Dr. Laura Marello’s newest novel begins when an artist discovers two dead relatives and two dead ex-lovers living in her home.
Their sudden, unannounced appearance brings back questions: Why has she been afraid for most of her life? What is the meaning behind her recurring dreams about rescuing her mother from an explosion? What did her mother do for the FBI in the 1940s?
“She’s haunted with these things, and she goes looking for answers,” Marello said.
The artist withdraws money from her retirement fund and uses it to travel the world. She ends up going to several islands in the central Pacific, where she learns about the natives’ spirituality and culture and the aftermath of the United States’ nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll.
“She goes back home and discovers how it’s changed her,” Marello said before stopping her description of the story. “Anything more would just be spoiler.”
“Gaugin’s Moon,” published by Guernica Editions, is Marello’s sixth book published in the past decade. The protagonist’s yearning to answer difficult questions is a bit like the attitude Marello encourages her students to bring to their creative writing.
“Sometimes a writer will be going along, and suddenly a light goes on and their writing blossoms. It’s amazing to see these students become professional, incredible writers.”
“They might think they need the whole plot before they write a story, or they need to know the whole character. Or with a poem, that they need to know the whole meaning,” Marello said. “But most writers start out with just a small, little piece, and then they figure it out.”
If a writer knows every step from the beginning to the end, Marello said, then the process of writing would be just filling in the blanks, which leaves something to be desired for the writer and the reader alike. “It’s not going to be that experience of discovery which you need to have as a writer.”
She encourages students to write about topics that are not familiar to them so they don’t take facts for granted. They write. They imagine. They discover. “You’re discovering the story, and you’re showing it to the reader so they can discover it,” she said.
Guiding students through that experience is one joy of teaching, she said.
“Sometimes a writer will be going along, and suddenly a light goes on and their writing blossoms,” she said. “It’s amazing to see these students become professional, incredible writers.”