Behind the Novel

For me, Seven Birds is about a place. Two places, in fact: one sort of real, and one utterly fabricated.

The platform upon which this book is built is a little house in Chatham, Massachusetts, where I spent most of my summers. This humble house was set right on the beach on Crows Pond and I loved spending time there collecting and releasing Hermit Crabs, collecting Horseshoe Crab molts (the old shells shed by the Crabs as they grow) and then lining them up by size on the house’s breezeway. I remember that the biggest molts were chocolate brown and thick and the teeny ones were pale yellow and almost transparent. I love Horseshoe Crabs so much, in fact, that now, on my front door on my house in Westchester County, New York, I have a nickel-placed Horseshoe Crab door knocker.

I remember the sounds of birds and the smells of the salty sea and air, scrub pine needles, rosa rugosas, steamers and melted butter, and mildew-y beach towels that never could quite dry on the line in that humid, salty place.

Years after I stopped going to that house, after my mother and grandparents died, after the house was sold and razed for a big, new and beautiful shingled house for another family, the house and its land stays with me, and I have wrestled with memories from there; some of those memories make me smile, and some make me really sad.

The utterly fabricated location in Seven Birds is a brownstone set on Marlborough Street in the beautiful Back Bay section of Boston. Having grown up in the Bostonian suburbs, and visiting the city often, I’ve always thought how nice it would be to live right there, and so, naturally, I created a home there for Fez and her family. It just made sense to me, and in this literary fantasy, I could actually afford this new and glorious, though a tad tired and worn, residence.

I believe specific, personal places and their corresponding sights, smells and sounds are where we attach salient memories and where we ground ourselves; I’ve tried to capture the places, both real and imagined, in Seven Birds, and I hope you enjoy visiting.