Author talks about writing 'The Whole World Over'

When author Julia Glass begins writing, she starts with one important ingredient. "Every piece of fiction that I write starts with a single character," Glass said.

The author's latest book is "The Whole World Over," a multi-layered story that focuses the lives of four people in New York City with incredible detail. The Gwinnett Daily Post Book Club will discuss the novel at its September meeting.

As Glass began to write "The Whole World Over," she decided she wanted to depict a person who was different from everyone she had written about in the past.

"I'd never written from the point of view of a character who is a fundamentally happy person," Glass said.

The first character she created for "The Whole World Over" was Greenie, a pastry chef in New York who is more or less satisfied with her life. But when Greenie has a chance to become the chef for the governor of New Mexico, she impulsively decides to make a major change in her life.

In the novel, Glass also describes the lives of Greenie's husband Alan, a therapist who has slowly withdrawn from his relationship with his wife, and Greenie's good friend Walter, a gay man who owns a restaurant. The fourth main character in the book is Saga, an animal rescue volunteer who is still trying to regain her memory after an accident. Saga meets Alan on the street when she asks for his help rescuing six puppies, which she is carrying in a box.

Throughout the novel, the story flows from one person to the next and back again. "The way I describe it is that I write from character to character," Glass said.

While working on a book, she doesn't use an outline. "I don't map things out at all," Glass said.

Sometimes, her characters end up surprising her. "I get ideas that I didn't expect to get," Glass said.

She tackles each story chronologically. "It feels like cheating to write too far ahead. I start from the beginning and write to the end," Glass said.

Even as a child, Glass loved to read. In college, however, she decided to study art instead of literature or writing. After graduation, she worked as a painter for 10 years.

She took a series of day jobs to support herself as she painted at night. She worked for a museum before getting a job as a copy editor. Working with words helped her rediscovered her own love for language and she began writing short stories.

Glass sent her work out to magazines like The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly and kept getting back what she described as "kindly rejection letters" during a recent phone interview.

Though her work was never published in either periodical, she was encouraged by the letters she received. Glass eventually developed one of her short stories into the opening section for "The Three Junes," her first novel. It won the National Book Award in 2002.

Glass now writes full-time. Though her artwork hangs on the walls of her home, she is no longer painting. "I don't have room in my life for that right now," she said.

However, her artistic skills still influence her work. "I see how my love of the visual has very much influenced my fiction writing," Glass said.

If you go

Join the Gwinnett Daily Post Book Club as we discuss "The Whole World Over" by Julia Glass (Pantheon, $25.95). In the book, the stories of four characters in New York intertwine as they make changes in their lives and relationships.

•What: Gwinnett Daily Post Book Club discusses "The Whole World Over" by Julia Glass

•When: 7 p.m. Sept. 27

•Where: The meeting room at the Collins Hill Library, located at 455 Camp Perrin Road in Lawrenceville.

•Cost: The meeting is free. The book is available for $25.95.

•Info: Call Rachael Mason 770-963-9205, ext. 1324.

•Note: The author will not be present at the meeting.