By Barbara Falconer Newhall
It was a very pleasant 45 minutes; for once I was the interviewee and someone else, a newspaper reporter, was doing the hard work of being the interviewer.
Freelance writer George Rowe and I met for the interview at the Book Passage bookstore in Corte Madera. She had been assigned by the Bay Area News Group to do an author interview for its various San Francisco Bay Area newspapers — papers like the Contra Costa Times, the Oakland Tribune and the San Jose Mercury News.
And Georgia had come prepared. She’d actually read the book, Wrestling with God, for one thing, which most newspaper reporters just don’t have time to do. And she had a bunch of questions at the ready. All I had to do was sit back and chatter away. Let the tape recorder and the hardworking newspaper reporter do the heavy lifting.
The Newspaper Reporter Asks
One of Georgia’s questions caught my attention. It’s one I’d never thought to ask in all my years as a newspaper reporter, and I’m going to add it to my arsenal of interview questions (For the next book? And what’s that going to be, I’d like to know?)
Georgia’s question was this — of everything I’d learned in the course of writing my book, what surprised me most?
The question surprised me. I had to scramble for an answer. What I came up with was, after the hours and hours I’d spent interviewing the people who inhabit Wrestling with God, and after the weeks and months I’d spent editing those interviews, I couldn’t help but feel a deep affection for every last one of them. All of them. From the atheist to the Zoroastrian priest. From the fundamentalist Christian to the progressive Muslim.
Wrestling with God for Answers
Hours later a better answer came to me, as the better answer so often does. It was this: at the beginning of the writing of Wrestling with God, I felt something — God — was missing from my life. But as I wrote the last paragraphs of the last chapter, I realized that nothing was missing. Everything I needed was right there in front of me and that is — the life that I already have. And that realization surprised me deeply.
Here’s Georgia Rowe’s story, which ran in the Sunday, May 10 paper: “Barbara Falconer Newhall’s ‘Wrestling with God’ began with a personal quest”
More newspapering stories at “Writers Need Editors and Mine Wants My Manuscript Turned in Now” and “Armistead Maupin — The Man Who Wrote the Quintessential San Francisco Novel on a Newspaper Deadline.”
“A Newspaper Story That I Didn’t Have to Write”