The Interestings

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Going back to the idea of time, there's an interesting continuum you work with. You start with the camp point, but we get to go back and forth Previously in writing a novel I would often take a more traditional view of time and feel hampered by that. I made a deliberate choice to use time in a much more fluid way. I loved that I could keep going; it's like realizing there's no fence on your property.

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The structures that we have in literature can be very formulaic. How do you break out of that model? I always feel like "radicalize your work" is the way to think about approaching it. You have to entertain yourself, but you have to do more than that. The reader is as smart as you or smarter. You should trust the reader. I think a lot of the dull parts of first drafts come from a kind of over-managing, intrusive writer who wants to direct traffic. The idea of taking out the parts that the reader could infer is very liberating, and it's weirdly part of radicalizing your work.

It allows you to go to new places fast. The book involves the idea of the evolution of the self — the year-old, and the person that person grows up to be.

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What was it like to take these characters through so many life stages? Somebody asked which did I prefer, writing about the characters when they were young or old, but I realized I didn't distinguish that in my mind. They were an amorphous self, and they stayed that way. They could age back and forth easily and they were one. My friend and I would say we'd had a "sighting" when we'd see someone from camp and remember that person in their year-old self.

When I see these people, I see myself with possibilities, before the disappointments and limitations of adulthood set in. But you've never lost the original you.

The Interestings

How do you approach the creation of your characters? We talk about character and place as if they're shining distinct orbs. They never are. What really makes a character work, is how he or she works with other characters. They're not singing their separate arias facing the audience. The test for me was, if Jules worked, it was very much about her relationship with Ethan. If a character loves another character, you don't have to put the pressure on the reader of the question "don't you love this character?

When did the title emerge? Oh, I had it right away. The minute I thought they'd call themselves The Interestings there was no way that wouldn't be the title of the book. But again, who knows if it's good? You carry it around for a while. It has to represent the intent of the book. It's the kind of thing you'd tape to your computer, a Psalm or something. Let's talk about gender byline disparity and the different ways male and female novelists can be treated. VIDA does incredibly important work because they just continue to show the disparities here.

The statistics are shocking about what happens, because you see it's part of a big continuum: who's reviewing, who's getting reviewed. It's not even close. The notion that yes, you can win a prize but does it have the same effect on a woman that it does on a man? Who are the writers that people see as authorities in our culture?

It can be very depressing. If you look at the numbers you can feel like you've been slapped. Someone said, what can we do other than talk about it? I'm not against talking about it. Talking about it has to be good. But for me, writing is as good as talking about it, continuing to create this body of work by writers, some of them women, writing about women characters. Things change, and Jenny Egan wins the Pulitzer. But you're not writing for the prizes, you're just writing. If you're a women writer living in America today, you take note of the numbers, and you keep working.

In the acknowledgments to your book, you call Riverhead's Geoffrey Kloske an "excellent and, yes, feminist publisher.


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VIDA had done a series about the number of women writers published at the various companies, and Riverhead came out very well. And it's not just that. Looking at what they've published over the years, he publishes important work by excellent women and really supports it. He cares.

What has the book tour been like this round? When you have a book out, it's like a period of protracted or concentrated megalomania, and it's really not normal, or good for you, or any of that.

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I'm in the end of it right now. I've enjoyed this publication more than most. But I really enjoy writing much more. It's quiet, it's about possibilities. Then there's the stuff you're afraid of. I was on a panel with a writer who said afterward she was afraid to write certain things because she didn't want people thinking things.

I too wish I could control the minds of everyone around me. The pain of not being able to and having your work misinterpreted and being humiliated, all of that is dreadful, and I completely sympathize with that. Of course, the alternative is saying to yourself, I didn't do the work that interested me because of somebody I don't even like. It's a really great way to think about it.

Because why are you writing? Are you writing for a claim? Does it have to happen with this one? I want to continue writing and publishing into my old age.

Some books feel like sorbets between courses. You weren't ready to write the next one, but you have to do something. Also, even if it doesn't come out in that book the way you wanted it to, you're just working away, you're thinking, you're getting better. The subscription details associated with this account need to be updated. Please update your billing details here to continue enjoying your subscription. Your subscription will end shortly. Please update your billing details here to continue enjoying your access to the most informative and considered journalism in the UK.

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