It was sometime in the Spring of ’93 that I first heard the famous story behind The Four Seasons’ song “Rag Doll.” I was so touched and haunted that I was moved to create a story about a young girl who could’ve been that nameless poor girl. I wanted to give her a happy ending, make it so she really could be together with a rich boy who loved her just the way she was. And so that July, I began writing the story, my second book to be written in the present tense (the first was my superlong Russian historical novel). I worked on it until May (I think) of ’94, when the first of the two files got some kind of error and was unable to be accessed. I was so devastated, I stopped working on the file I still had access to, and I put the entire book on hiatus for years.
Sixteen and a half years later, I finally felt ready to return to it and go through the difficult process of starting all over again and reconstructing what I could from memory. I’d had the basic plot memorized backwards and forwards in my head for years. but I’d wanted to have that original file to refer to before doing anything. Now I’m glad I was forced to start again from scratch and memory, esp. after getting an eyeful of that miraculously resurrected file some months after I finished the first draft. The original draft was like a Grimm’s fairy tale on acid, and loaded with purple prose and D.W. Griffith-like narrative preaching, pontificating, moralizing, and sentimentalizing.
I’d intended it as a standalone, but as I got closer and closer to the end, I just couldn’t bear to separate from these people forever. I got plans in my head for a book about youngest sister Justine, but felt there should be a transition book between them. I put the second book on hiatus because I wasn’t feeling enough of a spark, and didn’t want the writing to suffer. I felt the same thing when I began the original draft of the sequel to my Russian novel, and when I tried to start reading a new book immediately after finishing W&P. You’re still coming down from this intense writing or reading high, and need some time to unwind and get back to a fresh slate.
So here are the books for what I now plan as a family saga. I might change the titles of the later books, since they do sound kind of hokey and like the titles of romance novels or Lifetime movies instead of contemporary historical women’s fiction!
Little Ragdoll: A Bildungsroman (1959-74):
As she grows up in the Lower East Side and Hell’s Kitchen during the tumultuous Sixties and early Seventies, Adicia Éloïse Troy is buoyed by the loving bond she shares with her sisters, friends, and one decent brother. Adicia dreams of one day leaving her poor class origins behind and finding someone from the outside world who will love her just the way she is. Along the way, she inspires a #1 hit song after a chance encounter, learns that sometimes the truest, strongest, most lasting love bonds come when one grows instead of falls in love, and finds the inner-strength to get through the nightmare that’s delivered to her after she finally thought she was getting a happy ending. Happy endings are always sweetest and most appreciated when you had to earn them and didn’t have them handed to you on a silver platter, after all.
Green Sunrise (1974-77):
There are more highs than lows when Ernestine and the Ryan sisters move in with Adicia, Ricky, Robbie, and Justine, in several years full of new beginnings for the Troys, the Ryans, and their friends. However, their happy new lives are threatened when Mrs. Troy is arrested again, this time for drugs and the black-hearted scheme she hatched to avoid returning to prison in August 1969. Adicia is called back to New York City to testify against her mother and her one-time cohort, and only hopes all the inner-strength she’s developed over the past years continues to hold up as she’s forced to revisit the past.
Justine Grown Up (1979-84):
Justine’s jealous feelings at the birth of Julie’s first child are quickly turned around when she reconnects with David, now twenty-five and a Ph.D. student at SUNY Albany, with the five-year difference between them suddenly no longer so inappropriate. Unfortunately, her older siblings and their friends have a hard time seeing her, after years of being the precious family baby, as a grownup woman who’s old enough for marriage, motherhood, and moving out with her new family. But then, when her young nieces become Duranies, an unexpected opportunity opens up for Justine to finally prove once and for all to her family that she’s a responsible, capable, mature adult.
Beholding Stars (1985-95):
Though the second generation of Troys takes for granted that they’re going to college, it’s a much bigger deal to their parents, aunts, and uncles, as Irene and Nessa head off first in 1985, with Amelia following suit three years later. While Irene and Nessa are studying in Manhattan, where it all began, Amelia is at SUNY Plattsburgh, where she and Julie’s youngest halfbrother Graham meet and fall in love, ensuring that now the Troys, the Ryans, and the Doyles are all linked together forever not just through blood, but through the powerful forces of destiny that brought them all together in Manhattan many years ago in the first place.
Neverending Rainbow (1996-2001):
Adicia already feels like she’s getting old since she’s over forty, but she feels even older when Robert comes home on his spring break during his first year of graduate school and announces his intentions to marry his new girlfriend in a year. There is no more proof needed that her generation is no longer the current one and that her children, nieces, and nephews have had the torch passed to them. In spite of this, she also feels a great deal of pride that an entire generation has been raised out of poverty and by decent, loving parents, and is confident she has what it takes to assume the mantle of a family matriarch as the new millennium approaches.