Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
– E. L. Doctorow
I’ve always been allergic to ‘acknowledgements’ in a book. Whether at the end as an afterthought, or beginning as a warning, I know from my own experience that they can’t possibly do what the author allegedly intends. Like many of you, I’ve read the ones that are five pages of lists of people’s names—people you’ve never heard of so have no reference point for—as well as the ones with a discreet and seemingly very personal offering that is still a total disconnect from your own life. Writers often read the latter in hopes of finding a new agent or publisher for themselves, and perverse readers (like me) read the long lists, often out of sheer stubbornness and a sense that all connections to the art form must be applauded by all artists. I sit through the credits after a film is over and struggle to read them as they flash by at the speed of light. Gosh, if that was my name, I’d want someone to recognize my contribution!
But writing a novel is a very long and complicated endeavor. There’s no way, if the author is honest, to list all the support from the beginning of the work when we hardly know what it might become. Certain Liberties took about 6 years to write, so there are many author colleagues from various now-defunct and current writing groups who supported it with encouragement and artistic critique. I couldn’t possibly name them all without leaving someone out—so it’s safer not to name any of them. There were also many of what I’d call ‘lay’ readers, for want of a better term, who read pieces of the book as they emerged from my imagination. I have no recollection of how they dealt with the strange twists and turns a novel takes before becoming what it will ultimately be, but I thank them all for hanging in.
It’s a very different story than I thought it was going to be when I first saw little Emily Alden burning up with fever in the gigantic bed at the home of her wealthy foster family. I knew she had a passion for reading music in bed and playing the violin, but not a clue where those proclivities would lead in the 19th century, or even how she’d deal with the illness that obviously started her off badly in her new home. Would the boy of the new household become a friend or foe? He was intended to be a second protagonist, but we all know how the best plans can go wrong, and that boy, the parents involved, and even the music teacher, were all moving targets as Emily kept morphing into someone unexpected.