Friday, November 5, 2010

Blog Q&A with Lauren Grodstein

Here are a few questions I had for Lauren Grodstein author of A Friend of the Family

1. The different facets of suburban life play a big part in the book. What is it about suburbia that fascinates you?

I suppose it's the veneer of sameness - suburbs are frequently communities built around similarities in socioeconomics, in values, sometimes in religion, often in race - and yet that veneer is so fragile. In "Friend," it felt sort of fun, sort of rebellious, even, to shred that veneer and expose the very profound and sometimes ugly differences between suburban neighbors.

2. Is this book your way of pointing out some of the flaws (status, material possessions) in suburban life?
Nope. I really wasn't judging these characters at all when I was writing them, nor was I holding them up to be examples of how not to behave. I just put them on the page and let them be themselves, and although some people have read a critique of suburbia in this book, I was really just going for a depiction - not a critical examination.
3. The book is told from the point of view of a middle-aged male, something you're not. Where did the inspiration for Pete's character come from? Ever worry about writing from a male point of view as a woman?
I worried about it occasionally, but I took faith in the idea (which I hope is right - I think is right!) that men and women aren't really so different in the end. We might behave differently, sure, but we experience love and faith and joy and pride in similar ways. To channel how Pete felt, say, about losing his beloved father, I simply tried to imagine how I'd feel in that circumstance, and then I transcribed that feeling as accurately as I could (using Pete's voice, of course). As for where he came from - I wish I had a better answer, but the truth is I woke up one morning, and there he was, telling me his story. Does that sound a little insane? Because that's how it felt.

4. In three words, how would you describe your book?
Huh - nobody's ever asked me that before. Okay, three words. Three words. Um: totally completely amazing? Or maybe: funny, sad, honest?

A Friend of the FamilyA Friend of the Family5. Cover art is one of the many things that attracts me to a book. The paperback cover (left) for A Friend of the Family is very enticing. It is also very different from the hardcover. What prompted the change?
I don't actually know, since I'm not involved in the art decisions at all (which is all to the best, since I have the visual acuity of a bat) but I have to say I love each of the covers. To me they seem striking and memorable and welcoming, which is exactly what I look for in a book jacket.

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