Fiction is delivered into the world, much like babies, in one of two ways. It is born naturally, accompanied by the pangs of hard labor, from the depths of an author’s imagination or cut from the world’s belly in the form of an unforgettable adventure.
My own such adventure began on a spring afternoon in 1963, incubated in a white Victorian two blocks off Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, where three sorority cast offs shared space with one transferee from Stanford. The latter would be moi, who moved in after a rash decision that only an eighteen-year-old with a broken heart can make.
The wacky idea? Round up a bunch of students from California colleges, charter a yacht, and sail around the Mediterranean. I was the only taker and certainly the only one whose mother would have paid for such a dubious plan.
At the end of our adventure, more of which will be revealed later, we found ourselves stranded in Bonifacio, Corsica for five days while a mistral storm raged on, sending six more modern and less sturdy yachts to Davy Jones locker. Not a single inhabitant spoke to us—it was still the ugly American days—until two young Foreign Legionnaires approached and begged us to sneak them off the island. Our devious plot was foiled by a snitch among the crew, and we endured an hour’s dressing down by the Captain.
The next day we were surprised and delighted when the two Legionnaires present us with a gift for at least trying to liberate them. I will never forget my first glimpse of that stunning Corsican dagger, its blade inscribed with a Corsican proverb. That image turned first into a screen play and many iterations since into MOTHER TONGUE. The protagonist, Liz Fallon, is conceived during a reminiscent five day stay in Bonifacio and thus MOTHER TONGUE, the novel, was born.