By Kassie Parisi
CLIFTON PARK — For New York Times best-selling author Julia Glass, methodically planning out her books ahead of time was not what brought her a National Book Award.
“I just write forward in the dark. I do not map out my books. Often, I don’t really know how they’ll end, or I’ll change my mind, and it means that I’ll always surprise myself with some of the things that I write about,” Glass said to a large audience at the Clifton Park Halfmoon Public Library on Oct. 3.
Glass visited town for an event hosted by the Friends of the Clifton Park Halfmoon Public Library, and spent time talking about a variety of topics, including helping young writers to get a leg up in the industry as well as how winning the National Book Award for Fiction changed her life.
Glass lives in Marblehead, a coastal town in Massachusetts, and was born in Boston. At least four days a week, she plays badminton with a group of friends, in one of the only remaining private badminton clubs on the East coast, she said.
After her games, she returns home, and allows herself to be swept away by thoughts of her possible book characters.
But just because she thinks about her characters doesn’t mean she’s writing anything, Glass said. Glass has always had an avid imagination, ever since she was a child and spent hours with her imaginary as she walked back and forth between her hometown public library when she was 12 years old, she explained. Those imaginary friends didn’t leave her as she grew up though, and now they are often what power her to write.
Describing herself as a ‘serial monogamist,” who can only write one book at a time, Glass said that weeks can pass in between when she actually sits down at a computer to add to one of her books.
“I’m a daydream every day kind of writer,” Glass said. Her newest novel, “House Among the Trees,” was no exception to that process, she said.
“I work away, and I don’t write draft after draft after draft,” she said.
In her youth, Glass was a painter in Brooklyn. While she was in the city, she began to do some copy-editing and freelancing writing.
Eventually, she abandoned painting all together to focus full-time on writing. Her debut novel, “Three Junes,” won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2002.
For awhile after winning the award, Glass said, it felt like she was on top of the world. She and her husband were invited to many black tie literary events, she said, but eventually those began to taper off as newer and younger authors made their way onto the scene.
But Glass isn’t bitter. Rather, she said, she is hoping to return the favor that well established authors did for her when she was starting out, including boosting publicity for her novel
“So much was done for me, early on,” she said. But the years gone by have brought inspiration for her newest book. Glass said that she never imagined that she would be able to write about the process of getting to the top, and then watching your time come and go.
Her new book is focused on a children’s book author, who was in part inspired by Maurice Sendak, an author that Glass reveres. An avid reader of children’s books, Glass explained that if there was one thing that would cause her home to collapse, it would be all of the children’s books that she doesn’t want to get rid of.
Sendak, she said, was at the top of the mountain for years, right up until his death, and she decided to write about what it might be like to have downward to go.
“I am not at the peak of the mountain,” she said. “But I thought, what is it like to be at the peak of the mountain? Because from there, the only way you can go is down.”
Glass wrapped up the event by reading a handful of excerpts from her latest book, and took a few audience questions. One question was about writer’s block, to which Glass claimed there was no such thing.
“Writing is just a job. If you’re lucky it’s a job, and you get paid for it, but it’s no different from any other job,” she said. “Let’s say you came to this library one day, and it was closed, and it said closed due to librarian’s block, or you called the plumber and they said, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry. We’re not working this week because we have plumber’s block.’ No. It’s like any or job. Some days you do it well, and some days, you don’t.”