Dear Friends,

Time alone, a fresh piece of stationery, the right pen, the chance to think deeply and let feelings flow.  Before I wrote novels, I wrote letters.  To friends, family, people I love, people I wanted to know better.  Letters turn me inside out.  I’ve written letters that are truer than true.  I’ve told secrets in letters.  I’ve mailed letters filled with emotions so raw, I’ve wanted to dive into the mailbox to get them back.

The Letters, a novel written with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Joe Monninger, is out in paperback on August 28th.  It’s filled with real-live letters between characters we created.  Writing them startled and thrilled me.   I can’t wait for you to read them.

Here is more about our friendship and writing process:

JOE  AND ME

We met in 1980 at a café on Thayer Street.  I’d answered his ad in the Providence Journal.  He was a professional writer and for a fee would critique work.  I was burning to be published.  He was married to a woman in the Brown writing program.  I’d been married for two months to a just-graduated lawyer. We were all so young.

His name is Joe Monninger, and sitting at Penguins, he read my stuff.  I gave him a short story about three sisters whose father caroused with ladies of the town.  He showed me a story about a boy fishing with his dad, getting the fishhook caught in his palm.  His dad took it out, and the boy didn’t cry.

Instead of charging a fee, Joe invited my husband and me to dinner.  He and his wife lived on Transit Street, the top floor of a three-family house, under the eaves.  Bookcases lined the crooked stairs.  Joe’s office was on the landing, dark and cozy, no window.  His wife covered her typewriter with a pair of his boxer shorts.  She made boneless chicken breasts, bought from the chicken man who drove around Fox Point playing “La Cucaracha” on his horn, and she pounded them flat on the kitchen floor between sheets of wax paper with an iron skillet while we watched.

We had dinner often.  We drank scotch and told stories about our families and the dark side of nature.  Joe and I loved shark stories, and collected them.  We’d act out skits, our own form of improv.  “Be a couple at the prom,” I’d say, and Joe and his would shyly dance.  “Be Mim at the gift store,” they’d say, and I’d act out my grandmother being outraged at the price of a ceramic eggplant.

After dinner, they’d walk us down to the street.  Passing the bookcases, they’d grab volumes, press them into our hands.  Many of those books were biographies or collected letters: Carson McCullers, Virginia Woolf, Maxwell Perkins, Hemingway.  I’d take the books home and get lost in writing lives.

Fast forward: time went by, and our first marriages ended.  Joe and I remained friends along the way.  We wrote to each other, knowing how important our connection was: we had witnessed each other’s youth.  We had known each other’s first loves.  We knew the sources of each other’s writing, inspiration, fishhooks.

One day we had an idea.  I can’t remember whether it was his or mine.  But we decided to merge two of our great loves from the early days: literary letters and acting out scenes.  What if we took on personas?  Became characters?  We would write about people on the verge of divorce—we’d both been there.  We’d incorporate nature and art.  We needed names.

I became Hadley, after Hemingway’s first wife.  He became Sam, because I wrote him he had to have a short, punchy name like “Joe.”  Our last name is West, in honor of Tim West, a surfer from Half Moon Bay, who survived a great white attacking his board at Maverick’s one December day.

We wrote letters in character.  And The Letters, our novel, took shape.

We had a son, Paul, our good, beautiful boy, who dropped out of Amherst to go teach the Inuit in an Alaska village, and who died.  Our marriage couldn’t survive his death.  Our desolation and grief and love and rage streamed into our letters.  Hadley went to Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine, to try to quit drinking and start painting again.  Sam flew to Alaska to search out the site where our boy died.

Even now, we find it hard to believe we don’t have a dead son.

Joe and I never spoke on the phone, never saw each other, not even once during the process.  We never discussed or planned what would happen, how the story should unfold.  The writing had its own life, the writing was all.

Life is full of mistakes and kindnesses, and what love can’t heal, fiction can.

And I love Joe.  He’s my writer friend, the one who knows me best, who knows where the bodies are buried, and who tells me about sharks.  We wrote The Letters.  And we’ll keep writing.

 

 

  • Dee (cndmade)

    Oh, how I’ve missed you~
    I cannot tell you how many times I (smiled ) while reading how you came about meeting Joseph and his wife, and the dinner ( a skillet-eh?) Chuckles…
    I can already feel by your writing that there’s great passion dancing all around the words printed in both you and Joseph’s book~
    The Letters ~ There is another thing that has my attention- the book cover.
     I feel I should explain myself, however, hm…I almost feel as if the world already knows how I feel of such images, though, only a hand full would really know.
    I am always there, whether in my day dreams searching for serenity…? or actually there. ( At this moment I’m not r-e-a-l-l-y there out from my up right washing machine dancing my key board all over the place wth a spin cycle). ‘Humph.’ But I’ll be there as I will hope to be there turning the pages of you and Joe’s wonderful book of Letters~

    With love from BC to you both.
    Dee~

  • Leigh ann saldivar

    I love Luanne Rice and I think this read will be awesome!! SOUNDS VERY HEARTWRENCHING AND EMOTIONAL!

  • Sharon Best

    I HAVE to read “The Letters” now !!!!

  • Barbara

    I read anything you have written ~ including your blog~and have turned other “readers” on to your talent as often as the opportunity presents itself.  Can’t wait to read this one!  Keep on keeping on!! 

  • dawn

    I recall finding this on the library shelf and grabbing it up right away.  I read it during a weekend, barely putting it down to prepare family meals.  Another treasure from you!

  • Debboe

    I love her books – can not wait to read this one.

  • Terri Buccarelli

    Luanne – First I found you and started to consume your work. Then you introduced me to Joe’s work & I learned that he is from my home state of NJ! I feel such kinship with both of you and I can hardly wait for THE LETTERS!

  • Elaine

    Loved The Letters. Thanks so much for telling us how this book grew out of your friendship with Joe.

  • Norma Gilbert

    Love your books! Will definitelyget this one.

  • Smithrachelm

    Oooh I can’t wait!  This book sounds amazing and heartfelt (and breaking) I love your work I can only imagine how you work with others.  

  • Cathy Wright

    I love the idea that you did not talk about the story and let it unfold in the letters. such a wonderful story. I have read it twice already.

  • Eileen

    what an inspiring way to create a novel.  Can’t wait to read it!

  • Vallati,Julia

    Oh I cannot wait to read it, it touches my heart

  • Sharon

    Wish I was as brave as you …….would love to tell my story but a certain Italian is still alive? My journalsl holds my story….Love the Letters!

  • Tina M

    Wow Love what I just read..Would Love the chance to win The Letters so I can read the book…

  • Linda Dixon

    Anxious to read The Letters! I LOVE Luanne Rice stories.

  • Rosanne Olmsted

    What a beautiful story about all of you. Freindship os a wonderful thingI bet the shark stories that Joe told were awesome and tbe two of you and Joe are so very lucky to have each other The Letters sounds like a great read I will have to go amd get a copy Thanks for sharing your intimate thoughts very heartfelt Can’t wait to read the Letters.

  • Rachel Hartwig

    I love love love this! :) maybe some day Joe will tell us where the bodies are. ;)

  • Mammakim

    Wow that is amazing! I love your work and look forward to your book with Joe. I will also have to look up some of his work  :)

  • Lois Hardenbrook

    Love your work and Tom’s also.

  • Gsamarillo

    I love all of your books Luanne ~ Can’t wait to read this one !

  • Shellarella

    Writing about yourself & Joe captured my attention more than anything. I began “The Letters” but did not get to finish. It was large print, popular, and requested back at my local Library. I’ve put it off due to not reading much but will place a request for it tonight so I can pick up where I left off. Seems it is time to escape in another person letters! Thank You for my reminder who much I need to finish it! = )

  • Aquialady

    Would love to read whole story.

  • Bunny

    Can’t wait to read it, cry with it and laugh while reading. When my grandfather passed away, we found the letters my sister and I wrote to him. Starting from when we could barely print. Wonderful memories!

  • Jeanninerubillo

    I am a new fan and can’t wait to read this.

  • Eeyorechar

    This sounds fascinating! Looking forward to it

  • Kay Epperson

    Alright, now I have to read the book!  Letter writing seems to be a lost art and I suffer writer’s block even writing to an old friend who really needs this communication because I feel my life isn’t interesting enough to write much about.  So many times, I have wished I could write personal letters from an imaginary life.  Your book will be a great pleasure to read, plus who knows..I may gain some inspiration just to put the pen to paper again.

    • Ken McCamish

      I have just watched the movie “Bernie” and fell head over heels in love with one of the characters/actresses. . . Kay Epperson.  So here I am searching for a way to write her and just say “hello!” and this page came up.  I don’t know Kay Epperson personally but I felt like I always have.  She reminds me so much of my family in Breckinridge County, Kentucky that I nearly cried and wanted to hug her through the screen, grab a glass of tea (iced, of course, is there any other kind?) and shoot the breeze playing rummy or aggravation under a tree in the front yard or on the porch.  Sigh.  So you’re probably not her but I had to at least say this and now I want to read this book too.  I’d not have found it otherwise and it looks great! -Ken McCamish, Jeffersonville, IN

  • Terrellmktg

    Hi Luanne:  You and Joe are POWERFUL together.  I tremendously enjoyed The Letters - couldn’t put it down.  THANK YOU and looking forward to the next collaboaration.  Nancy