Ever wonder how writers come up with ideas for novels? For Paula McLain, it happened while reading the work of literary icon Ernest Hemingway.
“I was reading Hemingway’s memoir A Moveable Feast, about his early years in Paris,” she says. “In the final pages, he writes of [first wife] Hadley: ‘I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.’ That line really moved me, and I couldn’t help wondering about who she was and how they met.”
McLain’s curiosity led her to search out biographies of Hadley Richardson and an archive of letters between Richardson and Hemingway. She fell in love with Hadley and the young Hemingway and found herself swept away by the power of their romance. Her research led to the 2011 publication of The
Paris Wife: A Novel, which re-creates Richardson and Hemingway’s life in the 1920s City of Light.
Together with fellow best-selling author Lisa See, McLain will be a keynote speaker at Literary Orange, a daylong celebration of writers, readers and libraries that takes place Saturday, April 14, at UC Irvine’s Student Center.
Co-sponsored by the UCI Libraries and Orange County Public Libraries, it brings community members and authors together through lectures, discussions and book signings.
“Book festivals are an ideal venue for writers and readers to make contact,” McLain says. “They’re also such a wonderful celebration – a lovefest for lovers of
books. When I take part in a festival, I’m reminded that I’m part of a larger community.”
More than 40 award-winning authors will participate on 14 panels covering a variety of genres, including inspirational and literary fiction, mystery, science
fiction, fantasy, true crime, law, war, history and memoirs.
“Literary Orange celebrates the special bond among authors, readers and libraries,” says Julie Sully, the UCI Libraries’ interim director of development and event co-chair. “Book lovers can meet others who share their affection for the written word and learn from some of the best in the business about the creative process of writing.”
Like McLain, See transports readers to another time and place in her latest novel, Dreams of Joy, which is set in 1950s China. See’s background is especially cosmopolitan, as she was born in Paris and raised in Los Angeles by an extended family of Chinese descent.
“Research is my absolute favorite part of the writing process,” she says. “For Dreams of Joy, I visited a 17th century villa in a small village called Huangcun in China’s Anhui province. Going to a small village in the interior of China is like stepping back in time many decades – and in some respects many centuries.”
Passion and a strong work ethic can lead to success as a writer, See says.
“Write about what you really care about,” she says. “You need to be passionate, because it takes a long time to write a book, and a lot of bumps can happen on the road to publication. Love, love, love what you do.”
A new addition to Literary Orange this year is a panel featuring UCI School of Law professors Christopher Tomlins and Henry Weinstein and moderated by the school’s assistant dean for communications & public affairs, Rex Bossert.
The panel will focus on writing about the law, in particular how to show the ways in which lives are affected by the legal system.
“Literary Orange allows us a wonderful opportunity to showcase to the Orange County community two of our stellar UCI law faculty members,” Bossert says, “one a leading legal historian and the other a leading legal journalist. To have two such talents at a law school is extremely rare.”