Ann-Marie MacDonald wove a complex tale of family secrets and the lives they destroy. Read the highlights from our on-air discussion.

Where did the idea for the book come from?
Oprah: As I was reading, I thought, 'This author must have spent some time in a mental institution. (laughter) And she came out and gathered her thoughts.' Where did this come from?

Ann-Marie: That's such a difficult question. And the honest answer is that I don't really know. It comes comes from the imagination. And it comes from stories that have been percolating everywhere all the time. I don't need to have a lot in my own experience. I just need a grain. And then the rest the world is going to provide.

Oprah: I find it interesting over the years talking to different authors how the pieces come together. What was the spark? What was the grain for you?

Ann-Marie: It began as a play, and it began very innocently. The characters that wound up being Mercedes, Frances and Lily arrived visually. And they lived as though they were standing in front of stained glass, the way saints and martyrs appear in old churches. And each of them was holding an emblem the way old saints and martyrs do.

Oprah: When you say, 'They arrived,'...They arrived where?

Ann-Marie: They arrived in my imagination. I do think of them as gifts. They're like visitations.


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