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In Dark Water

The Ballantine
Publishing Group

August 1998; May 1999

Interview With the Ballantine Reader’s Circle

Page 7


Popsy, my grandfather, was the only character taken straight from real life. Born in 1880, he was a potato farmer who could not read or write. I haven’t met anyone even remotely like him in our modern world. He lived with us, crippled, mostly incontinent, barely able to see out of his one eye. (Every day before school, it was my job to empty his chamber pot.) We were alone in the house when my parents went on their long vacations. I got him his food, and he told me his stories. His presence made by family life very different from my friends’. I was so excited when he came into the book. He was all there, still wild, saying and doing things that surprised me.



Making Beulah a central narrator added a unique dimension to the story. Why do you think she is such an effective storyteller?


Ah, she’s got the gift of gab, doesn’t she? Beulah speaks in the dialect of the rural Catskills—its rhythm, its weight, its swing, its inevitable dive at the end of the sentence back to the land it came from. It’s a language that’s got body, enough substance to hold a lot of metaphor without being flowery. I said before that Dorrie speaks out of an urgency, a need to survive. Beulah, on the other hand, is able to be generous. She tells a story to you, for you, the reader. She says, “Come on in. Sit down. Let me telly you how it really happened.” I grew up with this in the people here. They wrap a story around the ear of the audience. When Dorrie lands at Beulah’s door, I wanted the reader to land there, too. Beulah not only takes care of Dorrie, but she also takes care of the reader, too. She lets you in on things. So you can relax for a while.

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