“I write to know what I think, to remember how I feel, to form the words that would otherwise go unremembered.”
1. Why do words matter?
Words move and sway the mind with their rhythm and meaning. They know and say and deliver what’s inside. Words convey who we are and what we think. They are our expression of life. When we read, the words on the page transport us into the world of the protagonist. When we are invited into the mind of a heroin addict in James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues,” we experience what it is like to stand outside society. These experiences teach us about people, and to experience people is to experience life.
2. What are your top five reads?
Sula by Toni Morrison, is the story of friendship and betrayal and a look into the life of a young black girl who claws her way up from The Bottom.
Macbeth by William Shakespeare, is a play about tragedy, witchcraft, murder, ambition, desertion, and finally destruction. It is a prophecy that Macbeth’s greed and the fallout of his self-indulgence will secure his destiny.
Goldfinch, Donna Tartt. The language in the Goldfinch is irresistible, compelling the reader to read just one more chapter, as we are immersed into the life of Theo and then Boris, two characters whose growth takes us along and shows us loss and grief and desperation. It is a story of how one moment life is simple, and the next, shattered into a million pieces, and how those pieces never really fit back together again.
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. The story of New York City, from a high-wire walk between the twin towers to the desolate streets of the Bronx, the characters are pawns of the city in the 1970s where hookers in orange day-glo wait on the side of the expressway for a trick, to a priest who must choose between his Guatemalan lover and his faith. The story is the fiction of life.
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner. Along the way to bury their mother, Faulkner reveals the inner psychological workings of the Bundren children and their bizarre stories. Each character tells the same story through is or her own perspective, and it isn’t until two or three Bundren children later that we begin to understand what they’ve been trying to tell us and appreciate the rewards of reading Faulkner.
3. What are you working on right now?
NYPD Widow Stories. What goes through your mind when that knock comes to the door, the thoughts you’ve mentally rehearsed even though you tried to push them away? You’ve seen them on television, the young widows following her husband’s coffin, thousands of blue uniforms at attention. Only this time it’s real. Squad cars line the street, red lights bounce off the house in slow circles. They have come to tell you that your husband, a New York City police officer, is dead.
4. What is your revision process?
I write a piece first to form the idea. Then I envision what that piece should look like. Think about a scene where two people meet for the first time. When do they first pay attention to each other? What are the senses at play – sight, sound, smell – what does each one feel like? I write this all out and create a scenario that takes the couple even further, and imagine their fist conversation, first kiss, perhaps. Then I read over what I’ve written and cross out everything that doesn’t look like that couple.
5. Why do you write?
I write to know what I think, to remember how I feel, to form the words that would otherwise go unremembered. Tell me a story, my daughter asked after I tucked her in. Thus began the foundation of my memoirs, stories that I hadn’t thought about in years, my mother’s kind hand when I lost my husband, the sister who grounded me in childhood, the day I met her father. Stories written to become immortal.
About Kathleen Murray Moran
Kathleen Murray Moran is the author of the memoir The Widow and the Hijacker.