It’s done! Last week I sent off the final manuscript of The Bohemians. It was a bittersweet moment. I started writing the novel three years ago, before Song of a Captive Bird came out, and along the way life did what life does: it threw me some real curveballs. There were a few months when I didn’t even open the file on my computer, but when I did get back into it, the book became my refuge. I fell back in love with my characters, back in love with 1920s San Francisco, back in love with the pleasure of storytelling.
This novel started with a place—a place that doesn’t exist anymore. In 2014, one of my MFA students submitted a workshop piece about Monkey Block, an artists’ colony that stood where the Transamerica Building is now in San Francisco. Eight hundred artists and writers lived there before it was torn down in 1959, including a red-haired, troublemaking scribbler called Mark Twain and a certain Madame Rivera, also known as Frida Kahlo.
My curiosity about Monkey Block quickly became an obsession. I knew I wanted to write about it, but first I needed a character to travel back there with me. I found it in Dorothea Lange. Today Lange is known for her searing images of the Depression, but in 1918 she was a young woman from Hoboken, New Jersey who’d managed to get stranded in San Francisco. No money, no friends, no connections. Within a year she was the city’s premier portrait photographer and also a member of the glorious bohemian scene at Monkey Block.
I’m a sucker for stories about self-transformation. Add love and friendship to the mix and I’m all in. And that’s what I did with THE BOHEMIANS: I followed Toni Morrison’s advice about writing the book you want to read, and now I’m counting down to April 6, 2021, the day when I can share it with readers!
Phenomenal Female Fridays
I’ve recently realized I’ll never have the chance to write books about all the women whose stories captivate me, but there are other ways of sharing their stories. First up is Anna May Wong, an inspiration for one of the heroines in The Bohemians. If you’re curious, pop over to Instagram, where I’ll be dedicating the first Friday of every month to a phenomenal woman from history who inspires me. https://www.instagram.com/jdarznik/
A Writer’s House
With The Bohemians off to the printers, it was time for a serious deep cleaning of my office. Years ago I read that Isabel Allende, one of my favorite writers of all time, begins every book on the same day of the year. She lights a candle, says a prayer, and begins. I love this idea! Inspired by Allende, I set aside a morning to organize and box up all the notebooks and books that had seen me through The Bohemians. Now that the scene is set, a new story can begin!
It’s a joy to reconnect with you, and I want to thank you again from the bottom of my heart for joining my writing journey. I’ll be posting here regularly, so do stop back and say hi! In the meantime, I’d love to know more about what you’d like to hear about from me, so if you have ideas or suggestions please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.