I think it’s also important to note that, in many ways, I see The Red Tree as a sort of new beginning for me, as a novelist. I’m still very fond of my early books, say Silk, Threshold, and Low Red Moon. But I’d reached a point as a writer where I felt strongly that I needed to begin a process of reinventing myself. I was acutely conscious of this as I began working on The Red Tree, this wanting to grow, and I think it’s reflected in the finished novel. I might almost say that it’s a more mature novel, thematically and in the sense that I’m writing about relationships between older women. Well, women my own age, and nearer my own age, rather than forcing myself to continue to write characters in their twenties.
Also, this is the first time that I’ve allowed myself to write a first-person narrative at novel length, something I’ve been wary of for years. But now I look at the finished book, and see that this voice has given it a greater sense of immediacy and intimacy. And for The Red Tree, both that immediacy and that intimacy were critical. This is a deeply personal novel for me, possibly more so than any of my earlier books.
Probably, though, the most exciting thing about writing The Red Tree was having the chance to create a book within a book. The protagonist, Sarah Crowe, discovers a dead man’s unpublished manuscript, and then her own story begins to take shape about it. I found exploring this process of accretion utterly fascinating, how one story grew from the other. And writing in those two voices, Sarah’s and that of the dead anthropologist and folklorist who wrote the manuscript she stumbles upon in the basement of an old farmhouse, switching back and forth, having to strive to make both voices equally authentic, I loved that challenge. Add to this getting to work with the incredibly rich, and often bizarre, history and legends of New England, and really, I probably enjoyed writing this book more than any that I’ve done before. It was like solving a fabulously dark jigsaw puzzle, but putting it together in such a way that the reader would also be challenged to work it all out for themselves. It’s a story, and a story within a story, that I hope readers will find as rewarding as I did.