselves in an interesting way. It’s not that I don’t want to get my experiences into my books; it’s just that I don’t seem to be able to do it without twisting the experiences around a lot.
One of the central story lines in my book is a love story between the main character of my novel, Finny, and a man named Earl, whom Finny meets as a teenager when she runs away from home. I’ve just always been fascinated with the unpredictable way that people move together and apart over time, and that when you have a relationship that lasts over a long time with someone, it’s always interesting when you come back together after a separation, having both faced new and different things.
I met my fiancée in college, and we had a very short relationship, and then we went separate ways for a while. She moved back to California, and I was in Iowa for grad school. We hardly kept in touch, but I still thought about her, and I’m going to imagine for my ego’s sake that the same was true about her. And then, several years later, circumstances brought us both back to the east coast at the same time, and we re-started our relationship.
We’d both had different experiences and faced certain challenges, and so, in a way, it was a completely new relationship. Or I should say, we were both the same people, but what we brought to the relationship was different.
And that feeling of returning again and again to a person, constantly revising yourselves and what you mean to each other — that was something I wanted to capture in the novel. The book is told from the point of view of a young woman, and the experiences she has are completely different than mine, but that underlying emotion of time passing, and the way time changes people, is a feeling I drew from in my own life to create the story in the book. The novel is dedicated to Lynn, my fiancée, and I could never have written it without her.