It was an offhand comment from a colleague at work that got me thinking about the plot of Car Pool nearly two decades ago, something about how dreadful it would be to get stuck with a stranger she loathed in a long commute. Five days a week, every morning, every evening – what a nightmare!
What opportunities, I thought, and so a novel was born.
Shay Sumoto became my first scientist, born of a strong desire to have more lesbians in my books who weren’t behind typewriters. I also wanted to create a character who was facing hard times and had made difficult choices. She had done all the right things to be on one path in life and fate has pushed her off of it.
Anthea Rossignole combined two subjects I knew well: cost accounting and oil refineries. How these two subjects intersect in my life is dull – they’re much more interesting in Anthea’s life. That’s why fiction can be so much better than reality. Her life has been easier than Shay’s, but not easy.
The contrasts between them are many: Shay is Asian-American, Anthea is white. Shay is better educated but nearly broke and working two jobs. Anthea has inherited money and could probably get by not working. Shay is an environmental activist and loathes the job she does at the oil refinery. Anthea hasn’t given her employer’s role in the world much thought. Shay loved her parents and is still grieving her father’s death. Anthea has good reason not to miss her parents. And so they spend ninety minutes each way, twice a day, five days a week…
Shay and Anthea, and their two gay friends Harold and Adrian, have inspired two additional short stories in my Frosting on the Cake collections, “Mechanics” and “Divided Highway.” You can also listen in on a reading of a portion of “Mechanics” during my visit at the Stonewall Archives.
The Bay Area is a community of colorful people, and when I wrote Car Pool I was living in Berkeley and working in San Francisco. Outrageous gay friends, supportive old women, great bookstores, racist bosses, people trying to help people, and chili pepper oil on body parts where it was never meant to be, well, those things were all real. They’re all still real except for the chili pepper oil bit; that lesson was learned and not repeated.
Car Pool has been out of print for a while and is now available again, and is now finally available in eBook formats at BellaBooks.com. You can read all about it at Bella. What you also see here are the various covers of Car Pool over the years, including its French and Spanish versions.
I wrote Car Pool after getting to know writers, readers and booksellers in the Bay Area community, some of whom show up in its pages. They know who they are. I’m glad to have an opportunity to thank them again for their kindness and support over the years.