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Writer captivates her audience during Author Series

By Staff | Feb 6, 2016

“The Lovely Bones” Author Alice Sebold spent time signing copies of her books after the Sanibel Public Library Author Series last week. MEGHAN McCOY

Author Alice Sebold captivated a full room Wednesday at the Sanibel Public Library during the library’s second Author Series this season, despite the constant rain that dampened the island that night.

“I was motivated to write about violence because I believe it is not unusual. I see it just as apart of life. I think we get in trouble when we separate people who experienced it from those who haven’t,” Sanibel Public Library Executive Director Margaret Mohundro read a quote from Alice Sebold during her introduction before the presentation.

Sebold began her presentation by explaining her book “The Lovely Bones” before reading the second chapter in its entirety.

“‘The Lovely Bones’ is about a 14 year girl, named Susie Salmon, who was killed by her neighbor named George Harvey in 1973,” Sebold said. “The first chapter is basically about the story of her death. It’s a first person novel told from her point of view.”

Once she completed reading the chapter, the remaining time of the Sanibel Public Library Author Series was opened for a question and answer session.

The first question was how did Sebold come up with the title of “The Lovely Bones.”

“The title just came in the writing,” she said about a paragraph that appeared deep in the book that talked about bones that are around the loss of someone. “New structures form and in a very similar way they can become very solid, but they take a really long time. It really was this idea that out of something so horrific, the world does reshape itself and reconnections form.”

Sebold also touched upon how the main character of “The Lovely Bones” came to her. She told the crowd that she stopped writing and read poetry when she heard Suzie’s voice and knew the book had to be told through the young girls point of view.

“Sometimes you are really lucky when a character presents themselves,” Sebold said.

She also went into further detail why her novel topics have examined the topic of violence. Sebold said individuals are less able to separate themselves from violence as time goes along and more and more violence picks up as a culture.

The time period in “The Lovely Bones” and certainly the time that she was growing up victims were very isolated.

She said that her hope, since she is always looking for the positive because that is what keeps her going, is that as a synthesized culture they make connections and not isolate, or stigmatize people who have experienced violence.

With the book being such a big hit, a movie was made, as well as artist writing songs and poems being written after being inspired by the novel.

“You put your work out into the world and if you are lucky people are inspired and they respond. They make their own piece of art and that can be judged by whoever wants to judge it,” Sebold said.

When she begins writing a novel she starts with an obsession, which is then followed by finding a character that can carry the obsession. She said while she writes she gets into a situation and then does the research.

If she stumbles upon writer’s block, Sebold said she stops and lifts heavy objects.

“I get into the need to manhandle something, but I need to be inside of my house. It’s kind of like I am wrestling with the characters who aren’t giving me anything, so I am picking up these big heavy objects trying to move them around while I am thinking of the book,” she said.

Sebold also touched upon what happens when she writes a dutiful book.

“I say no to the dutiful novels for my own selfish reasons and also because I don’t want to read a dutiful novel, so I believe I would be perpetrating the reader by publishing them,” she said.

Sebold started off wanting to be an archeologist when she was 11 years old, an actress, artist and then a writer. She said she was writing poems when she was really young.

Individuals can request tickets for the next Author Series speaker beginning March 14, for mystery writer Lawrence Block. He will speak on April 12. Names of those requesting tickets will be placed in a lottery and selected at random, and then be notified by email. Patrons need to have a current Sanibel Public Library card before requesting tickets. Library cardholders may receive a maximum of two tickets per person.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.