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This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the August 21, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Belva Plain: Casting for Characters

Storyteller and author of 18 best-selling novels, Belva

Plain shares with the Soprano family the fact that she is an unapologetic

New Jersey resident. Born in New York City in 1919, she has lived

in the Garden State for more than 50 years and never shies from invoking

her northern New Jersey home. Plain’s widely read novels include "Evergreen,"

"Random Winds," "Crescent City," "After the Fire,"

"Homecoming," and "Legacy of Silence."

This week Plain meets and greets her fellow Jerseyans with a reading

from her latest book, "Her Father’s House," just out from

Delacorte Press, at Barnes and Noble, MarketFair, Wednesday, August

28, at 7 p.m.

With more than 25 million copies of her novels in print, Plain says

"Her Father’s House" is another tale from the heart of a family.

"It is the story of a father and daughter caught up in a terrible

lie," she says. "Is there ever a time when a terrible lie

can be forgiven? Does it make any difference that love caused the

lie?," she asks. "This is the question that father and daughter

each must ask. You will ask yourselves, too, when you read it."

"Her Father’s House" is a family drama that begins in New

York City in 1968 and tells the story of a young father, Donald Wolfe,

who snatches his two-year-old daughter, Bettina, from his unstable

ex-wife and takes her to Georgia to raise by himself under a false

name. In the eyes of the law, he is a kidnapper; in the eyes of his

daughter, he is a doting father. From her earliest years, Tina, as

she is called, is exceptional, a brilliant student and a joyous, loving


At college she falls in love with Gilbert, who graduates from law

school just as she is about to enter medical school. Together they

go to New York, where she begins to learn the truth about her family’s

past, a truth that forces her to reconsider her feelings toward the

father who has protected and cherished her.

Belva Plain was a precocious young woman once herself. She started

writing at an early age and had her first story published when she

was 25. At Barnard College she majored in history, and history continues

to play a primary role in her fiction, including modern international

history. After college she married a doctor, Irving Plain, and they

lived together happily, she says, for some 40 years before his death

in the 1980s. Her novel "Evergreen" remains a favorite with

her because its central character is also a doctor. The couple raised

three children.

In her professional life, Plain describes herself as

a morning person who "can scarcely think after 10 o’clock at night."

She works every morning in a dedicated workroom where no one may interrupt

her except her dog. Technocrats will be astonished to know that Plain

writes all her novels in long hand, on a yellow pad.

"I do not use a computer," she explains, "because, first

of all I’m not computer literate. And second, because I like to take

time to think about what I am saying. This way I can move around,

and in good weather, I often do, taking my pen and notebook outdoors,

into the sun or in the shade, wherever it is comfortable." Her

dog moves around with her.

Asked where she gets ideas for her compelling plots, Plain tells readers

she finds them everywhere she looks. "I get them everywhere —

simply by living in the world and observing what goes on," she

says. "I have heard some fascinating conversations from the seat

behind me while sitting on a train.

"In the newspapers I have read about an adventure or a crime,

an accident or a happy triumph that started me thinking about the

ways people cope with life," says Plain. "We have all read

the stories of men and women who died so tragically on September 11.

What struck me was that no two of them are exactly alike, just as

no two of us are exactly alike. We cannot clone character. No one

has a double."

— Nicole Plett

Belva Plain, Barnes & Noble, MarketFair, 609-897-9250.

Belva Plain introduces her latest book, "Her Father’s House."

Free. Wednesday, August 28, 7 p.m.

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