From a recent segment of The Leonard Lopate Show, it’s clear that novelist Ayelet Waldman is less a proponent of “write what you know” and more of “write what you can imagine” -- that is, "what you want to know."
Because writing is an avenue to discovery, she pursues all sorts of real-life “want to knows” through her fiction. Her latest novel, Red Hook Road, was prompted by a terrible car accident that she recalls reading about in a newspaper. Also interested in classical music, she learned about it and weaved it in. And boxing. And boats.
For her next book, Waldman went totally “want to know.” She Googled keywords of topics that interested her: Hungary (she wanted to visit a friend there and liked the excuse of researching a writing project) + Holocaust (she’s Jewish and hadn’t written about it) + art (as with the music of Red Hook Road, she was interested) = a novel about the Hungarian Gold Train at the end of WWII.
I can’t wait to read it.