“So lovely to meet you and to be part of your writing group for an evening!”
And What an evening it Was! Christina Baker Kline is the author of five novels, including the New York Times bestseller, Orphan Train, a warm and lively story rooted in a little-known historical event: the transport of thousands of abandoned children from the East Coast to families in the Midwest from the mid-1800s through 1929. While a number of self-published memoirs chronicle the often-wrenching experiences of train riders, Christina is the first author to tackle the subject in novel form. An ambitious undertaking, her book has struck a deep chord with readers: To date, it’s sold 400,000 copies and is going strong.
After learning about Orphan Train, my reading group invited Christina to join us
for an evening and she graciously accepted. So several of us sat down with her in our hometown of Montclair for a lively discussion of all things literary.
Christina described some of the plot-and-character choices she made and the challenges she faced in balancing her extensive research with the demands of fiction. But most of all, she talked candidly about the craft of writing. She described how the original plot for Orphan Train changed radically after a brainstorming session with a friend led to an entirely different structure. She talked about the numerous drafts she went through and about one facet of her story that she wishes she had developed more.
When starting a new novel, Christina said: “I have to take the leap early. I have to fully commit… I believe my way into believing…. You make foolish mistakes when you don’t trust yourself enough….”
And she shared some inspiring advice: “The best thing I’ve learned is this: I write more quickly now. I write my way into the story — it’s looser and better. I was too careful in my first novels, they were not as organic; I was afraid of getting messy. Now I’m messier — I know I can go back and edit.”
Christina also gave a rave review to Save the Cat!, a screenwriting guide she’s finding very valuable as she begins her newest novel. All in all, it was a wonderful evening and a rare pleasure to talk shop with an engaging author who knows all about the writing life. Bravo, Christina. Write on!