THE LANGUAGE OF SECRETS
BY DIANNE DIXON
From a fresh and exciting new voice in women's fiction, The Language of Secrets unflinchingly examines the lifelong repercussions of a father's betrayal.
Justin Fisher has a successful career as the manager of a luxury hotel, a lovely wife, and a charming young son. While all signs point to a bright future, Justin can no longer ignore the hole in his life left by his estranged family. When he finally gathers the courage to reconnect with his troubled past, Justin is devastated to learn that his parents have passed away. And a visit to the cemetery brings the greatest shock of all—next to the graves of his father and mother sits a smaller tombstone for a three-year-old boy: a boy named Thomas Justin Fisher.
What follows is an extraordinary journey as Justin struggles with issues of his own identity and pieces together the complex and heartbreaking truth about his family. With great skill and care, Dianne Dixon explores the toll that misunderstandings, blame, and resentment can take on a family. But it is the intimate details of family life—a mother's lullaby for her son, a father's tragic error in judgment—that make this novel so exceptional and an absolute must for reading groups everywhere.
The Language of Secrets is the story of an unspeakable loss born of human frailty and an ultimate redemption born of human courage.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
DIANNE DIXON is a screenwriter living in California who has twice been nominated for an Emmy, has won a Humanitas Prize for work done in television, and has been Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Pitzer College, a member of the Claremont Colleges.
1. My first question is to find out about where the idea for this book came from?
And as the old saying goes—write what you know—my own family experience, my friend’s story, and an article by a Cornell Medical School professor about Dissociative Identity Disorder (a psychopathology related to severe, early childhood abuse and trauma—whose symptoms can include disturbances in both identity and memory) dovetailed to give me a story I’d been waiting to write.
Before The Language of Secrets, I was a television writer who knew I was supposed to write a novel. I promised myself, again and again, I’d do it—someday. Then, when I was barely out of my 30s, the lenses in both my eyes were replaced with artificial implants—a surgery usually done on octogenarians. All I could think was: If my eyes are this bad now, they’ll never last until I’m eighty. I told myself I’d answer the wake-up call and start the novel. But there were television writing jobs—tantalizing paychecks—I assumed I had a lot of ‘somedays’ still ahead. The somedays had rolled into years when I returned from a writing assignment in the UK feeling so ill that I went straight from the airport to my doctor. For no apparent reason, I’d lost 24 pounds in less than three months. An avalanche of tests began, including one for ovarian cancer. And I realized time might have run out—I might have already passed through my life and not done the thing I was meant to do.
The doctors never figured out what had happened to me; and that worried me. But I was absolutely at peace with the non-medical part of it: the warning that I’d burned through too many somedays. I had a successful screenwriting career—comedy for Howie Mandel and Damon Wayans, ideas in development with Jennifer Lopez’s and Kate Hudson’s production companies, and the creation of a drama series in England—but I knew it was time to do what I was supposed to do—resign from scriptwriting and begin The Language of Secrets. The house got downsized; two cars became one; and, often, my husband and I were in a race to see which would land first—bills in the mailbox—or the money in the bank to pay them with. But at the end of it all there was a book; a marriage tested, and surviving to tell the tale; and a life lesson so obvious, and yet so profound: Whatever it is you’re called to do, don’t wait. Do it. Don’t waste even one of the days you’ve been given.
For me, being able to tell Justin’s story as a triumphant one—as one that might make readers look for the stories behind the stories in their own families, and thus see their families in a new way—turned out to be the most rewarding writing I’ve ever done. A joy beyond description. (from Dianne Dixon's website)
2. What is the next or current book/project you are working on?
I’ve recently finished the first draft of my second novel. Like The Language of Secrets, it deals with an underlying mystery…but this time the story revolves around a pair of sisters. Twins who share an emotional bond that’s unusual, and surprisingly complicated.
3. What have you just finished reading?
…just finished re-reading The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, a collection of truly brilliant story stories by Aimee Bender.
…am about two-thirds of the way through The Collected Poems of Donald Justice and am moved almost to tears by the grace and elegance of his work.
4. What books would you say have made the biggest impression on you, especially starting out?
There have been so many great books that have been a part of my reading history. I’ve probably been unknowingly inspired in some small way by every piece of great writing I’ve ever read.
5. What gets you started on a new book? A character or story idea or….?
It can be either one. In The Language of Secrets, it was the story that came first (inspired by an event that had occurred in the life of a girl I’d known in college).
In the manuscript for my second novel, it was the characters of the two sisters (and the uniqueness of their relationship) that intrigued me.
6. What is something about you that you would want people to know about you that we probably don’t know?
…I guess it would be that I actually do have a sense of humor. People who know me only through reading The Language of Secrets might not know that about me.
When I get together with friends, there’s always lots of laughter—and huge amounts of silliness.
7. What is your best advice to anyone, including young people, who want to be writers?
I know this sounds like such a cliché…but the truth is, if you want to be a writer, you have to sit down and write. Consistently. You also have to read—a lot. And you have to have something you really want to write about. The best writing comes from a place where there is genuine, personal passion.
8. What is something you would like to share with us about writing your favorite genre in general?
Hmmm…my favorite genre…that’s a difficult question to answer.
Because I began as a freelance television writer my work has, by necessity, been pretty eclectic…everything from animated comedy for pre-schoolers to prime-time drama for adults in Europe.
In doing The Language of Secrets, I know I really enjoyed exploring and piecing together the underlying mystery in Justin’s story. Now that I think about it, stories about unresolved questions…especially ones that have their roots in actual events (the way The Language of Secrets does) have always fascinated me. Maybe I’m drawn to those kinds of real-life mysteries because they point out what strange and unpredictable creatures we human beings are, and how endlessly fascinating our stories can be.
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