Monday, June 8, 2009

New Novel, Lost Love ... THE PRETEND WIFE

I miss Elliot Hull -- the messy, irrepressible, old college fling who returns, and makes his way back into the life of this novel – THE PRETEND WIFE – and the life of my narrator, Gwen Merchant. She’s married now, but conflicted about the idea of marriage, and she’s always opted for love in manageable portions – not the kind of love that Elliot Hull used to throw at her … love like an ocean.

This is my new novel. In fact, it’s official pub date is June 9th, and it’s always a strange thing, going public with a new novel. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to it. There the book is, all dressed up in a jacket, sitting on a bookshelf on display. I feel like saying, “Do I know you?” It’s like seeing your daughter on stage at her graduation. It’s a beginning and an end.

I rarely go back through my books. Inside the jacket when the words line up on the page, they still seem foreign to me – some other font, the strange fixed feeling to it all, the words glued down, nothing I can do for them now.

But every once in a while, I’ll pick one up just to torture myself or because I find myself in a writerly bind that feels familiar. I did this yesterday with an early copy of THE PRETEND WIFE. I’m in the throes of writing a new novel and I wanted to see how I’d managed some time shifts. I’d spent the day running up against some strong currents. And so I read the second chapter of the book – the flashback chapter when Gwen and Elliot meet at a mandatory college icebreaker. I can’t explain it, but at the end of that chapter I was choked up. It’s not a sad chapter -- wistful, yes, a little poignant, sure. But not sad. Still, there was a pang of love for the characters themselves – who they were then, who they become. The chapter is nostalgic, a little lonesome, and I was nostalgic and lonesome, missing these people I’d come to love.

Last week, a grad student of mine asked me if I’d ever felt depressed when finishing a novel. He’d expected to feel triumphant, elated, and wasn’t.

“Always,” I said.

But, of course, the characters’ lives are just revving up. They’re heading out into the world, and you have to have faith that they’ll do what you meant them to – in this case, take root in other people’s hearts and minds where they will live lives all their own, unknown to me. Little dispatches will be sent back – reviews and such – but, for the most part, my job now is to let them go, wish them well.

-- THE PRETEND WIFE (Random House, Bantam Dell) comes out this week, written under Julianna Baggott's pen name, Bridget Asher.

For more on Asher, visit For more on Baggott, visit

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