DeKALB – What began as a simple exercise at a writers’ workshop turned into a novel that is equal parts history, politics, romance and mystery.
Students at the workshop were asked to finish the line, “My mother never ...” San Francisco novelist Margit Liesche, formerly of DeKalb, wrote, “... lived in the same world as me.” Thus, the seed was planted for “Triptych,” Liesche’s third novel, which she will introduce at a book signing at Barnes & Noble in DeKalb.
“The workshop sentence grew into a page,” she said in a telephone interview. “Then the magic ‘click.’ I realized I wanted to write about a mother-daughter relationship, specifically about how a refugee mother’s sense of loss and displacement might influence her daughter’s life choices and character.”
Liesche combined true accounts of her parents, Hungarian missionaries who emigrated to the U.S. after serving in China, with fictional elements to create a tale about a young girl living in Budapest in 1956 during the Hungarian Revolution, and a woman of Hungarian descent living in Chicago a few years later.
For Liesche, coming to DeKalb is a homecoming of sorts. Her father, J. Eugene Kunos, was the pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran in DeKalb from 1958 to 1965. When she lived in DeKalb her name was Margaret Kunos; she legally changed it to Margit Liesche on her 50th birthday.
“I decided Margit suited me,” she said. “Margaret just didn’t feel right on me. Liesche is my mother’s maiden name. I wanted something that meant something to me, to connect with her.”
Liesche said her passion for writing fiction began in a creative writing class her junior year at DeKalb High School. After “tons of rejections,” Liesche’s first book, “Lipstick and Lies,” was published in 2007.
After writing a couple of chapters of “Triptych,” she put the book aside because it was so personal.
“A lot of it was difficult to write,” she said. “You are preserving a small slice of history that may make a difference to someone. For me, the ’56 Hungarian Revolution has always had significant meaning, and childhood memories from those troubled times inform ‘Triptych.’”
Liesche said her two sisters approved of the book, which she was nervous about since it dealt with family history.
At the signing, Liesche will speak about the book, read excerpts from it, answer questions and sign copies, said Elizabeth Dufur, who works in community relations at Barnes & Noble.
Margit Liesche will sign copies of her novel "Triptych" from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, at Barnes & Noble, 2439 Sycamore Road in DeKalb.