I had very modest expectations when I began writing The Sparrow back in 1992. I never meant it to be a novel. I thought I was trying a short story. It was an experiment. I wanted to see what it was like to create characters, to write dialog, and set a scene.

I honestly expected to crap out after eleven pages, but those characters, and the situation I dropped them into, and their relationships kept pulling me along. An obsessive year later, I had a completed manuscript about Jesuits in space. Even I thought “Jesuits in space” sounded stupid and by actual count, thirty-one literary agents agreed with me. By 1995, I was just hoping for a quirky boutique publisher, a print-run of maybe 2000 copies with 75% returns, and a cult following of two cousins and a neighbor. Even so, I kept editing the manuscript and sending it out.

Then, twenty-one years ago today, Jane Dystel left a message on our answering machine. “Mary, I would love to represent you and this book. Call me.” She left three numbers. Eight days later, we had a hardcover-softcover deal with Villard at Random House. Which changed my life.

Now Random House is planning a 20th Anniversary Edition of The Sparrow. They would like me to write an introduction to the new edition and I am hoping you’ll help me with that. Are there questions about the story you’d like me to answer?

And if you are about to read (or reread) the book, what strikes you as a hit or a miss in my decades-old vision of the future? How is it holding up, now that we live in what used to be The Future?

RH is also planning to update the Book Club Discussion Guide, so if you recently read The Sparrow in your club selection, what sparked the most discussion?

You can leave comments here, or email me at marydoriarussell@gmail.com with “Sparrow” in the subject heading. I’ll compile the ideas and let you know how it’s going in a future blog. Thanks in advance for your help with this. And thanks again for following me during my random walk through literature — from Alpha Centauri to the mountains of Italy to Cairo to Dodge City and O.K. Corral!