Saturday, January 23, 2010
Quick Qs and As with Laura Pedersen
Describe you newest novel Best Bet in four words.
Humorous, hopeful and heartfelt.
Are you similar to Hallie, the main character in Best Bet, in any ways?
I used to gamble as a teenager. We both possess unruly hair that is the envy of nesting animals in wintertime. However, I have outdoor allergies and so a gardening job wouldn’t be a good fit.
What has been your favorite part of writing the Hallie Palmer series?
I’ve enjoyed being with all of the characters. I suppose some call it imagination and others might say schizophrenia, but they really do have conversations in my head and make me laugh. Or something unusual happens and I automatically know what Bernard or Olivia would say about it.
With Best Bet being the last book in the Hallie Palmer series, what are your thoughts on closing the series?
As it does in life, I wanted the end to lead back to the beginning. Whether you believe the Christian version of life starting in a garden or that we evolved from nature, that’s where the story starts and finishes. But I hope the end of the series feels like a new beginning for Hallie and readers in that much still lies ahead. Looking back, I like to think that whenever Hallie had a choice, she embraced life.
I hope readers will seek out opportunities, have lots of failures to learn from and laugh about (if you’re not then maybe you’re not trying enough different avenues), be involved in their communities, and fight for whatever it is they’re passionate about. I hope they’ll always consider the value of kindness, because almost everyone we meet is fighting a difficult battle, some battles more obvious than others, some we know about and many we don’t. In his short story “The Freshest Boy,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “It isn’t given to us to know those rare moments when people are wide open and the lightest touch can wither or heal.”
What’s your favorite thing about being an author? Least?
I’m an only child and so I’ve always been comfortable quietly entertaining myself alone in a room. It’s fun to will an entire world of people and circumstance into existence. And it’s a thrill to take a rough draft and shape it into a finished story. The bad part is the first week, looking at that blank screen and knowing you have about three hundred pages to go.
Which part of the writing process do you find the most challenging?
It’s hard for me not to make all of my characters sound the way I do and react to situations the way that I would. It helps to assign each fictional character to a real person I know and imagine what they would do.
Is there any book out there you just wish you had written yourself?
I wish I’d written A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, who examines the country from the view of the people who helped build it but didn’t have a voice because they were poor or a minority. However, just thinking about all of that research makes me want to lie down so it’s a good thing Mr. Zinn successfully completed the task and I need only enjoy it.
What’s your typical day like?
Walk dogs, eat yogurt with blueberries, write (books and/or checks), eat lentil spinach soup, tutor at a school in East Harlem, call Dad in New Mex (ask him, “How are you?” and he says, “I got up this morning.”), eat burrito, e-mail Mom about any disasters or local flu epidemics or injuries at school since she’s a nurse and likes that sort of thing, read New York Times and some magazines and hopefully a few chapters of a book, walk dogs, watch documentary. As you can see, it’s a phenomenally glamorous existence (not!). That said, I have had exciting life experiences where I traveled around the world and did cool things and met fascinating people and so try not to become a boring shut-in until you’re older. Hopefully I’m going to India in a few months to work on some interesting political issues, but as the only child of an only child I’m currently involved in an extended family eldercare spiral which takes precedence.
I recently wrote a humorous memoir called Buffalo Gal about growing up in the Rust Belt during the stagflation 1970s. It did well and so now I’ve chronicled the Buffalo renaissance in Buffalo Unbound, which comes out in the fall.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Candles in the home are a fire hazard if you’re absentminded the way I am. I now put them in water, even if it’s just a little dish of water at the base. Just thought I should pass that on.