Amy Gustine

I believe voice is born of character, and I’ve come to accept that I am both the conduit of characters—stories make their own demands after the initial set up—as well as their creator. This means at times characters might be more reflective of me than I like to admit. Then a story comes to me that doesn’t share my typical voice and I’m delighted by the fractured, surprising possibilities that exist. “Ripe” is one of those stories. I actually did attend a performance of “Doubt” in a defunct store in downtown Toledo several years ago and I was extremely impressed with the acting and saddened by how few people the local production attracted. The actors and director deserved a much larger audience. However, Claudia is a jaded, restless, edgy person, not at all like me, and she sees the performance through a different lens. I had a lot of fun looking through her eyes, and I also had a lot of fun getting her into trouble. Ever since I had children I have become increasingly interested in writing about parent-specific issues. Parenting is a challenge and a relationship unlike any other and I had some fun playing up the tension between Claudia’s past self and her present identity as a mother, what happens when Rul forces the two identities to collide. I’m also very interested in the relationship between different classes and ethnic groups in the U.S. and that found its way into the story. I can’t write a story until I hear its voice, which means its attitude, its tone, its point of view on the world—in essence, the main character’s voice. This is almost as true of stories written third person as it is of those in first, which I rarely write. I prefer the freedom allowed by using third person. This point of view makes it possible to operate at many different levels of intimacy, to speak philosophically when necessary, to get right into the character’s mind when necessary, to generally roam about emotionally and linguistically in a way that first person doesn’t permit.