My mother loves to bake, and she bequeathed this love to me. I have so many wonderful memories of licking cookie dough from beaters, nibbling the cores of pears left over from homemade jam, and suffering a burnt tongue from not letting the English jam tarts cool. The smells during the holidays were intoxicating, a mixture of buttery homemade bread, gooey cinnamon rolls, fudge, toffee, homemade caramel, and innumerable types of cookies and cakes. (Chuck says my food descriptions in The Successor are a persistent source of editorial distraction; he wants to eat, not write.) My mother would also spend hours smocking handmade dresses (a lost art form). In short she threw herself completely into being a mother and homemaker and, as often happens, left very little for herself, her private, secretly longing self.
My father commented on this when I was 16; I shall never forget his words. “Naomi, never give up on your dreams, the things that define you. Always remember to keep something for yourself.” He said my mother threw everything into being a homemaker as soon as they were married. But as the years passed she seemed to lose something of herself and became sad. Dad grew increasingly concerned and encouraged her to find an outside interest. She reached into her past and took up piano lessons again. Some of my fondest memories are of lying awake in my bed late at night listening to my mother play the piano. I remember with great fondness her taking me with her to the concert hall when she was assigned to give a recital and to the Bach Festival in Carmel-by-the-Sea, a picturesque village on the coast of California.
My mother’s love of music gave wings to my pursuit of writing. I found something that was my own and invested my life energy in it. When Chuck and I were finishing the book, I saw more clearly than ever how these life lessons and so many more experiences shaped me along my way. I look forward to sharing my story, hidden within the pages of The Successor, with you. I have now passed along my father’s council to my own daughter and to other women I know. Never give up on your dreams. Find something that defines you and refine that definition into a beautiful poem.
- Naomi Lea Sawyer
Naomi Lea Sawyer and I became a writing team on 25 August 2010. She had begun work on The Successor much earlier. We met, held discussions, and soon entertained the strong suspicion that together as writers we would be more than the sum of our parts.
The writing began over the top of Naomi’s earlier work, and the final manuscript, completed nearly six years later, retained the essence of her original work, both in plot and theme. Some elements were added. Others were tossed aside. Some characters proved elusive. Others came forward in a rush, whether we wanted them to or not. We edited, wrote, edited again, rewrote, cut here, added there, rewrote—and on and on in the seemingly endless cycle that novelists must endure.
In the meantime, we discovered we had other interests in common. We climbed mountains in the warm sun and bitter cold, forded streams flooded by spring runoff, and followed uncertain routes to even less certain destinations in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the Superstition Wilderness of Southern Arizona, and the red rocks of Sedona to the north. I re-engaged an old hobby—ham radio—and she took it up with a passion, pushing us both to the highest rating in amateur radio and requiring us to assemble and disassemble many antenna arrays on many summits. She, a humble pianist, and I, a humble cellist, also played music together. And, of course, we were photographers and journalists of everything we experienced.
All of this was plowed into the book, often in most unexpected ways. The Successor is a fantasy novel, but the characters in it and the trials they endure are quite real to us—and we think they will be to you as well. You will search in vain for us in the book because we are not there in any one character or relationship. You may, however, find yourself.
--Charles Arthur Sale