Right at a point in life when one should be settling into place—mid-forties—everything changed for me: a marriage ended and I embarked on a five-year-long odyssey of going here-and-there, finally settling on the East Coast, leaving behind my forever-beloved California.
And it was all I could do to write short. Nothing seemed long or lasting; I couldn’t summon up the energy to work on a large canvas. I needed a constant sense of completion—the very opposite of the true, oft-preached counsel of diving into the process. But my process, over the last number of years, meant short, and then come up for air, and look around, and try not to panic.
I wrote the first piece in this collection while housesitting for a friend in New York. Later on, a highly sensitive friend (she “thinks in color,” like the heroine of my first novel) said that it struck her as a ” New York story,” which was odd, and I told her so: the setting was in California. The characters were Californian. And it was based upon a frightening, strange occurrence in my youth, when the infamous Zodiac killer was on the loose in the Bay Area. But my friend said, “It feels like New York.” Perhaps I was starting to feel at home?
I wrote in other people’s homes; I wrote in my old upstairs bedroom when I was visiting my childhood home. And then I wrote the last piece, “Lisbon Story,” when I’d bought a home of my own and had a rewarding job.
At the end of my search-for-a-home travels, I must have published about two dozen stories, and I put my new collection together in a way that felt magical: I suddenly opened my files one rainy afternoon and asked myself what might belong together: I’d written enough to fill two novels by this time. I recall how swiftly it fell together.
When the call came that I’d won the prize, I almost wept. I did, in fact, do just that, later on. Because it has been over eight years since my last book, and simple as that, a phonecall comes to put a body and soul back on a blessed path. I could see “Hilda Raz” on my Caller I.D., and we laughed a bit, because our last names rhymed.