When Laura Kasischke starts writing a vision shows up in her head. And at first it's blurry and vague. But eventually an image comes into focus. When she started her novel, "The Life Before Her Eyes," Laura Kasischke wrote half of a first draft before a blurry image appeared.
That image was a woman named Diana. She knew that something had happened to Diana as a teenager. And she knew that Diana was struggling with feelings of guilt. But she wasn't quite clear on the specifics.
They're in the girls' rooms when they heard the first dot-dot-dot of semi-automatic gunfire. It sounds phony and far away, and they keep doing what they're doing—brushing their hair, looking at their reflections in the mirror…Dot-dot-dot.
When Laura Kasischke wrote this book, the shootings at Columbine had just happened. She says Columbine really made her think about adolescence and lives that are lost. The intensity of adolescence just snagged her. "Oh I think it's a really dramatic period. I think it has everything in it sexuality and confusion and angst and excitement and newness and it's rife with conflict and I think conflict is really the heart of fiction."
Antonya Nelson is a fiction writer and professor at the University of Houston. She says a lesser writer would have focused on the killer in this story. But not Laura Kasischke. "I mean I can just sort of set it up for you. She has the boy come into the bathroom and two girls are there, they are best friends, one a blond and one a brunette, sort of like two girls in a fairy tale or something. And the killer says to the girls "I'm going to kill one of you." He asks each of them to determine who should be killed. He asks the first girl and she says, "Kill me spare my friend." He asks the second girl and she says, "Kill her." So it's this interesting notion. A sort of gun at your head, literally gun at your head scenario. Do you behave selfishly or do you even define that as selfishness to preserve yourself?"
Antonya Nelson says this dilemma is interesting. Because it's not so much about the shocking boy, as it is about what she calls, the shocking moral quandary of being one of his potential victims.
Other people were impressed by the way in which Laura Kasischke deals with the school shooting. Aimee Peyronnet produced the film version of "The Life Before Her Eyes." She says that when she first read the book she thought it was poetic, surreal, and beautiful. "What I love about this book is that it was very unique and a subject matter that was interesting to me because it involves a school shooting. And it's a taboo subject. I thought it was a very elegant way to talk about it without making the film about that."
Springtime serves as the backdrop for this story. And it's in this setting that we learn about Diana's life. Laura Kasischke says that springtime really influenced her while writing this book. She calls spring as "a brief burst at the end of a long darkness."
Besides writing about spring and adolescence, she says there was something else she wanted to say with this book.
About the brevity of our lives.
"To me at the time I was writing it, it seemed really crucial to me to establish that to say somewhere this doesn't last very long and even after it passes, and even after the life has been lived. It seems brief and dreamlike and lost."
Laura Kasischke says that's what writing is to her: Saying over and over again that life is short. But at the same time trying to make that not true.
The film version of "The Life Before Her Eyes" will be called "In Bloom." Its producers are currently seeking national distribution. They hope to release the film to mainstream audiences within the next few months. At that time, the book will be reissued under the name "In Bloom."