The Honest Origin of a Coming of Age Novel

The genesis of Let Me Explain, my coming-of-age novel, is simple. A little less than 20 years ago I received a video (yep, way back in the days of VHS) promoting the boarding school I'd attended for four years. It was a pitch for alumni donations, and it was, frankly, nicely done. Earnest, happy students extolling the virtues of their prep school experience were mixed in with sweeping shots of a classic New England boarding school. The presentation was professional, and the tone was predictably upbeat. The viewer was left with the solid impression of a satisfied, serious-minded student body working in an intellectually challenging, and physically remarkable setting under the tutelage of a gifted and caring faculty. Mission accomplished, as they say. Now admittedly, when this tape came to me it had been quite a while since I'd been a student at the school. However, my first reaction was, "That's not how I remember it." And so I started pounding out the chapters. They came quickly and freely, one after the other, in an almost stream of consciousness blur at first. Within six months, I had what turned out to be the first half of Let Me Explain. About two years later, I came back to the book and finished it by drawing on my 18 months of being stationed in Monterey as I learned Russian during the Cold war. Two halves, two settings, one continuous thread.

I once heard a man say that "fiction is another word for bullshit." That may, of necessity, be the case. But I think it is also true that characters, vignettes, settings, dialog, and all of the other elements of a good work of fiction are a writer's impressionistic renderings of grains of truth. And while Let Me Explain is a work of fiction with the usual caveats and disclaimers, my goal was to be honest, at times painfully so. I'll leave it to the reader to decide if I've achieved what I set out to do.