As a doctor and mom to two boys, Maggie Leffler has a lot on her plate. But she finds time in her busy schedule to write novels, and at 12 p.m. Friday she will be signing books at the Chautauqua Bookstore to celebrate her third novel, The Secrets of Flight.
“I’ve always tried to carve out the time no matter what phase of life I’ve been in, whether I was in medical school residency or out in practice,” Leffler said. “I just always make the time somehow. Writing is somewhat of a compulsion for me — I can’t not do it.”
In Leffler’s novel, Mary Browning is the head of a senior citizen writing group and served as a pilot during World War II. However, she still keeps secrets from that time and it’s only when she meets a teenage girl named Elyse that she decides to finally confront her past, Leffler said.
She also said the historical aspect of the novel came about after she saw a picture in the newspaper of Women Airforce Service Pilots getting an award from President Barack Obama. Although Leffler originally only included letters from World War II in the story, she said adding first-person accounts from that time made the story more compelling.
“[I wanted] for the reader to feel what it must’ve felt like during the uncertainty of that time, and also just what it felt like stepping into an airplane and having that desire to fly,” Leffler said.
For Leffler, the novel is about the search for identity, whether it is recovering identity, like for Mary, or figuring what it is in the first place, such as for Elyse. However, she also said the story is an important lesson about personal growth.
“It wasn’t just a coming-of-age story for Elyse, but [the idea that] even someone in her 80s could have a coming-of-age story as well,” Leffler said. “You’re really never too old to learn and change and grow from someone else.”
Leffler also said because the novel has characters of all ages, many readers will be able to enjoy the book. She said she wanted to come to Chautauqua Institution not only because her husband’s family is here, but because of the people in the community.
“I love Chautauqua, and so I’m really excited to come here,” she said. “There’s just an appreciation for writers in the arts and literature and all the disciplines. … This is a good audience to hopefully be excited about the work.”