We’ve been having so much fun taking those old unpublished novels out from under the bed that we decided to ask some of our friends to do the same! Today, I’m thrilled because we’ve got Amy Sue Nathan, whose debut novel, THE GLASS WIVES, is being published by St. Martin’s in 2013. She’s also the force behind the popular blog, Women’s Fiction Writers. She’s got an excerpt from her unpublished novel, PICKING DAISY, which I think you’ll love. The story behind it is pretty interesting in its own right, too! But, enough of what I think. I’ll let Amy take it from here…
Picking On Trunk Novels
by Amy Sue Nathan
For me, the best part of an having a novel I’ve tucked under the bed, is that I can tear it to bits, bully, and shove away again without feeling guilty. There’s a certain amount of power I have over it because no one else is going to read it. The expectations for that book have been tempered. I have nothing to lose. It’s kind of…freeing.
Somewhere between finishing my upcoming novel The Glass Wives and it selling, I wrote a novel called Picking Daisy. I got the idea for the novel when salespeople and wanderers kept showing up at my front door. I thought: what would happen if some long-lost relative showed up one day? We never really know who’s knocking, do we? And what if there was someone who knew something about me even I didn’t know? Would I let them in? Shoo them away? I loved the characters in this story: a dark and artist teenager, an eccentric aunt, a workaholic father, and insecure step-mother. I loved playing with points of view. I loved writing a family who celebrates Christmas -- since I’m Jewish and never have. I only went two rounds of revisions on this book before realizing, with the help of my agent, that it just wasn’t what it needed to be. The story was scattered and the way to corral it, was to change the focus, and the main characters. That would change the story so exponentially that I wasn’t interested in doing it. I wanted to tell Daisy’s story and it just wasn’t her time, my time, our time.
Still, Daisy holds a special place in my writing heart. She’s a girl who has been kept from her father her entire life and all she wants is to be part of his family – and she’s willing to do just about anything to get it. Even dye the pink out of her hair.
Below is the opening to Picking Daisy. I hope there’s a smidgen of room in your heart for her as well.
by Amy Sue Nathan
For eighteen years and three months Daisy thought of her father as a test tube specimen. Now, she was standing at his front door.
It was freezing outside, probably way below zero. She didn’t lick her dry lips, afraid they’d freeze together and she wouldn’t be able to talk. With fist raised and drawn, Daisy was ready to knock then the door clicked and opened about eight inches. Daisy saw a petite woman in a pink T-shirt with a white Nike swish and fitted black Lycra shorts. She looked like Martha Stewart, only sweatier.
“I’d like to speak with Elliot Evans,” Daisy said. She smiled, opened her black-lined eyes wide and then chided herself for trying to look cute, like a kitten someone would want to bring in from the cold and keep for her own.
“He’s not here. Can I help you with something?” The woman opened the wooden door wide but stood behind the glass storm door holding the handle. Daisy didn’t know if Martha was unlocking it or keeping it closed.
“I’d like to meet him,” Daisy said. “I’m his daughter.” No need pretending she was there to sell cookies.
“Very funny, young lady. We don’t have a daughter. I should know. I’m Maggie Evans, his wife.”
“Then you are my step-mother. Nice to meet you.” Daisy held out an invisible skirt and curtsied.
Step-Martha smiled with a closed mouth, looked at the floor and stepped back, pushing the door closed.
Daisy held up her right hand. She spoke without taking a breath. “My name is Daisy. My mother is Olivia. Olivia Cooper.”
Maggie opened the door. Her eyes shot up and she stared at Daisy. She turned away, wrapped her arms around herself and faced Daisy again. “How do you know about Olivia?”
“She’s my mother.” Was Maggie Evans deaf?
“Elliot hasn’t seen Olivia in over twenty years.”
“According to my mom, and when she says he moved out, it’s nineteen years, not twenty.”
Maggie rolled her eyes like a teenager. “Yes,” Maggie said. “And they divorced before they had any children.”
“That’s true, but my birthday is August twenty-second. My mother was eight weeks pregnant the February he left. What’s so hard to believe? He was her husband.”
Daisy knew all of it was hard to believe. She’d been saying it aloud for seven days, since her mother’s cell phone confession. Daisy was not a Donor Conceived Offspring. Her mother had not been artificially inseminated because she’d always wanted a child but never wanted to marry. Her mother had been married to her father for five years when Daisy was conceived the old-fashioned way. During break-up sex. As if the reconfigured story of her parentage wasn’t bad enough – Daisy could no longer boast being miracle of modern technology. She could no longer daydream about the comprehensive daddy database from which her blue eyes, black-brown hair, long legs, athleticism, temperament and medical history were chosen. She was nothing more than an unfortunate accident. And a very big secret.
“Look, can I come in?” Daisy asked. “It’s fucking cold out here.” So much for the cute kitten effect.
“Watch your language, young lady.”
Daisy shoved her bare hands into the pockets of her not-meant-for-Pennsylvania-in-winter fleece jacket. “I‘ll take a DNA test,” Daisy said again. “If he wants proof.”
“If you don’t go away I’m going to call the police.” Maggie's short, well-manicured fingernail tapped a rapid beat on the “No Solicitors Invited” sticker on the sidelight. The tapping matched Daisy’s pulse both in tempo and tone. “This means you can’t knock on my door unless I give you permission,” Maggie added through a clenched jaw.
“I’m not trying to sell you something. I’m your husband’s daughter.” The final word caught in her throat and Daisy swallowed the last syllable. She shivered and turned away, blinked and tipped back her head to retract the tears and to sort through her thoughts. She looked at the brick driveway and the cobblestone path that had been cleared of snow, and then looked up at the two story French-style house. Chateau. Mansion. “I don’t want any of this,” she said, facing Maggie while removing her hands from her pockets. She didn’t. She wanted a family. “I just want to meet my father. He didn’t even know my mother was pregnant. God, I just want him to know he has a daughter.”
This was not going as planned. The imagined tears of her still-imaginary father replaced by the scowl and disbelief of his wife.
“Elliot doesn’t have a daughter,” Maggie said.
Daisy crossed her arms, lodged her hands under her armpits for warmth and effect, and poked her left eyebrow so high it hid beneath her pink-streaked bangs.
“He does now.”
Daisy watched the door close and stared at the engraved brass knocker she hadn’t noticed earlier. Evans. Daisy hadn’t heard that name until the week before. An internal twist, an unfamiliar blend of cramps and exhilaration. Her birthright was on the inside, not outside standing on the oversized unwelcome mat. She turned and ran to the idling taxi in the driveway. Good thing she hadn’t paid the driver and told him to come back later. Daisy climbed into the back seat. She wiggled her toes, stretched her fingers and began to thaw. She looked at the drawn curtains but knew step-Maggie was watching her.
The cab backed out of the driveway. Unaccustomed to the crunchy sound of snow dust beneath the tires, Daisy listened with intention and heard every crackle, crunch and squash. When the taxi sat parallel to the house the driver shifted the car into park. Daisy fumbled in her pocket. Gum. She held out a stick of Juicy Fruit to the driver. He turned and accepted it, smiling.
“You okay, miss?”
“Not really,” Daisy said.
“You’re prettier than her,” he said. “That woman at the door.”
Daisy sniffed and smiled. “Thank you.”
“We can just stay here if you like.”
“No, that’s okay. I’m ready to go.”
Daisy watched the too-still curtains of her father’s house and beauty-pageant-waved as they drove off.
New and old money mansions rose out of the snow like castles on clouds. Remnants of well-manicured, gardener-tended bushes draped icicles like pearls on a string around a graceful neckline. Who knew it snowed in November?
Daisy pictured the house she grew up in tucked into the current landscape. She smiled. That house was pale and bold with sharp lines like her mother and sparse like their time together. It was a rectangle that sat over a cliff and overlooked the beach -- nothing like the brick and mortar monstrosities with turrets, bay windows and chandeliers overlooking the road and more houses. Daisy’s lifelong backyard was the beach, her view, the horizon. People flocked to La Jolla to escape the cold and the heat. Daisy had fled La Jolla the day after high school for a summer French immersion program in Paris. She met her mother at Reed College for move-in day at the end of August. She had planned to spend Thanksgiving with her mom and favorite aunt, but when Daisy arrived at the Portland airport, she booked the redeye to Philadelphia instead.
She had to admit, aside from the front door fiasco, she liked Gladwyne, Pennsylvania. It was a touch gaudy and a tad pretentious, but the premature twinkle lights were strewn with good intentions.
Her mother would have disliked it for the same reasons.
Daisy paced her hotel room, no bigger than an inside cruise ship cabin. She dumped her hobo bag contents on the bed, hoping for an escaped candy bar at the bottom, or her uneaten honey-roasted airplane-peanuts, but all she found was chewed gum balled and half wrapped in paper. Gross. She took two steps to the bathroom, threw the gum in the trashcan under the sink. She unwrapped the small cake of soap on the ledge and washed the stickiness she knew would never be all-the-way gone. Daisy pictured the vending machine down the hall, next to the ice machine. Her stomach growled. Five-star hotels had five-star snacks. Hotels like this had vending machines. The best vending machines. But the snack would wait. She dug for her case of graphites, and drew.
First short strokes, then longer ones, straight and curved and then round, creating her own rendition of step-Martha. Just a rough image of a woman barricading a door. Daisy could finish it later, adding the subtle lines around the eyes, revealing the slight twitch in the lip, the sweat on the décolleté. Daisy guffawed. If she had been speaking to her mother she would have speed-dialed the office and joked about how French language had permeated her thoughts – just like Olivia had wanted. But she wasn’t speaking to her mother. Daisy focused on the page, the shadowy bricks, the mullet-shaped snow drifts, the tire tracks, the dark beyond the door, the abyss that was her father.
Daisy struck a pseudo-yoga pose and stretched her feet to her head. Her back cracked and she got down to the business of piecing together the life of her brother, laying papers in front of in order of importance, not chronology.
She wanted to already know Chase Evans when she met him, like an older sister should. She was only two years older, but still. Her personality was classic first born. She had assumed it was because she had donor-siblings scattered across the U.S. or at least California. In reality it was because she had an unintentional sibling on the other coast.
Daisy laid down her head atop the papers. They were cool and smooth. She tucked her hands under the pillows above her head and closed her eyes.
She wanted to make a good impression on her newfound family and was not off to a stellar start. The sarcasm would probably have to go, along with the cursing. Her mother wasn’t sarcastic at all, it didn’t suit her. Daisy figured it was just her nature but now she wondered if it was Elliot Evans’ nature as well. What else about herself she would see in him when she met him? She grabbed her purse. To hell – to heck – with step-Martha. It was time to find out.
Amy Sue Nathan’s debut novel, THE GLASS WIVES, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in 2013. Amy’s stories and essays have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times online, The Washington Post online, The Huffington Post, Chicago Parent, Grey Sparrow Journal, Rose and Thorn Journal, Scribblers On The Roof, The Verb, Hospital Drive Journal and The Stone Hobo. In 2011 she launched Women’s Fiction Writers, a blog focusing on the authors, business and craft of traditionally published women’s fiction. Amy is also a freelance fiction editor, and a reader for literary agents. She currently serves as secretary for the RWA-WF Chapter.
Amy lives near Chicago and is the mom of a son in college, a daughter in high school, and two rambunctious rescued dogs.
Find out more on Amy’s Website and Blog, or contact her via email (AmySueNathan@gmail.com or WomensFictionWriters@gmail.com), Twitter (@AmySueNathan), or Facebook.
Here’s a peek into The Glass Wives, coming from St. Martin’s Press in 2013:
When a tragic accident ends the life of Richard Glass, it upends the lives of ex-wife, Evie, second wife, Nicole, and their children. Still, there’s no love lost between the ex and the new widow. In fact, Evie sees a silver lining in the heartache—the chance to move forward without Nicole in their lives. But Evie wasn’t counting on her children’s bond with their baby brother, and she certainly wasn’t counting on Nicole hanging on to the threads of family, no matter how frayed. And anyway, desperate times call for desperate measures.
Evie and Nicole, both emotionally and fiscally spent by Richard’s death, agree to share living expenses—and Evie’s house. The arrangement, purely financial in Evie’s mind, has its benefits, such as a live-in babysitter. But it also exposes secrets and causes rifts between Evie and her closest friends. Then, when she suspects that Nicole is rearranging more than her kitchen, Evie must decide whom she can trust. More importantly, Evie must decide what makes a family. And if two Glass wives can be stronger than one.