- Published: 21 July 2013 21 July 2013
Writing Time Flies
After years of beachside Massachusetts gardening, when I moved to the suburbs of Atlanta I was a rookie again. And somehow beautiful pink flowers were blooming in January on a bush in my snowless garden.
I snapped a photo, emailed it to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens Plant Hotline, asking them to identify it.
“Honey, it’s a camellia,” somebody emailed back.
I’m a fast learner. When a Lenten Rose bloomed next, I simply posted the photo on Facebook, where it was immediately and much less embarrassingly identified.
I felt like I’d landed on a strange new planet. I got lost every time I left the house. But I’m a novelist so this was all good news. I could put my feelings of displacement and wonder to work for me.
I decided Melanie, the heroine of Time Flies, would be a transplant, too. Instead of moving voluntarily and happily like I did, her husband would drag her kicking and screaming from the seaside town where their two young sons were thriving. She’d become a metal sculptor, a profession that would come in handy when her husband eventually left her for another woman, since she’d have her own chainsaw to cut up their marriage mattress.
Along the way I stumbled on the fact that forty percent of women, twice as many as men, struggle with a full-blown phobia at some point in their lives. I started thinking what if Melanie can finally do exactly what she wants to do, but the stress of her husband leaving triggers a latent highway driving phobia and suddenly she can't.
For years I’ve thought it would be fun to write kind of a twist on the movie Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, but for the next stage of life, when you have so much baggage that you can’t just slide on a miniskirt and jump into a convertible. So, I thought, what if Melanie’s best friend wants her to head north for their high school reunion, and an old flame gets in touch to say he's going. I could revisit all that great old music and the bad hair and outfits. And ultimately Time Flies would become a novel about the power of lifelong friendship.
“Why the hell would anyone want to fry a pickle?” Melanie asks when she finds herself stranded at the edge of an Atlanta highway peering up at a fast food sign.
So many Southern readers have emailed me since Time Flies came out in June to explain the lure of fried pickles and where to find the best ones. And to tell me not to worry, my transplanted Northern palate will improve before I know it. Thank you all for making my characters and me feel so welcome.
And if there’s anything else I can’t identify, I’ll be sure to post it on Facebook.
Claire Cook wrote her first novel in her minivan when she was 45. At 50, she walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of her second novel, Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. She is now the bestselling author of ten novels including Wallflower in Bloom and Time Flies. Read excerpts and find book club questions at ClaireCook.com.