Process of Writing A Circle of Elephants

"Early on, I knew I'd write a sequel to The Queen of Kansas but was unsure how to approach it. The issue wasn't the story. I'd thought about that for several years and knew I had plenty of material in what to me is still a fascinating time in American History - the post-World War II years. My challenge wasn't the content, it was deciding on the best narrative voice.

I'd chosen to write The Queen of Kansas in the first person - that is in the voice of Charlotte Albert, my protagonist. Writing in that voice was a big challenge, but I'd found it satisfying and, most importantly, it worked. I'd thought of doing it again for the sequel, but I couldn't figure out how to do it in the sequel so I could explore the lives of characters other than Charlotte's. After trying one voice after another, I finally decided on using an omniscient narrator - a voice who would know everything about everyone - something that a no first-person narrator could possible pull off. Subsequently, I read Salmon Rushdie's newest book, The Golden House and realized that he had approached the same problem by using a first-person narrator until he couldn't. Then, without warning, would shift to an omniscient one. And it worked just fine for me. So maybe I could have gotten away with it, but maybe not. I'm not Salmon Rushdie!

Some readers have commented that A Circle of Elephants is more a collection of connected stories than it is literary non-fiction. Others haven't felt that way. It wasn't my intention to write a series of connected stories, but if that's what it is and if it works, amen."


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