Today I’m pleased to welcome Ellen Meeropol to Bookfan. I asked her about the inspiration for Kinship of Clover:
Three things inspired me to write my new novel, Kinship of Clover.
First of all, there was a character who just would not leave me alone. Jeremy was nine when I said goodbye to him at the end of my first novel, House Arrest. He was a minor character, a quiet, sensitive little guy who grew up in an oddball cult who worshipped the Egyptian Goddess Isis. Jeremy loved plants, hung out in the family greenhouse, and liked to draw. I never would have expected him to harass me so mercilessly, insisting that I bring him alive on the page again. Oh, he did it nicely, whispering, “Don’t you want to know what happens to me?” Of course, I did want to know. And when I found out that there was something amazing that he had kept from me all through the years of writing, revising and promoting House Arrest, well, then I was hooked. Jeremy deserved a book of his own.
The second inspiration was my mother, who developed Alzheimer’s disease long before I wrote this novel. I spent a lot of time with her during the final years of her illness and I wrote down many of our conversations, often verbatim. As she had been when her brain was intact, my demented mother was brash and smart and funny and irreverent and occasionally spectacularly insightful. After her death, I put that notebook away for several years. The loss was raw and I couldn’t imagine revisiting that material. But years later, when I started writing this book, I found myself thinking about my mother, and weaving some of her some aspects of her personality and her humor and her experience into a character named Flo.
The third thing was climate change. I’ve always been interested in global warming, but it felt far away until 2008, when my granddaughter Josie was born. Then, as I started reading the scientific reports more carefully, I realized how personal this fight must be. At that point, Jeremy’s interest in drawing and growing plants exploded into his obsession with disappearing and extinct plants. And when those plants started burrowing under his skin, I had to finish this book. For Jeremy, for my grandchildren and yours and all the children of the world.
Of course, there’s a long road between inspiration and a finished novel manuscript. Jeremy’s fascination with disappearing plant species is logically connected to climate change, but fiction is better at asking important questions than answering them. So Jeremy had to come into conflict with different ways of addressing our pressing global warming issues. One was a group of college-aged climate justice activists, and another was Flo, who had been a political activist for six decades and had advice for Jeremy about how to change the world. How to get Jeremy and Flo together? Ah, Flo’s granddaughter Zoe was another minor character in House Arrest, and when they meet up again in this book, there’s chemistry there!
It all starts with inspiration. But then comes the work. The challenge and pleasure of writing fiction is getting to know the characters as deeply as possible, fitting the pieces of the puzzle together into a plot with conflict and something important at stake, and – somehow – bring it all to a satisfying conclusion. I love this work!
Thanks for sharing your inspiration with us today, Ellen!
About the Author:
Ellen Meeropol is fascinated by characters on the fault lines of political upheaval. Previous work includes a dramatic script telling the story of the Rosenberg Fund for Children which has been produced in four U.S. cities, most recently in Boston. Elli is the wife of Robert Meeropol, youngest son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Elli is a former nurse and independent bookstore event coordinator and the author of two previous novels, House Arrest and On Hurricane Island. She is a founding member of Straw Dog Writers Guild. Short fiction and essays have appeared in Bridges, DoveTales, Pedestal, Rumpus, Portland Magazine, and the Writer’s Chronicle. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and GoodReads.
About the Book:
He was nine when the vines first wrapped themselves around him and burrowed into his skin. Now a college botany major, Jeremy is desperately looking for a way to listen to the plants and stave off their extinction. But when the grip of the vines becomes too intense and Health Services starts asking questions, he flees to Brooklyn, where fate puts him face to face with a group of climate-justice activists who assure him they have a plan to save the planet, and his plants.
As the group readies itself to make a big Earth Day splash, Jeremy soon realizes these eco-terrorists devotion to activism might have him and those closest to him tangled up in more trouble than he was prepared to face. With the help of a determined, differently abled flame from his childhood, Zoe; her deteriorating, once rabble-rousing grandmother; and some shocking and illuminating revelations from the past, Jeremy must weigh completing his mission to save the plants against protecting the ones he loves, and confront the most critical question of all: how do you stay true to the people you care about while trying to change the world?
Add to GoodReads:
Available on Amazon.
“Ellen Meeropol has an uncanny knack for examining the big topics of our contemporary world and putting a human face on them. In Kinship of Clover, she does this with intelligence and a big generous heart. An important book by a unique writer, it’s a must read.” —Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle
“Midway through this wonderful novel, you will find a woman dancing in her wheelchair. That scene is one of many memorable moments in a story about young people organizing for a sustainable future, even as their once-radical elders try to hold on to a gradually disappearing past. This is a book about time and love, politics and family, and it is sharply observant and deeply compassionate.” —Charles Baxter, author of The Feast of Love
“Ellen Meeropol brings her keen political sense and psychological understanding to this story of family secrets and family trauma. Kinship of Clover is compelling and the characters stay with you long after you’ve finished the book.” —Nancy Felton, co-owner, Broadside Bookshop (Northampton, MA)
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9 thoughts on “Guest Post by Ellen Meeropol”
I’ve done interviews with authors. But I haven’t had any of them do a guest post. That’s a great idea, Mary.
It does all start with inspiration, but then comes the workd
It sounds like this author has lots of inspiration!
[…] (Review) April 13: Angel M. B. Chadwick (Interview) TBD: The Book Connection (Interview) April 18: Bookfan (Guest Post) April 19: Everything Distils Into Reading (Review) April 20: A Bookish Way of Life […]
Thank you so much for hosting Ellen! This was fascinating.
This was all very interesting!
I do enjoy books that spotlight big issues from the world around us. This one sounds good!
What a great guest post! Knowing the inspiration is extra incentive for me to read the book. I love knowing the story behind the writing.
[…] Guest Post: Ellen Meeropol […]
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