The latest from Greenwood, author of 10 novels, is Where I Lost Her , about an unhappy woman encountering a little girl one night in the middle of a country road in rural Vermont.
Your protagonist, Tess, is suffering from infertility and a failing marriage. Your characters are often chasing redemption, and your writing is imbued with melancholy.
It’s fascinating (and a little embarrassing) that these themes keep rising to the surface in my work. My characters are often driven by a need to make amends—haunted by, motivated by, the same sort of ghosts. For me, fiction is always about struggle, about grappling with both external and internal demons. My characters are broken, and my job is to figure out how to mend them. Tess both wants to find the child who has gone missing and exorcise the ghost of another child she lost. But doing so means acknowledging her failures and accepting culpability in the disintegration of her marriage. The novel is a thriller, but it is also about Tess’s quest for atonement.
Families and the risk of familial loss loom large in your writing. What draws you to this subject?
This novel opens with Tess reflecting on the pain and anguish that watching her best friend Effie’s girls brings her. Effie’s family serves as a cruel reminder of all of Tess’s unfulfilled dreams. The novel really is about this longing for family. A reviewer once made a somewhat snarky comment about me being a “family damage specialist.” It stung just a little bit. (I joked about getting a plaque for my office door.) But in a way, it’s true; I have a difficult time separating my characters from the familial webs in which they are entangled. The concept of family is universal. And I guess I am most drawn to the damaged ones.
Can you talk a little about how setting—in this case, Vermont—informs your stories?
The fictional Lake Gormlaith has become the locus for most of my fiction. It’s my Yoknapatawpha County, I guess. I hope my settings are reflective of my characters’ psychological landscapes. Vermont, where I grew up, lends itself to this task with its extremes: the tremendous beauty of autumn, the cruelty of its bitter winters, the promise and hope of spring, and the long slow days of summer.
You live in San Diego. Will you ever set a book in California?
I have a few recurring characters who live in San Diego. However, most of my books are set in Vermont. In SoCal, every other car has a bumper sticker that says No bad days. For me, good stories are about bad days. About really, really bad days.