I've followed Hilma Wolitzer's work ever since I interviewed her for Writing in Flow, when she told me that writing is a "sickening joy." She generally writes fiction for women, but not the light sort of chick lit (and hen lit is such an annoying term).

An Available Man is her latest (her ninth novel out of 14 books). She published her first novel at age 44, and this new work comes from a sure hand (and mind), mature and wise in the ways of grief and love. Wolitzer keeps the reader guessing about which among his many female suitors the late-midlife widower will choose when he is finally ready to re-engage with the possibility of love. Relationship-centered, without a doubt, but no mere fluffy romance.

Here's how she once described her creative process when I asked if and when she enters a flow state, when time seems to stop:

I don't understand flow at all. If I knew where it came from, I'd go back to get some more. It has no discernible pattern for me. I can be "hot" or "cold" for weeks or months at a time. I've always referred to the hot or productive state as "inspiration," and generally feel guilty about waiting for it to happen, rather than applying myself in a more disciplined way.

Wondering if her writing process had evolved, or at least if her guilt had disappeared over time, I made contact and asked. She replied:

I'm afraid that the snakes that Edward (my science teacher protagonist in An Available Man) mentions have evolved more than I have. I still wait to be inspired, but am feeling, at 82, far more pressure to just work.

I'm also more disciplined once an idea, really a character, catches fire in my head. I still want to find out what happens, but don't have the leisure anymore to just hang around in a creative limbo. Age does that to you, makes you realize that work, like life, is finite.

The good thing is that I don't feel diminished when I'm writing. The words rush me at my desk, even as they falter sometimes at a dinner party.

For a warm-hearted novel that's grounded in reality, jumps no sharks, and will keep you reading, try An Available Man.

Copyright (2012) by Susan K. Perry


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