A married man’s unexpected departure from Czechoslovakia? with the neighbor woman and her children?is at the heart of a mysterious trail of true events that has inspired University of Washington writing instructor Scott Driscoll to write his first novel, Better You Go Home.
“At a family funeral in the early 90s, I learned about a cache of letters written in Czech to my aunt. I had them translated and learned that a male relative had left his wife and three children in a remote farm village in Bohemia prior to World War One.” Driscoll continues, “I learned my relative and the neighbor woman married bigamously in Iowa. The other fact revealed was the presence of a child named Anezka?who seems to have simply disappeared. I suspect she was their illicit child.”
Not long after, Driscoll visited his relative’s village and began to speculate. “What had become of the unidentified child? What if my life had deployed on her side of the Iron Curtain? Once that question lodged in my psyche, like a small wound that wouldn’t heal, I knew I had to write this story.” The work of literary fiction that trip inspired is Better You Go Home. The novel traces the story of Seattle attorney Chico Lenoch, who is diabetic, nearing kidney failure and needs a donor organ. He travels to the Czech Republic in search of his half-sister who may be able to help save his life. What Chico does not count on is unearthing long-buried family secrets.
It begins when he searches through his father’s attic after the Velvet Revolution and discovers letters dated four decades earlier revealing the existence of a half-sister. That sets him on a quest to see if he can find her. Once in the Czech Republic, Chico meets Milada, a beautiful doctor who helps him navigate the obstacles. While Chico idealizes his father’s homeland, Milada feels trapped. Is she really attracted to him, or is he a means of escape to the United States? Chico confronts a moral dilemma as well. If he approaches his sister about his need for a kidney, does he become complicit with his father and the power brokers of that generation who’ve already robbed her of so much?
Better You Go Home is about a son seeking his father’s secrets, but in a larger sense it’s about the progeny of exiles. Says Driscoll, “Much has been written about the survivors of WWII and its aftermath; I want to draw attention to the lives of their children.”
About the Author:
Scott Driscoll, an award-winning writing instructor at UW, Continuing and Professional Education, took several years to finish Better You Go Home (October 2013, Coffeetown Press), a novel that grew out of the exploration of the Czech side of his family in the 1990s after Eastern Europe was liberated. Driscoll keeps busy freelancing stories to airline magazines.
Scott shares a few of his writing secrets.
“I never just sit down to write. I do a lot of prep work. I read, research, take notes, sketch story lines, sketch character profiles. When I am ready to dive into a chapter, much work has already been done. But when that time comes to get busy with a chapter, I start by reading something I’ve recently written, and when I have a feel for sentence rhythm and timing, then I get busy with the writing. It wasn’t always this way. I use to just write write write. But you reach a point where you begin to be much more task driven rather than writing just to be producing prose.
“I read books on related topics. I interview people. I am not averse to checking Web sites for actual photos or physical descriptions. YouTube videos can also be useful. You need an idea of what a barn fire looks like? You can find examples and steal the sensory information. All that is there. Why not use it?”
And here is his advice for a new writer:
“Devote as much time as possible to writing. Don’t be afraid to imitate a writer you particularly admire (great way to learn), take classes (it will boost your professionalism), and don’t write entirely in a vacuum. Be aware of your potential audience. And, by all means, be part of a writing critique group composed of people similarly earnest and if possible including one or two writers who’ve already had some success.”