I have been contributing to this blog since 2008, which was about the time I started writing Zola's Wonder Closet. And in all these years, I have only now realized I haven't really explained why I chose such a title for my first manuscript. It wasn't that I didn't think it was important, because obviously I spent time in deliberation on it, I just thought it easier to explain all my encapsulated efforts in a one-sentence synopsis instead(You know the one; the pitch you give off the cuff when asked what your manuscript/book is about). But upon being tested this past week at a gathering with my new writers' group, I spit out a disjointed interpretation, only to receive a few blank looks in return (which I couldn't blame them for). So to redeem myself, I rephrased my explanation, eliciting a couple, Ohhhh-I-see's with the second go around.
As a culture we give names to everything we value; our children, our pets, our vehicles, our sex organs. Why we choose these names is personal and purposeful. For instance, my mother and father named me after the Hall & Oates song, Sarah Smiles, and because my mother claimed she knew of no mean girls by this name. My sister Kate's namesake on the other hand, was associated with a young woman my mother had known in college; a fiery red-headed painter, who was beautiful and eccentric, and who danced on tables. "Sugar and spice and everything nice, that is what little girls are made of."
So, back to this title. Where did the name Zola come from? Well, for all you French literature lovers out there, it is borrowed from Emile Zola of course. Though female, there are elements of her character (as well as my own), which identifies with the naturalistic mindset of her predecessor. Emile Zola believed in the influence of one's environment on their societal behavior, tracing the roots of greed, warfare, alcoholism, and prostitution all to cumulative experience in a specific setting. (How someone responds to what is going on in their surroundings, and the choices they make based on their insights) If you read my previous blog Around We Go.. , there is some Zola-esque logic making an appearance. And also, for novelty's sake, both Emile Zola and my character Zola, are writers.
Now, where does the Wonder Closet come into play? (You can refer to my blog, Pocket-sized Finds, for a brief explanation). The idea of a Wonder Closet is a bit of a double entendre. It is both figurative and literal. Wonder, can be meant as something someone is curious about, or it can be a term for something that is extraordinary (Wonder Bread, Wonder Boy, etc.) A Closet can be a physical space, a place where a person stores stuff they don't want anyone to see, or they don't have room for in their regular day to day living space. Or a Closet can be a metaphor for the mind, the annals of which the deepest, darkest secrets can be kept. (During the Renaissance in Europe, Cabinets of Curiosities and "wonder rooms" were created by travelers and the affluent, where compartmentalized oddities and rarities were kept like their very own museum collections.)
Zola's Wonder Closet can be best summed up with this quote: "She's been collecting time as one collects old albums or books. When she becomes tired of the routine, the song and dance, or romantic prose, she locks the time away. And just when she begins to think she has swept all the little pieces away for safekeeping, an artifact appears in her modern life, without fair warning or the tools to decipher it.... But this is her Wonder Closet, of scattered remains and broken pieces. How she found herself here, was just another box bursting at the seams, hidden behind the layers of a past life."