Some years ago, I started my writing day with a prompt from Ursula Le Guin’s wonderful Steering the Craft, something like, “Describe a chaotic scene with a lot of characters and action.” I started describing Stocker’s kitchen, and the words just flowed. I was laughing as I wrote. I enjoyed the exercise so much that I came back to it the next couple of mornings, and by then Stocker was there, almost complete as a character, though he was still in outline. I didn’t know his background or his thoughts. The first page is almost exactly what I wrote on that first morning, cleaned up just a bit.


I thought about writing a series of short pieces: Stocker Cooks a Lobster. Stocker Fires a Sous Chef. Stocker’s Daughter Comes Home. Stocker Falls in Love. I saw these as comic sketches. But though I do like irony and think I have a sense of humor, I’m not a funny writer. By the time I was wondering how someone as hard-headed and impermeable as Stocker could love and Angela was walking past his alley, the narrative was becoming shadowed.