On Fiction


On the long boring ride to school I used to pass the time by telling stories to the younger kids at the back of the van. Most of those stories were classic fairy tales, but sometimes I would make a story up as I went along.

I remember one little girl who would interrupt me every few minutes with the words, "What happened after that?" Even when I reached the end and said, "And they lived happily ever after," she still wanted to know, "What happened after that?"

What happened after that, indeed.

It's one of those questions you can ask at the end of any story -- and get a million different answers in reply. An even better question to ask is "What if?"

"What if I lived in the Dark Ages?"

"What if fairies were real?"

"What if a little girl lived in a tree on the White House lawn?"

"What if?"

Questions like that can inspire an infinite number of stories.

And so can boredom.

When there's nothing to watch on TV, when I'm sitting on a bus or waiting in line, when I'm lying in bed and haven't fallen asleep yet, my thoughts turn on this little television set I have in my mind. I watch new shows, new episodes of old favorites or reruns that seem to change every time I watch them. These are the bedtime stories I tell myself, and I love them.

For many years I thought I would keep these stories to myself, my private treasure I would horde forever. I was a writer. I made a living at it working at a newspaper. But writing fiction? No one gives you a regular paycheck to submit chapters of a novel week after week. You have to write the whole thing, and then maybe you sell it and maybe you don't. It seemed too big a risk to take.

I left my newspaper job when I left Israel in February 2001, and by early September I was prepared to start looking for freelance work. I sent out a bunch of query letters, but after the anthrax scare I never even got back my self-addressed, stamped envelopes.

I asked my husband, "What should I do?"

He asked me, "What do you want to do?"

I thought about it long and hard. I was a writer. I was used to working for newspapers and magazines, but that door was now closed.

"I want to write a novel," I said.

And that's what I did.

Now I'm waiting to find the answer to the question, "What happened after that?"   


To read a few chapters of Shevi's novels, click on a link below: