Monday, April 11, 2011

"Behind the Scenes" of "The Four Ms. Bradwells"

Quite frequently I read a book and can't help but wonder what the "Behind the Scenes" take would be on the title.  This generally happens with books I fall in love with or books that have a difficult topic addressed within the title.  Quite often, as with The Four Ms. Bradwells, the author does an amazing job of weaving so much emotion between the characters and the issues that I can't help but wonder what caused the author to write this book?  Is the author taking any of this from his or her own past?  Where does one get their inspiration for such an intense novel that makes me, the reader, feel what the characters are feeling?  So, when I read The Four Ms. Bradwells and was given the opportunity to ask Meg for a guest post, I immediately asked for the "Behind the scenes" look at this title!  My review of this title can be found HERE.  I hope you enjoy her post as much as I did!

"Behind the Scenes" of The Four Ms. Bradwells
Guest Post by Meg Waite Clayton

Like the friends in my third novel, The Four Ms. Bradwells, I was a different person when I left law school than I had been when I arrived. The novel is absolutely an ode to my law school friends and the University of Michigan Law School itself for helping me discover strengths I didn’t know I had. But it’s also an exploration of the challenges we faced as women coming into a male-dominated professional world—one that expected us to politely ride pink elevators to pink dining rooms in clubs that wouldn’t have us as members, and to turn away unwanted advances from colleagues and clients without offending anyone.

I’d actually meant to set the novel primarily at the Michigan Law School before I came upon Tom Horton’s An Island Out of Time and, through it, became enchanted with Smith Island, the basis for Cook Island in the novel. It’s a world untethered to the mainland, where even the way people speak, in British-leaning accents with improbable preposition choices, is unique. When I first visited Smith—after my first draft was written—I borrowed boots to wade through the bay as it lapped against the sun porch after an amazing storm, and Tom Horton was kind enough to take me on a black-night boat ride I will not soon forget. I’m restless by nature, and being in a new place—particularly a place of natural beauty—somehow provides me a great emotional space from which to write.

What interested me most, though, in writing the story, was the shared secret at its heart. I suppose the thing about secrets is that we often keep them out of shame. And the things that shame us often shouldn’t. They’re often things that are not our fault—and yet they’re also often things that we will be judged for, consciously or not. So the writing process for  was very much a process of peeling the layers back from the onion of half-truths that wrapped themselves over that secret in the years between the burying of the skeleton and its being discovered.

Which sounds romantic, but the truth is the way I write is not at all romantic. It’s “2,000 works or 2:00.” I sit down every morning at 8 and write until I have 2,000 words or the clock clicks over to 2:00. I was a huge reader growing up, but I thought writing novels meant being able to leaping tall literary buildings in single bounds. The adults I knew were businessmen—not even business women; the “ladies” were moms and teachers and nuns. Even a girl going to law school was a stretch, but less of one. It wasn’t my dream, but it was something I thought I could do. My husband, Mac, was the first adult to whom I admitted my childhood aspirations to write, and he gave me a great big push. He said, basically, “Your dream, Meg. How will you ever know if you can do it unless you try?” So I just started putting pen to paper, reading more and deconstructing what I read, trying to learn how to write. It’s an amazing way to spend hours and days and a lifetime. I became a writer long before I started publishing. Owning the dream and reaching for it is what changed my life. It’s lovely to be publishing novels, but it’s the writing itself that’s the cake of my life. - Meg
Meg Waite Clayton

Bestselling author of The Four Ms. Bradwells, The Wednesday Sisters, and The Language of Light.
"At the center of Clayton’s satisfying third novel, The Four Ms. Bradwells, are strong characters we can relate to" - More Magazine



  1. More great writing from Meg! I especially like:

    "So the writing process for was very much a process of peeling the layers back from the onion of half-truths that wrapped themselves over that secret in the years between the burying of the skeleton and its being discovered."

    Tiffany ~
    I'm really glad you did the guest post with her :~)

  2. I often wonder how people end up writing!

    But I think what struck me most about this guest post was this sentence: And the things that shame us often shouldn’t. So so true.


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