Mt. Airy carjacking victim turns trauma into new novel

by Len Lear
Posted 9/8/22

There is an old saying in publishing that you should “write what you know,” and Mt. Airy author and social science researcher Lynn Gregory is an exemplar of that maxim. 

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Mt. Airy carjacking victim turns trauma into new novel


There is an old saying in publishing that you should “write what you know,” and Mt. Airy author and social science researcher Lynn Gregory is an exemplar of that maxim. 

Her novel “So Much for Walls,” just released in late July, begins with the seemingly random, traumatic carjacking incident at the Newark, N.J., train station, followed by a chance meeting with other people who played an important role in her family's past.

“I was the victim of a carjacking that took place at the Newark train station,” Gregory revealed last week. “I wanted to find a way to incorporate how that kind of trauma can feel and be healed. Probably like most fiction writers, I’m most comfortable writing about people, places and experiences I have known.

“In this case, I also started out wanting to honor the memories of two dear friends who are no longer living,” she said. The characters of Rocco and Gail evolved out of those friendships, she said. 

“So I guess to answer your question about how much of the book is autobiographical, I can only answer 'This and that,'” Gregory continued. “I’m a sort of evolutionary writer in that I don’t know exactly how it’s going to go until I get into writing scenes and developing characters. Then I’m often at the mercy of what I think the characters would do or say.”

Gregory, 76, is living proof that it is never too late to write novels. She retired in 2015 after a 40-year career in applied social science research. She earned bachelor’s and master's degrees in anthropology from California State University in Long Beach and a doctorate in foundations of education from Temple University.

Most of her professional life was spent conducting anthropological research and teaching program evaluation at Arcadia University, general anthropology at Immaculata College and urban studies at Temple University.

But shortly after she retired in 2015 from her position as executive director of partnerships at a small research firm she founded, and moved to Mt. Airy, Gregory participated in a memoir writing workshop run by author Minter Krotzer at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore in West Mt. Airy. Each week, participants were asked to write two pages stimulated by a “prompt,” a word or image or passage that brings to mind thoughts about a particular topic.

The writing prompt “Mother said” eventually led Gregory to turn a tsunami of childhood memories into a compelling 2020 novel, “The Other Side of a Tapestry,” published by Adelaide Books. Like “So Much for Walls,” it is also a fictional book built around Gregory's real-life experiences.

“In both books,” Gregory said, “I name some characters for people and animals I have known. In 'So Much for Walls,' for instance, David and Sarah’s Mac and Cheese Emporium was named for my daughter and her fiance, after we had dinner at a Mexican restaurant including macaroni and cheese, a menu item I found funny.”

Throughout her four-decade career in the social sciences, Gregory met and heard the stories of countless interesting individuals, many of whom inspired the creation of fictional characters and stories for her two books. Gregory has started work on a third novel, a sequel/prequel to “The Other Side of a Tapestry” that so far focuses on the character of Ofelia, who she said was “so elusive in the original story.”

Gregory and her husband, Raymond Basanta, walk with their dog, Josh, in Carpenter's Woods almost every day, even throughout the pandemic. “I think it sometimes kept us sane because we didn’t feel housebound,” Gregory said. “The proximity and accessibility of Fairmount Park is one reason I enjoy living in Mt. Airy. I lived around the block from where we live now when I first arrived in Philly, way back in 1974 when I began my doctoral program at Temple University. I fell in love with this neighborhood then, and after living in a variety of places in the interim, came back in 2015 when I retired. I love it here.”

“So Much for Walls” is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Abe books and Book Depository or can be ordered through any local book store. Len Lear can be reached at