When I was in eighth grade I failed my first term paper. My English teacher’s critique--and not an unfounded one, in hindsight--was that while it was clear I knew a lot about the subject matter, I didn’t give the readers enough information. I assumed they knew enough, or that they would endeavor to fill in the blanks where I had left them. I was allowed to rewrite the paper, and I fixed it to the best of my ability, but ever since then I’ve been secretly inching my way back to obliqueness.
I knew I wanted to write a story that mirrored the way we knew people. You meet someone one day, feel like you get a pretty good read on them. You run into them a few years later, and they seem different, stranger. Some people you see every day and you realize you don’t know where they work, or how many siblings they have. How well can you really know a person? How well can you really know yourself?
Add into this my childhood fascination with “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. Actually, I was a bigger fan of the rip-off “Which Way?” books that featured DC superheroes. At each juncture of the story, the reader was asked to select where they wanted to go next. “If Batman is suspicious and goes to talk in person with the Commissioner, turn to page 63. If he takes the Batplane to Washington, turn to page 49.” I don’t know if what I liked so much was the control it offered, or that each book was really dozens of different books, that could be read over and over again with different results. I thought it would be interesting to try that with an ersatz literary novel for adults.
Out of this stew comes my new novel, Lief. It tells the story of Lief Schwartz, born on February 29th, the 366th day added to each fourth year to make up for the six extra hours it takes the Earth to revolve around the sun. Leap years, they’re called. Each chapter takes place on one of Lief’s once-every-four-years birthday, and are printed out of order. You meet Lief when she is twenty, then read about when she is eight, then thirty-six, then twelve, and so on. But truthfully, the intent is for you, the reader, to select the order you experience Lief’s story. Obviously, meeting her every four years means there will be lots of her story that will be left out. The reader’s job will be to fill in the blanks, to make the connections between the different people and moments in Lief’s life, and what the whole thing means.
I sat down with a couple of my math major friends one night to make sure that it is mathematically accurate when I say this: Lief is over three million different books in one. 3,628,800 different books to be exact. Is it possible to have a better value than that?
I’m really rather proud of this story, and am excited to see what people think. The book should be available within the next two weeks, sporting a cover designed by the terrific Joelle McKenna. We’ll have a sample chapter up soon, as well as a couple other cool things to enhance the experience. Thanks for checking in.