with Margaret Willey
Since my childhood, I’ve always been a person who was deeply, obsessively affected by books. I could go back to earliest childhood days—the fairy tale and poetry collections that were my mother’s with elaborate etched illustrations—how they thrilled me and owned me. My favorite books are as much a part of my memories as vacations, birthday parties and special friends. I remember reading A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST as a young teenager, a novel about a brave girl who raises money for her own schooling by finding and selling moth pupae. Her name was Elnora and passages about her searching for moths through the Indiana swamps at dusk were amazing. As I read, I could see the moonlit swamps, see moths in flight. This 100-year old classic novel was one of the books that led me to a writing life. So of course I had to eventually write about moths and swamps and old family secrets revealed in moonlight. It took me many years to complete SILK MOTHS. Along the way, I added a modern girl and a modern romance.
The moths in SUMMER OF SILK MOTHS are part of an old obsession. It was lovely to resurrect it and to become a kind of moth collector myself. I created a cast of characters who allow the captured moths to connect them to their missing personal histories. I felt so lucky to be able to do this and I truly believe that this sort of healing can and does happen in real life.
Today my office overlooks a snow-covered ravine and beyond the ravine is the western side of a sand dune. No curtains or blinds in my office—I need to see the dune, trees, clouds and sky while I’m working. Right this moment, three deer are moving horizontally across the dune. In the woods, silk moths are hidden inside their cocoons, hard chambers spun from their own bodies that protect them through the winter, no matter how cold it gets and it gets very cold here in Michigan. That still astounds me, even though I’ve moved on to a new book. You don’t have to be obsessive to be a writer, but it helps.