Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Right or Wrong

By Amy MacKinnon

I saw him standing toward the back. It was Saturday afternoon and I was doing my first reading of the day at Barnes & Noble in Hingham. He shifted his weight from left foot to right, and then back again. One hand was on his hip and his expression was unfathomable. He never faltered when I stared back at him, though I did. He didn't smile, he didn't glower, he didn't appear pleased or displeased. But that fidgeting had me worried.

To be honest I wasn't certain it was him. I'd met him only once, about two years ago when it was clear my novel would be set in Brockton, Massachusetts, featuring Brockton cops. I called the police department to see if I could have a tour, I needed to know the layout of the building, smell it, feel the grit that coated every surface, and have a sense of the people who inhabited the place. I was patched through to Officer Al Gazerro.

He gave me hours of his time, showing me every nook and cranny, introducing me around to everyone from the dispatchers to the detectives to the chief. I took notes, I inhaled the place as best I could, and then went home to try to convey it all on the page.

Details matter. They matter to your readers, to the authenticity of your story, they should matter a great deal to you. I wanted desperately get it right. And there, toward the back, was Officer Gazerro who was about to tell me if I got it wrong.

He was last in line to have his book signed. As he got closer, I knew it was him.

"Do you remember me?" he asked.

"Al Gazerro," I said, waiting.

"I love your book." Finally he smiled.

He said his daughter got him a copy, that they now had three at home. He told me I got it exactly right, even the woman detective's shoes, the detective's unit, the homes he so often goes to while on duty. I got it right.

I hugged him, I had to. I so badly wanted to please him, to honor his vocation, and repay the faith he had in me. So far, it's been the highlight of my booktour.

All along there've been two people I've feared disappointing with this book: Al Gazerro and my uncle, the funeral director. I've waited on tenterhooks for their feedback, knowing I'd hear about it if I got it wrong. It's the sort of thing that gets under people's skin, isn't it? The relief is huge, knowing Officer Gazerro is pleased. Now I just need to hear from my uncle...

11 comments:

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Oh, Amy, what a thrill. And those details do matter. They make all the difference. How gratifying to be told "you got it right."

I felt the truth and power of your words--I was right there in that police department, walking with you and Al Gazerro.

Gail said...

that's great Amy. I have no doubt you got everything right in Tethered. Everything...

Amy MacKinnon said...

Judy, thank you! It's so important to hear that from another writer too.

Gail, I appreciate that, more than you know...

Larramie said...

Of course you got it right, Amy, for you were living every detail of your story and then had your readers living it too.

However the greatest compliment has to be the three copies of TETHERED in Officer Gazerro's home!

Amy MacKinnon said...

Larramie, well, he is in the acknowledgments!

five said...

Hi Amy,
As I read your book, I trusted that you got it right...nothing felt forced or wedged in for convenience sake...in all the right places I cringed, cried, had my fingers crossed...let me tell you, you sure can convey anxiety...my stomach was flippin just reading your post...worried that he was going to say something I didn't want to hear (I would have said HE got it wrong :)

I know exactly what you mean about having to touch, feel, smell, so you can get it right. On Thursday, I am taking a cruise out to Boston Light to climb the lighthouse, because I made a change in my wip, and "Maeve" is going to do it.

PS, I'm going to your Buttonwoods workshop...see you then.
Mo

Lisa said...

I've been meaning to tell you -- as a graduate of Whitman-Hanson Regional High School, a former resident of a very bad neighborhood in Brockton and of a "triple decker" apartment house in Whitman -- the authenticity of place in TETHERED was almost eerie! I haven't lived there in almost thirty years, but you brought me right back.

Amy MacKinnon said...

Mo, I am very good at passing along anxiety. It's my curse. And thank you.

Lisa, wow, thanks, that means a lot!

Ello said...

What a wonderful story! What a wonderful moment. I too am loving your book!

Amy MacKinnon said...

Thanks, Ello. And I am loving your angry pig.

Sustenance Scout said...

LOVE this story, Amy! And I'm so relieved it had a happy ending. Officer Gazerro sounds like a great guy. K.