Robert Davis: Turning Family History into Fiction

I could give you all the facts – names, dates, places, relationships – of my family history, and you would fall asleep quickly. I know this because I would drop off into a deep slumber myself in the telling. And yet, hidden in the dry folds of this history, there was a story to be told. While I grew up in my family’s house, the untold secrets of the past rattled about the closets and slowly trickled out, waiting to be discovered. Gradually, I gathered a loose framework of a past comprised mostly of empty spaces. A lot of empty spaces. A paint by number project with no key to correlate which color belonged to which number. It was time for the fun to begin – the unleashing of my imagination. I spent countless hours sitting in coffee houses, and countless more sitting at home late nights with intense conversations with my cat, as I poured my stream of consciousness onto my computer keyboard. I found that giving each of the major characters a voice in first person permitted me to get into each their head and to flow out of their thoughts and observations. Eventually, I had favorite personalities to inhabit – Marieta as a child, Irini as she crossed the ocean, and Frieda the Cat (my confidant throughout the process). Unfortunately, I was unable to properly confer with these three favorite characters, as Irini was long gone, Marieta was lost deep in dementia, and Frieda, well, she’s a cat. As I worked my way through to my own generation, I began to take great liberties in actual events and in the characters themselves. While Herman Kageorge is largely based upon myself, he is not me, though I have used many anecdotes from my own life to create his story. The hardest part to me was deciding who to give admittance to and who to delete from the story. And then there was the challenge of blending ninety years’ worth of snippets and short choppy chapters into one smooth story. My solution – adding the constants of the garden, the coffee houses, and of course, the observations of Frieda the Cat.

We’re very excited that Davis’ wonderful novel – The Various Stages of a Garden Well-Kept – will be released in Spring 2022.

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