Wednesday, May 24, 2017

An Evening with Elizabeth Berg

This week I saw Elizabeth Berg at the Troy Public Library in Troy, Michigan. The TPL hosts authors several times a year and was very excited to have Berg, the best-selling author whose book Durable Goods was picked for Oprah's Book Club.

I was fortunate to have read and reviewed her last book, The Dream Lover about George Sand, and also her upcoming novel The Story of Arthur Truluv, coming out in November. I had also read several of her early books when they came out.

My friend Theresa took a writing workshop with Berg and praised her sensitivity and encouragement.

Berg shared the history of her interest in writing, her varied career, and her experience in publishing. Read an article about at

Berg's novel Durable Goods, published in 1993, was inspired by her experience as an 'army brat' with frequent moves and an adored but abusive father. The book led to a better relationship with her own father. And it ensured financial success as an Ophrah Book Club pick, selling 500,000 copies. She used some of her royalties to buy her father his dream car.

Berg's decision to be a nurse was a sudden revelation based on her desire to care for and love others. Of special interest was how her training as a nurse impacted her ability to create characters. Nurses are instructed to see the whole person and to leave all presumptions and prejudices behind.

I could definitely see how Berg's values and experience resulted in The Story of Arthur Trulov. Arthur has the ability to love wholly, even his difficult neighbor and a runaway teenage girl with a nose ring. I expect the book to be a huge hit, and I hope that the message of the story resonates with readers and changes lives.

The audience was interested in how Berg approaches writing. Berg does not follow a strict routine or schedule but waits for the story and characters to be ready.

I had the opportunity to ask Berg a question. After remarking on her upcoming novel I asked how she came to write The Dream Lover, a historical fiction/biographical fiction novel so unlike her other books.

Her answer was an old one: she became interested in Sand and wanted to read a fictional account of her life but found no one had written one. She first suggested the idea to fellow author Nancy Horan, who wrote Loving Frank about Frank Lloyd Wright and Mame Borthwick (which I have read twice) and Under the Wide and Starry Sky about Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife (which I can't wait to take off my TBR bookshelf). Horan replied that she was too tired, so Berg decided to write the book that she wanted to read.

It was a difficult process and she nearly gave the novel up several times. Then there were the rewrites suggested by her editor. In her career, Berg's editors rarely asked for a word changed. Lucky for us readers, she persisted and the book was completed.

Berg had considered a fictional account of the life of Carson McCullers but realized she did not want to live in that dark world. Instead, she has dedicated to writing books of inclusion and inspiration.

It was exciting for me to hear Berg mention that 'someone compared' The Story of  Arthur Truluv to a parable. Because that is just what I had written in my review to NetGalley and on Goodreads a few weeks previous! I can dream it was my review she was referencing. If not, at least I am not alone in my connection!

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