Back to reading against type: it’s a shame that more men are not likely to pick up this book because if they did, maybe they would gain a greater appreciation of how marriage can be viewed by the other gender. This story is told in first person, it’s Julia’s story and the marriage is seen from her perspective. We see, Joe, her husband from the outside. I share what I believe is the Jaces’ frustration that we never hear Joe’s side of the story. By the time I got halfway through the novel I was already taking Joe’s side even though I believe that it was the author’s intention that I not do so.
I had a wonderful teacher once, the novelist Ann Patchett. I asked her about the research she did for The Magician’s Assistant, and she told me to choose the single best book on the given subject and study it obsessively. Writers are always tempted to track down dozens of books to help give our make-believe stories that tang of authenticity, but often the problem with too much research is a writing style that seems too researched, dry and musty and eager for a history teacher’s gold star of approval.
I retain a weird affection for Elliott, the phantom phone-caller, who was really the result of a happy accident. In my original inception of the book, Harry was going to receive a phone call at the very end from an old friend who hadn’t heard of Anna’s death. This caller’s open and heartfelt grief at the news was meant to be Harry’s last straw, and to contrast with Harry’s emotional constipation. But mid-way, I decided to have Harry change his phone number, so that wasn’t going to work any more. And I thought, what if someone called looking for the previous owner of the new number?