Saturday, March 14, 2020

TBR: Don’t You Know I Love You by Laura Bogart

TBR [to be read] is a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe! 

Give us your elevator pitch: what’s your book about in 2-3 sentences?

Don’t You Know I Love You is about a young woman, Angelina, who comes from a chaotic home learning to extricate herself from the influence of her violent, yet charismatic father – without turning into her mother, who forfeited her own hopes and ambitions years before. Angelina learns more about who she is – and more importantly, who she wants to be – through developing as an artist and falling in love for the first time, but the patterns she’s grown up with threaten her happiness.

Which character did you most enjoy creating? Why? And, which character gave you the most trouble, and why?  

The character I most enjoyed creating is definitely Angelina, because she undergoes the most personal growth and change throughout the course of the novel – she starts off very armored and angry (and understandably so!), but with a tender, protective side she’s not always sure how to show. She becomes an artist, and in doing so, she becomes more of who she’s meant to be, and more importantly, who she wants to be. I feel like we so rarely see a woman artist’s coming of age, on the page; it seems so often like it’s still the providence of broody young men. So, it was exciting and powerful to be able to reimagine that story for a young woman, my own version of Rebel Without a Cause.

The character who gave me the most trouble was Jack, in part because I wanted to write about, and from the perspective of, a deeply troubled and toxic man – without seeming like I glamorized or validated his toxicity. I think a lot of the rise of the anti-hero we had across media a few years ago was really instructive because it showed how seductive it can to be render a person who does bad things in a rose-colored light, to be “edgy,” so I was very careful to portray how Jack’s violence and destructiveness truly haunted his daughter and his wife. Still, if I was going to put readers inside Jack’s head, I knew I had to make it a worthy, if uncomfortable, place to sit and stay a while – I saw my task as making him complex without exonerating him. 

Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.

I’m always very candid about the fact that it took nearly three years for this book to find its best home in the world because I feel like so much of the writing world, and writing lives, that we see on social media are so carefully curated – just the highest highs and insta-success stories. We had a lot of so-close but not quite because many publishers were really skittish about the intensity of the material. I was very lucky that I have an agent who was supportive and kept sending the book out – I tell all authors who are talking to agents to please, please, please, ask them what they’ll do if the book doesn’t sell to the first, or second, or third, or even fourth round of submissions – and we ended up with the perfect publisher in Dzanc, a publisher that isn’t afraid of the hard and thorny stories, and a real collaborator with their authors.

What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?

If something just isn’t gelling – whether that something is a character or subplot, or even as tiny as a particular sentence structure – don’t hesitate to let it go. Our intuition is the architect of marvelous surprises, so trust it.

My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?

My initial concept for Angelina’s art was much more literal and, in hindsight, sort of blunt. The bone drawings literally just came to me as I was writing one day and as soon as I described the first one, I had a lightning strike moment, like, oh yes, this is exactly what her art is supposed to be like.

How did you find the title of your book?

The title of the book comes from the way Elliott Smith sings the lyric “don’t you know that I love you” in his song “Angel in the Snow”: His voice is beautiful and haunted, knowing and raw – and that’s exactly the feeling I wanted for the book.

Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes I might share?)

 I have no recipes, but anything they’d eat on The Sopranos is definitely applicable here!

[Editor’s note: May I recommend Carmela’s Baked Ziti?]




DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.