It has been said that the writer doesn’t choose his story; instead the story chooses him. For many years on weekday mornings, I bought a cup of coffee and read a book in the café downstairs from my office. This quiet half hour provided a welcome transition between the aggravation of commuting and the pressure of IT work.
Over time I recognized other patrons who remained in the café rather than grabbing a coffee and rushing back to work. One day I met Riva Weiss. I laugh because I ‘heard’ Riva before I met her. She has an irrepressible laugh and a voice that fills an auditorium. One day, she stopped at my table and asked what book I was reading. Over time, we discovered we shared a similar taste in literature (novels by English and Irish writers). Before long, we recommended and exchanged books with each other.
In March 2012, I told the coffee group I was retiring at the end of April. “What do you plan to do?” Riva asked.
“I’m going to get back to writing. Short stories, maybe a novel.”
Riva noted that I favored literature with ‘dark’ themes. When I agreed, she said, “Well then, I’ve got a story for you.” Over the next half hour she talked about her engagement when she was 18 years old in Montreal. She graciously offered me the chance to ‘write up the story.’ Instantly, I knew that this was more than a short story. Riva was surprised when I brought in chapter after chapter for her to read. “I thought this was going to be.” Like the apprentice’s broomsticks, the chapters kept coming. “But you haven’t even got to the proposal yet!” Even I wasn’t prepared for the final length: 90,000 words. “We’ve got a novel,” Riva said.