Webster City author Jane Curtis has recently published her second novel, "Funeral Food." She will be the guest of Kendall Young Library Monday night to discuss her work and to sign copies of the book. The author event will begin at 6:30 p.m.
Curtis said her inspiration for the book first came to her while she was living in Connecticut and attending graduate classes in Wesleyan University in Middletown. Her father had died and Curtis said she was feeling sad, lost and exhausted.
"One night my creative writing class ran long and mine was the final critique. Everyone else had left. It was just Anne Greene, my professor, and me. I burst into tears. 'Please tell me to stop writing,' I cried. 'Tell me I'm not a writer.'"
Her professor asked, "Do you want to be a hairdresser?"
"That was the ignition of 'Funeral Food.' Years later, when I had completed its first draft, I was awarded the Jakobsen Scholarship to the Wesleyan Writer's Conference, which is for young writers who show unusual promise," Curtis said. She said she will always remember Greene's snappy comeback and she will always write.
However, "Funeral Food" isn't about hairdressers, even though they help introduce the story. Curtis said the tale is a glimpse of a young woman's life in a small town similar to Webster City. Hairdressers represent the public story, with all of its inaccuracies, according to Curtis.
"The rest of the story is given over to the details that shape us, including the decisions made by our ancestors. Ultimately, though, the book is about love and the subtle ways it manifests in our lives," she said.
The author was born on a farm owned by great-grandfather, Charles Marston France, northeast of Webster City. She attended Mulberry Center Church, which Curtis said Charles France and his father, Aquila France, helped to build.
"As I wrote 'Funeral Food,' I saw that farm. I saw, too, places that have figured importantly in my life, places I imaged when family stories were told," she said. She pointed out that there really was once a house across from the park. Her great-grandparents bought it and moved there so that her grandmother could attend high school here.
However, she said, the details of her story are fictional.
She published the book under the pen name "Jane France" to honor the family name.
Curtis said that "Funeral Food" is very different from her first novel, "Pigs Must Fly." Even though both books were written at nearly the same time, each has its own distinct voice, she said.
Curtis studied journalism at Iowa State University and creative writing and acting at Wesleyan University. She has worked as a newspaper editor in Iowa, Connecticut and Colorado.