Lucky Me


They say that necessity is the mother of invention but in my case it was boredom. I was sitting outside my son’s drum lesson with nothing to do but read the local paper, The Town Journal. At that time, the hot topics being debated in town revolved around real estate; preserving Open Space, building Mc Mansions and a new law called Mt. Laurel, which mandated that every town in New Jersey provide affordable housing so that the people who work there can live there. The letters to the editor were so virulent and passionate, I started to wonder about what happens to people when their property values, nest eggs, and to a lesser extent, quality of life, is threatened.

Sticking out of my son’s backpack was a flyer reminding all eighth grade parents of next week’s field trip to Washington D.C. And so, on the back of that flyer, I began to scribble the outline for a story about a soccer mom in suburbia who stumbles onto a real estate crime. It is not Lucky Me, but another novel, one that is now in the proverbial drawer, although today that drawer is a computer file and not proverbial at all. It lives, and after an extensive edit, will probably emerge as my fourth book. But it was in the process of writing this other novel that Lucky Me emerged.

The best way I can explain it is to say that despite my objections, the main character began to rebel and had her own ideas about what she wanted to do. Instead of sticking to the task at hand, solving the crime, she began to have thoughts and opinions and memories and before I knew it she was not the amateur sleuth I had created, but Julie Berman, and she had her own story to tell.

People frequently ask me how much of Lucky Me is based on my life and the answer to that is twofold. First, I’d like you to think that all the good stuff about Julie and her family is true and based on me. And, of course, anything you don’t like, well, clearly I made that up.

The reality is that novelists never completely remove themselves from what they write. The similarities may be less obvious from book to book, but the intangibles like perspective, experience, and memory color everything and ultimately how far removed a writer is from the truth of the story is just a matter of degree. That’s a fancy way of saying that mostly everything in Lucky Me is based at least in part on me or someone I’ve known.

That does not mean Lucky Me is true, and no one character is an actual person I know. However, the journey with a parent who has pancreatic cancer was written, sadly, from personal experience, and that’s the closest to my real life that the story gets. Also, I like to honor friends by using their names or their children’s names, a practice that actually sounds better than it plays out and has gotten me into some trouble, and therefore, is a practice I will probably drop. To those people who are still not talking to me, for the hundredth time, I apologize, and I swear it’s not you!