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New england writers at work

Amy Bloom was taught the hard work of writing by her dad

Author Amy Bloom relaxes on her couch in her writing room.

Steven G. Smith for The Boston Globe

Author Amy Bloom relaxes on her couch in her writing room.

Amy Bloom writes novels, short stories, and screenplays. Her last novel, “Away,” won international acclaim with its epic saga of a Russian immigrant mourning her parents while traipsing across America. The sisters at the heart of her novel, slated for release this week, “Lucky Us,” are equally peripatetic, embarking on a road trip from the Midwest to Hollywood. Bloom lives near New Haven, Conn., with her family.

NUTMEG STATE: I’ve lived in Connecticut most of my adult life. I’m sure I could live other places, too, but I like Connecticut. As the state [nickname] so proudly says, “The land of Steady Habits.” I find that very appealing.

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PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY’S CREATOR: I write in a little space that is over the only market in my town between the antique store and the coffee shop. It’s on the second floor, and you can’t really run up the stairs because they’re dark and lopsided. I have a kitchen table, which is my desk, a couch, and a big portrait of Oscar Wilde as a young man, which is a print I’ve had with me now for, I think, for 40 years. I love the photograph of him . . . He’s sitting on a pile of Turkish rugs, and he’s very young, probably in his early 20s. He’s beautiful.

SEX AND CANDY: As Michael Cunningham once said, if it’s a good day you can write in a discotheque; if it’s a bad day you can’t write in a monastery. I don’t really need to have anything around me except a desk and paper and a pen . . . [and] a little figure of Ganesh dancing on top of my desk. He tends to travel with me, because who does not want the god of intellectual curiosity, perseverance and sex and candy with you at all times?

FINNEGAN’S NOTEBOOK: I try to keep track of my notes, but I never do. I must have 9,000 notebooks hanging around. No doubt when I die, someone will be able to put these together in some kind of terrific “Finnegan’s Wake’’-like 900-page novel.

LIKE DEAR OLD DAD: My dad was a journalist and a freelance magazine writer my whole life. He got up at noon and read the mail, took the dog for a walk, sat back down again and worked until 5:30. That was five days a week and sometimes six. There was no suggestion that writing was glamorous or fancy or that you would be famous or special. It was a job, a job like being a plumber or any other kind of job, except that he worked at home, and if he didn’t work he didn’t get paid. He was a great role model. Sometimes other writers will talk about how they always dreamt of being a writer. I never dreamt of being a writer; it looked like really hard work. Relative to other lines of work, it’s a walk in the park, but I think that that it was helpful that it didn’t look glamorous.

THE HARD PART: Getting started is hard; a great middle is hard; a good ending is hard — it’s sort of dealer’s choice, here. But I think the act of kind of lowering myself into the well of a significant project is hardest; I have to clear a space mentally and in my life, and recalibrate everything I’m doing and then just climb down the ladder into whatever well that is. Once I’m underway, I’m pretty much down to business, but getting underway I can go back and forth and delude myself and rearrange all sorts of domestic details for quite an extended period of time . . . It means that I’m going to be less involved in my everyday life, which I happen to like quite a bit. If anyone has ever suggested that a happy domestic life makes it easier to write, I’d like to hear about it. I see fewer people; I do fewer things; I’m a little less engaged. I don’t spend much time thinking about what I’m going to make for dinner for my family. That’s a loss. It’s a clearing away, and there’s something very good about that, but it’s also a loss.

The bookshelf in Amy Blooms writing room.

Steven G. Smith for The Boston Globe

The bookshelf in Amy Blooms writing room.

Eugenia Williamson is a writer and editor living in Somerville. She can be reached eugenia.williamson @gmail.com
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