A GREAT GIFT FOR THE
BOOK LOVER ON YOUR LIST!
A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY
BY LAUREN GRODSTEIN
Welcome to BOOKIN' WITH BINGO, Lauren Grodstein. I have had the pleasure of reading A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY and am so thrilled you could stop by for an interview. After people read about the book, and surely with my review (I hope) they are going to want more information on you. Can you tell us where to go to find out news on you? and what is your latest work? and anything else you'd like to share so we can know you a little better?
Sure – my website is www.laurengrodstein.com. My new novel is called “A Friend of the Family,” which will be published by Algonquin in November. I’m the author of another novel, “Reproduction is the Flaw of Love” (Dial, 2004) and a story collection, “The Best of Animals” (Persea, 2002). I teach creative writing at Rutgers-Camden, and I live in Moorestown, NJ, with my husband and son.
What have you just finished reading?
I just finished reading a book called “The Pine Barrens,” by John McPhee, which is about a hidden corner of New Jersey called, appropriately enough, the Pine Barrens. I grew up in the Garden State, I moved here again last year, and I’ve been teaching at Rutgers, New Jersey’s state university, since 2005 – so you’d think I’d know most of what there is to know about the place. But I keep learning new and fascinating things – cranberry bogs! Peach orchards! A massive frozen foods operation manned by Japanese-American refugees from internment camps during World War 2! “The Pine Barrens” opened my eyes to a whole woodland history I was unaware of. It was published in 1968, and given to me by my husband, who is one of the best read people I’ve ever met.
What books would you say have made the biggest impression on you, especially starting out?
Hmmm… I love “The Rachel Papers,” by Martin Amis, which made me want to write a coming-of-age romance, which is what I tried for with “Reproduction,” my first novel. Amy Bloom’s first short story collection, “Come to Me,” is a book that still warms my heart, especially the story “Love is Not A Pie.” I love some of the books I was introduced to in graduate school, like George Saunders’s “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline,” and Barry Hannah’s “Airships,” and though I’ve never tried to write like these two authors, I still enjoy reading their work. And when I was a kid, I just adored books like “The Westing Game,” by Ellen Raskin and “The House With a Clock in Its Walls,” by John Bellairs. I read those books when I was nine, ten years old and thought, one day, I’m going to write one of these things too.
What gets you started on a new book? A character or story idea or….?
A character will just pop in my head, and he or she won’t let me go until I’m done telling his or her story. It’s pretty wild – and pretty relentless. When I’m not in the midst of a novel I’m on the hunt for one of these characters so I can start something new.
What is something about you that you would want people to know about you that we probably don’t know?
I am a phenomenal parallel-parker. Seriously. I’m like the New York Yankees of parallel parking. In blinding snow, driving a stick-shift, with New York City traffic slushing by me, I’ll park two inches from the curb every time. It’s a gift.
What is your best advice to anyone, including young people, who want to be writers?
Turn off your television. Then consider throwing it away. I know, I know – but it’s so easy to spend two hours in front of the television, and those are two hours you should probably spend writing. If you tell me, well, I watch most of my television at night, when I’m too tired to do anything else, my advice is: turn off the t.v., go to bed earlier, get up earlier, and write in the morning. If you say, I need the television for news, I’ll tell you: that’s why God invented newspapers. If you say, I need the television for entertainment, I would suggest you pick up a book. Which might make me someone you don’t want to talk to. But the truth is, I know far too many young writers who complain about not having time to write but know up-to-the-minute weigh-ins on The Biggest Loser. This suggests to me that they are not making the best time management decisions, and so much of writing success comes down to making the time to sit down and write.
What is something you would like to share with us about writing your favorite genre in general?
Hmmm… not sure I have a favorite genre, but I would say that my favorite thing about the whole novel-writing process, from the moment I start to the day I see it on the bookshelves, is when I’ve read the first draft and know I’m on to something. The draft might need a lot of work, it might have ferocious problems, but if those initial pages make me want to keep going on to draft two – well, nothing feels better than that.
And I think nothing feels better than reading a great book and so we thank you for A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY and for your time out for this interview. Thank you!
A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY
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