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In Dark Water

The Ballantine
Publishing Group

August 1998; May 1999

Interview With the Ballantine Reader’s Circle

Page 6



What was the inspiration behind Dorrie’s imagined identity as the cowboy Shane?


I don’t know. I just saw her walk through Beulah’s door like that. Then later, I remembered seeing Shane on TV when I was sick. (We never got to watch TV except when we were sick.) I remembered those boots walking down that dusty road.



How long and in what ways do you live with your characters before they make it to the page?


Once I hear them, either on the page or in the shower, they move in. My whole family and all my friends have to live with them. I once called up my friend to complain, “That Dorrie is gonna get kicked out of school if she doesn’t start behaving. Now what am I gonna do with that girl?” Occasionally, I had to ask my son and his friend to do something Dorrie would do, smash a cup, burn some hair. I made him squirm and wriggle on the floor. I knew exactly what I would feed her every night.

When I was young, maybe ten, I cut a picture out of a magazine of a feisty-looking littel girl, barefoot on the dirt in the middle of some chickens, a wild thing. As a kid, I kept the photograph in my journal. For the past fifteen, twenty years, I have had her by my desk. Her face is turned toward the camera like she just got caught.

And Beulah? She teaches me—about raising a child, about handling a horse, about growing plants—to be who they are. She looks at their peculiar convolutions as signs, as messages from their souls, not as problems to cure. I often think to myself, “Now, what would Beulah do?”

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