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Lucas, Michele Claire 1937–

Lucas, Michele Claire 1937–

PERSONAL: Born 1937; children: one daughter.

ADDRESSES: Home—NY. Agent—c/o Author Mail, HarperCollins Publishers, 10 E. 53rd St., 7th Floor, New York, NY 10022.

CAREER: Writer. Formerly worked as a magazine photo editor.

WRITINGS:

A High and Hidden Place (novel), HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2005.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Long Ago Person Found, a novel.

SIDELIGHTS: In her first published novel, A High and Hidden Place, Michele Claire Lucas bases her story on an actual event: a massacre in 1944 in which the Nazis killed 642 men, women, and children for reasons unknown. In her novel, Lucas tells the story of a French woman named Christine Lenoir, who, at the age of six, witnesses the atrocity, which resulted in the death of her parents and brothers. For many years, Lucas's memory of the event is buried deep within her psyche; instead, she believes her family died during a flu epidemic. As her memories of that horrible day begin to return, she revisits the little French village where the killings occurred and learns the truth with the help of another survivor who still lives there. Her new knowledge, however, leads her to question her convent upbringing and belief in God. "I had always wanted to tackle the subject of how you deal with faith in God in the face of terrible suffering," Lucas told Jana Riess in an interview in Publishers Weekly. "It's a universal question—everyone goes through this on some level." Writing a review of A High and Hidden Place in Booklist, Hazel Rochman commented, "The history is the drama here." A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote, "Lucas's narrative weaves in and out of the past, and her pervasive elegiac tone is numbing, sometimes mercifully so." The reviewer also called the book "less a novel than a meditation, but, as such, spellbinding and disturbing." Tamara Butler, writing in the Library Journal, commented that "this finely tuned first novel … inspires faith and redemption."

Lucas told CA: "I only began to write at the age of fifty-one, so my interest evolved over many years without my really being aware of it. I was suddenly in a place where, for the first time, I had the opportunity to begin my life anew, and I simply began writing as though I always knew that was what I was meant to do. And, importantly, I had a great story to tell.

"My writing is influenced by the great tragedies that have occurred during my lifetime, and there have been too many. These events are often the centerpiece of my books, the catalyst from which the story evolves. I am particularly interested in the events of World War II, struck as I have always been that such terrible things were happening when I was a child. I like to show these events through the eyes of individual people so that we can better understand what it was really like to be caught up in the maelstrom.

"I write chapter by chapter. I know how the chapter will go before I begin, and then I write quickly to get the whole thing down, not stopping for spelling or grammar or sentence structure. I will then go back and do one rewrite before I move on to the next chapter. I continue until I have the whole story in place, and then I go back to the beginning, rewriting, making changes, looking for inconsistencies in the story. Usually the story remains essentially as I have first set it down, because I do a lot of writing in my head before I begin on the page. This can cause a great deal of lost sleep, but it is the only way I know how to do it. Of course the story evolves, but the essentials are on the page before any real rewriting begins. A big part of my writing process is to read everything out loud. You catch a lot of mistakes that way; you hear the bad rhythm and the repetition that you don't always catch with your eye. It can be tiring, but I never consider a piece of writing finished until I have read the whole thing aloud.

"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is that age is an asset. I started late, but I have accumulated an awful lot of material in my head, and I don't think I will ever run out. Also surprising was the discovery that events of my lifetime are considered historical. When I first wrote a story about World War II and someone categorized it as 'historical,' I protested. I thought that history always began one hundredyears ago.

"Of my books, my favorite is A High and Hidden Place, because it was the first one to sell. I actually love all my work, but at this moment the novel I have just completed, Long Ago Person Found, has my heart…. It is a favorite because it came out just the way I wanted it to, which doesn't always happen. And it is a favorite because of the story about the long relationship between two women, one an American Christian, the other a European Jew, who have suffered greatly and together manage to overcome the things that have happened to them. Their story says that even the most afflicted among us can still experience the satisfaction and even the joy of life, something I really believe. I have seen this happen. I have seen this not happen and that is called despair."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, February 1, 2005, Hazel Rochman, review of A High and Hidden Place, p. 942.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2005, review of A High and Hidden Place, p. 77.

Library Journal, February 1, 2005, Tamara Butler, review of A High and Hidden Place, p. 62.

Publishers Weekly, March 28, 2005, Jana Riess, "Michele Claire Lucas: Late-Life Debut," interview with Lucas, p. S16.

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