Dear Lucy Maude

 

 

In many ways, The Dream Peddler is a love letter to L. M. Montgomery. I can’t think of any author whose work I spent more time reading during my adolescence. Eventually I collected every novel she ever wrote, and read many of them over and over. Back then I never gave any thought to the opportunities to read something new that I was squandering every time I picked up one of my beloved, literally falling-apart volumes just to read again. Reading my old favorites brought me comfort. And since I had to read more difficult texts for school, returning to Montgomery over and over was relaxing. Her words became so familiar, I could practically recite them from memory.

After many years of writing, I’ve come to feel the same way, somehow, about drafting my own books, with one important difference. Nothing is familiar, everything is new—especially in my case, because I refuse to plot anything and instead blindly feel my way from scene to scene. But when I burrow back into a book I’ve been working on, even if I’ve set it aside for months, I always experience that feeling of coming home. When I write, the world around me falls away, just as it used to when I read about Anne, Emily, or Pat.

My favorite part of writing has to be the descriptions. There, I said it. Yes, those boring bits. The paragraph that is devoted entirely to helping you see, smell, and hear your surroundings, before you get to the good stuff. For many of you, I’m talking about the parts you skip. Yet there is no greater joy for me than hitting on the perfect words to describe something, or a comparison that I hope will pull the reader deeper into the space I’m creating, something they can recognize as familiar even if they feel it’s unlike anything they ever read before.

However, none of that description matters if it isn’t in service to the characters. And that’s the thing I love second best about writing—exploring the characters. Getting to know them more intimately as I write, yet still sometimes being surprised by them. I love telling my reader about all the little details that make my characters come alive: how this one has to butter his toast the same way every morning, or that one owns thirty collectible Barbie dolls, and this other one keeps unsent love notes in a shoebox under the bed. I think about my characters when I’m taking a walk, cooking supper, folding laundry. They seem so real that I can sometimes lose my own life in theirs, and I can feel their story burbling alongside of my own as if I walk beside a moving stream.

I read somewhere that Montgomery herself sometimes turned to writing in order to escape, to find peace. Her husband suffered from depression and her marriage was an unhappy one. Often depressed herself, she spent much of her life caring for him, and in the books she wrote, she found great solace.

I don’t know yet if The Dream Peddler will be able to do that for anyone, but I hope it will. I hope it will give them a place where they can briefly forget the world around them—a place to be inspired, to fall in love, to dream. Isn’t that what books are for?

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Martine Fournier Watson is originally from Montreal, Canada, where she earned her master's degree in art history after a year spent in Chicago as a Fulbright scholar. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband and two children. The Dream Peddler is her first novel.

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