Las t month, we saluted Ginnah Howard when her novel Night Navigation was featured in the New York Times Book Review. Now, we have the opportunity to salute Ms. Howard again — and to thank her for responding in such length to questions about her novel and herself.

We’ve been sharing that conversation over four days. In today’s installment, Ginnah finishes telling her story of how she got started as a writer, and starts describing the sweeping, ambitious trilogy of which Night Navigation will be the central core.

Early on I began to send work to literary magazines, and every now and then a story was accepted: North American Review, Blueline, Permafrost, Water~Stone Review…. But publishing has always been an “extra,” not what made me sit down day after day. What makes me face the blank screen is the excitement of the words moving along on that emptiness—very similar to the thrill I felt as I hurried to get my shoe skates out of my metal suitcase and laced up to move out on the rink to throb of the organ. To leg-over-leg make the turns when I was 13. What I still feel when Bob Dylan tells me, “Don’t think twice; it’s all right,” while I’m peeling the potatoes for dinner.

Up until around 2005 or so, when I finally got an agent, Alice Tasman of Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, I did not have a major work published because the work wasn’t quite ready. My experience has been that most of the satisfaction, the joy of writing, has to be in the process itself: the making, the revision, the critiquing, the passion of talking about the work with other writers, the thrill of reading, reading, reading…the work itself.

You say Night Navigation is actually the second book of a trilogy-in-progress. Would you mind telling us about your work so far on the other two books of the trilogy?

Night Navigation opens in March 2002, on a black-ice night in upstate New York. Through the four seasons, this novel focuses on what is left of the Merrick family after the suicide of the father and the younger son. The novel follows the losses and gains of the remaining son, Mark, who has a bipolar disorder and who throughout that year is in and out of treatment for a heroin addiction, and his artist mother, Del, who anxiously tries to help him with the hope that once and for all she can let go. Though this sounds like a bleak tale indeed, many readers have stated that the buoyancy of the language has lifted much of the darkness. See and reviews.

Book 1, Rope & Bone, focuses on Del Merrick and Carla Morletti, and their families. The novel is made up of 34 linked stories covering the years from 1955 to 1993. Many of the stories concentrate on the friendship between Carla and Del―their misadventures as they try to raise their kids, get their old cars started on subzero mornings, and put in enough wood to get through to April at the same time they’re testing their theory: a good man’s hard to find. In addition to these friendship tales, all of the other characters―their children, their husbands, their lovers―have stories as well. Reading Rope & Bone after finishing Night Navigation would be like the way we get to know people, first in their present lives, and then as we spend more time with them, their pasts slowly surface. Rope & Bone is “finished”; it’s now with my agent, ready to go out to editors this fall.

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