George Ella Lyon's newest novel, Holding On To Zoe, was just released in July.
Readers often want to know where writers’ ideas come from. Tell us about
the genesis of your novel Holding On to Zoe. Is the story imagined, based in
reality, or some of both?
Like so much of my writing, Zoe began in my journal.
My practice, when I don’t have an ongoing project, is to come to the
page and ask who wants to speak. Then I wait. Sometimes nobody shows up.
Sometimes it’s somebody I don’t connect with. Maybe a guy who wants to tell
me how the St. Lawrence Seaway was built. I try to be open to whoever
comes, but if I really don’t connect with the voice, I don’t return to it the next
With Jules, I was captivated from the first page. Who was this narrator?
Where did she come from? What was her story? Would she come back? Would
I have the courage and stamina to go on her story?
If you compare this beginning with the final novel, you’ll see that Zoe
started out as Lily and the factory was different, too, but Jules and her
situation were the same.
As for the story’s basis in reality, I do live fourteen miles from a big
Toyota plant—and I drive a little Toyota—but that’s about it. Of course, Jules
shares some characteristics and experiences of people I have known, but her
story is her own.
What do you hope readers will take away from their reading of Holding On
First, I hope they are held by the story and that, at the end, they’re glad
they made the journey. I hope they feel less alone. Then I hope they feel
larger inside when it’s over, that they’ll have more understanding and
compassion for themselves and others.
As a reader, I always hope for an ah ha! moment when something that
mystified or alluded me in my own life comes into focus through someone
else’s words. I search for something that will light up my inner world and then
shine out in my life. I hope that for my readers, too.
Are there any new projects you can tell us about?
I’m revising a novel in poems called Something Happened. It’s about
Emmy and Chloe, cousins who are also best friends. It’s set in the Sixties, in a
family where love makes big mistakes and the wrong people are considered