Many of the most important events in our lives are the most difficult to write about. Before I began writing Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls, many of my friends and acquaintances were starting families or desiring to start families. Several of these women were faced with difficulties. They were infertile or suffered successive miscarriages. Their courage and endless hopeful efforts, despite their sadness were inspiring, especially since I had faced similar disappointments in my early twenties.
Empathy and admiration for women who had suffered so much heartbreak were the foundation of this novel. I wanted to celebrate the bravery of these women and their strength, as well as examine my own anxiety and eventual grief. All of our stories are unique. Combining them into the experience of a single fictional character, Emily Burdis, was a challenge, but she became the fictional ‘desperate to have a child’ heroine to suffer the pain childlessness and eventual joy of motherhood.
So, a book about infertility and loss with a title like Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls — how did that happen, what is the connection? There are several and all are revealed in the novel.
Some experiences demand to be written. How do imaginary characters get under a writer’s skin so deep that there is no denying them their own book? David Gitano had been in my head for months, maybe years. He worked his way into a relationship with Emily Burdis through the inscrutable magic of story-telling and the desire of the story-teller to make two people — products of her imagination — happy for the rest of their lives.
Wrestling with acute unhappiness and undaunted hope to write a story that examines the strength of maternal instincts and the male instinct to build and protect his family was a years long endeavor, under several different titles, including a novel and a Part II. Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls emerged triumphant in 2014 and remains one of my favorite efforts, written from the heart and personal experience.