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Shelf Unbound: How did you go about creating the character of teenage Phoebe? Feely: Perhaps what surprised me most in the writing of Saving Phoebe Murrow was how easily her character came to me. Having had sons, I was afraid it would be difficult, but Phoebe’s character just flowed. In every scene it seemed as if someone else was writing her character. I am grateful to the Muse! One more thing though. It wasn’t until after I’d written and revised the novel several times that one of my readers asked me if I’d ever been bullied. Only then did I recall how I had been teased and ostracized in grade school. I believe I drew on this experience, and also on the difficulty I had with my own mother growing up. In many ways, she was like Isabel Winthrop. Just as with the bullying, it was only in hindsight that I realized this, not during the course of writing the novel. Perhaps it was because from the outside there were so few similarities between Isabel and my mother, who was a homemaker, not an accomplished, powerful attorney. Shelf Unbound: Sandy is a complicated, troubled woman. You were able to write her character as more complex than



just villainous—how did you approach writing this character? Feely: As with all the characters in this novel, they evolved over time. In this instance, I needed a villain, as you say, but I didn’t know what would make her become like this. In my mind I filed away the idea of an “evil,” heartless woman, and every now and then a line or a piece of her story would emerge, which I wrote down. Over time I learned that she had gone through a lot in her childhood and teen years; in particular, she suffered maternal rejection and neglect, and a relationship or two she mistook for love and which deeply wounded her. So she was damaged and vulnerable, which helped me to feel empathy for her. As a result, though, she also developed a survivor’s instinct and all the negatives that might entail. For one, she is cunning. And her default behavior when hurt is to get revenge. This made for an interesting set of qualities and instincts that could play out several different ways. Shelf Unbound: You also examine marriage in this novel. Was that your plan from the start or did that develop as you wrote the novel? Feely: I wanted two people in the story, a couple (Isabel and Ron) who

Shelf Unbound August-September 2017  
Shelf Unbound August-September 2017  

Special 7th Anniversary Issue