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Bringing The Imagined To Life

Bringing The Imagined To LifeAuthor and Tufts graduate Anita Shreve finds inspiration for her best-selling novels in an unusual place -- a clapboard house in Maine that she's never visited.

Boston [04.29.02] Though she's never actually stepped inside -- or ever knocked on the door -- novelist Anita Shreve has spent quite a bit of time inside the white, clapboard house in Maine that inspired three of her best-selling novels. The world she's imagined inside that house, says the Tufts graduate, has played a big role in her success.

"You could base an entire life's work on the people who come in and out of a house," Shreve told The New York Times last week.

Already, Shreve's best-selling novels "The Pilot's Wife,""Fortune's Rocks," and her newest release "Sea Glass" call the house home.

While she has no plans to introduce herself to the home's owners -- and has kept its real location secret -- Shreve admits a strong connection to the house, despite how little she actually knows about it.

"It had a real serenity," she told the Times, describing her impressions of the house, -- which is near her summer home on the coast of Maine. "At first, all I wanted to do was live there. Then, at a party, I overheard a snippet of conversation about an airline crash, and I began to imagine the pilot's wife. And there was this one split second in time when that idea came together with the house."

And her novel "The Pilot's Wife" was born, which boosted Shreve to international fame after it was selected to Oprah's book list in 1999.

By far her most successful novel, "The Pilot's Wife" is just one of nine critically acclaimed books Shreve has published over the last 11 years.

Fiction writing, the Tufts graduate told the London Independent, is a wonderful career.

"I work all morning, as soon as [my son] has gone off to school, and finish around lunchtime," Shreve told the London newspaper. "At certain stages, when I'm totally preoccupied by what's happening, I spend a lot of time living in my head. It's sometimes hard to come back into the real world -- especially in the beginning, when there are so many unanswered questions. Which character is going to tell the story? Which tense will I use?"

But she wasn't always focused on the fictional worlds of her books.

An English major at Tufts, Shreve started her writing career in journalism, reporting for Newsweek, The New York Times Magazine and other outlets for 15 years.

After publishing her first novel "Eden Close" in 1989, however, she realized fiction writing offered her something journalism never could.

"[I was thrilled with] the rush of freedom that I could make it up," she said in an interview with Time Warner Books.

Despite their differences, the two crafts share some important similarities.

"I could never write an article until I knew what my last line was going to be," she told the Independent. "It's the same with my books. I have to know the ending, although I don't necessarily have any idea how I'm going to get there. That's part of the pleasure -- the sense of a story developing."

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