The Darlings’ Author Cristina Alger Talks About Her Mom’s Encouragement to Read and Write

Cristina Alger photoYesterday I featured a review of Cristina Alger’s book The Darlings. Today, Alger is here to talk about the influence her mom has been on her love of telling stories.

My mother and I have been reading together for as long as I can remember. As a child, I had an endless appetite for stories, which she was always happy to indulge. My bedroom was crammed with books, and on the weekends, we would spend many a happy Saturday at a local library or bookstore.

As my mother tells it, I was born talking. As soon as I was able, I began to tell stories of my own. I’m not sure if she thought of this or if I demanded it, but early on my mother began to record them in a spiral ring notebook. She would sit beside me as I took my nightly bath; I would talk, and she would listen. In between hair washing and scrubbing, she would write my stories down.

I wrote constantly in high school and in college; poetry, short stories, essays, journal entries. When I graduated, though, I embarked on a career in finance and writing fell by the wayside. I continued to read for pleasure, and Mom and I would often exchange and discuss books. But as much as she and my friends encouraged me, I just couldn’t find the time in my busy schedule to write.

I began working on The Darlings as a side project, something I did purely for the joy of writing itself. I was working as a corporate lawyer and was in desperate need of a creative release. I never imagined at first that anyone but me would read it. Eventually, I (rather nervously) asked my mom—who always quietly encouraged me to write and express myself creatively—if she would take a look. Her face lit up with happiness.

Mom proved to be a wonderfully thoughtful editor. As the book developed, I went back to her time and time again, and she was always willing to read, critique and discuss it. When I told her that I was thinking about leaving the law to pursue writing full time, she didn’t miss a beat. She helped me work through the logistics (how much money had I saved? What would I do about healthcare?). She listened as I endlessly weighed the pro’s and con’s. Many parents would have been disappointed or unsupportive if their child decided to leave a job at a prestigious law firm to do something as unpredictable and unstable as writing.  But mom wanted me to follow my heart.

I dedicated The Darlings to my mom. I am certain it would not exist were it not for her love, support and counsel. Seeing a copy of it on her shelf is incredibly rewarding for me. But it is my collection of “early works”—the stories she transcribed into a spiral ring notebook—that really holds a place of honor in her bedroom. She keeps them tucked away in a drawer with her other “important” documents: passport, birth certificates, deeds. It was our first collaboration, and now that I am writing once again, it won’t be our last.

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