The themes illustrated in the story are universal
and could have been set anywhere and any time period. Why was the South after WWII chosen?
I love writing about the South. It's such a magical and human
place. I liked having the backdrop of WWII against the struggles of the people in the house. It could be that I
wanted to do something like Snow Falling on Cedars.
Redemption, forgiveness, love, and faith
are intertwined throughout the book and characters. Daniel is the only character that completely illustrates all
four. Why was Daniel created and why use a child as such a stellar example?
I think Daniel is a Christ-like figure in the novel--it's no
accident that his nickname is "lamb." Originally my agent felt that he was too perfect, that he was "lighter
than air," and this idealization took away from the emotional impact of his reunion with his mother. I went
back and made him a little dirtier, gave him a bullfrog, a love of thumb wrestling, a bad haircut and a certain
loneliness. I think my agent was right about this character needing some more human qualities. He symbolizes forgiveness,
a Christian forgiveness that encompasses all circumstances, no matter how horrible. A child is so much easier to
use than an adult when one is looking for symbols of innocence.
Many woman authors do not tackle male characters.
The men here are multi-faceted and complicated. Was it difficult to create the male characters? And how did it
compare to fully personalizing the female contingent?
I don't remember the male characters being very much more difficult
to create than the female characters. It's hard to remember the specific thought processes that go into the creation
of characters; perhaps I think less of a character and more of a predominant emotion. I may not have lived the
life of a man whose wife has left him, but that haunted sense of loss is familiar to me and so even as a woman
I can put myself into his shoes.