Book Chat Review by Steve Oetting
As a Guild member that has never attended a Book Chat, I had no idea what to expect. I have to say it was both highly informative and thoroughly enjoyable. It was hosted by Susan Rocan and had eight other members in attendance.
Patti Grayson was a generous guest author, providing insightful responses to numerous questions about her new book, The Twistical Nature of Spoons. She explained that the story is presented as a series of chapters alternating between her two main characters, Ina the mother and Bliss the daughter, each telling their stories in their own way. The primary content of the book is focused on the relationship between Ina and Bliss, which is portrayed beautifully, with elements of art, magic, myth, and a deep family secret that keep the reader steadily intrigued.
Ms. Grayson provided two readings. The first of these was the book’s opening paragraphs which set the stage for the relationship between Ina and Bliss. The second was several paragraphs from Chapter Two, introducing Taras, an unusual gentleman who somehow manages to frustrate and charm Ina simultaneously. If you had never read The Twistical Nature of Spoons, the combination of these two readings would certainly entice you to consider it as her prose is both artistic and captivating.
During the Q&A, the first question, one I am sure everyone was wondering about, was what experiences brought her to write such an imaginative story. Ms. Grayson offered a few thoughts, including that she had been inspired by the life story of Uri Geller, an Israeli-British illusionist and psychic who was known for his performances of conjuring tricks that included spoon bending, psychokinesis and telepathy. She also mentioned she had done some research into the US government investigations into psychic phenomena during the latter part of the twentieth century as a means of influencing and controlling human behaviour, particularly during the Cold War with the Soviet Union.
When asked how long it took her to write the book, interestingly she said it was developed over ten years, the longest she has spent on a specific manuscript. When asked if she engaged other writing during that period, she replied she had written an entirely different book while also working on The Twistical Nature of Spoons. She explained that there were times when she wasn’t sure where to take the story but that the strong personalities of Ina and Bliss kept drawing her back and directing her as to where the story needed to go. She noted that Ina in particular was a character that she would have followed anywhere and which kept her constantly driven to complete the book.
Someone asked how she decided on the unusual names of the main characters. In an endearing personal moment, she revealed that her maiden surname, which is somewhat difficult to pronounce, rhymed with a certain embarrassing word that became her nickname throughout her elementary and high school years. When she had mentioned that nickname to a friend at her university, she once again had to endure people calling her by it, and accordingly she preferred to not identify it to the group. But this is what inspired her to come up with the name Ina, short for Regina, but as she explains to Taras when he inquires about the pronunciation, “Just say to yourself, ‘Ina rhymes with the private part’, hard to forget that way”. The name Bliss was from a news story she had watched and immediately decided it should be the daughter’s name. One other interesting note was that Mr. Fluxcer’s doves were named after carpenter joints since he was introduced in the book as a shop teacher.
One member mentioned that she found the masks used by Taras in his performance art and which Taras and Ina donned playfully during a romantic moment to be a bit creepy. Ms. Grayson explained that the idea of the masks was drawn from a book she had perused in Italy called IL TREATO, written in 1611 by an Italian author of improvisational comedic/tragic plays. She showed us a copy of the book and a similar theatrical mask she had procured from a local costume designer and which now hangs on the wall of her den.
As the session wrapped up, Ms. Grayson was asked about how she came up with ideas for her stories, to which she replied that each of her writings came to her differently. As she was finishing The Twistical Nature of Spoons, she had no concept of what to work on next, but ironically the day after the book went to publication she was struck with an idea and she has subsequently completed two new short stories.
The entire Book Chat session with Patti Grayson was enchanting and the hour slipped away all too quickly. I know for my own purposes as an amateur writer it was both helpful and inspiring to have this opportunity to peer into the thoughts and workings of another author.