Tuesday, August 11, 2020

TBR: With or Without You by Caroline Leavitt

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?

 Simon, a 40-year-old once famous rocker is arguing with his long-time partner, Stella, about coming with him for a possible breakout tour. But Stella wants him to settle down and grow up—she wants a child, to buy their NYC apartment. Arguing, they drink, and then drug, and both fall asleep. In the morning, Simon wakes, but Stella has gone into coma, and when she wakes, months later, Simon’s chance is gone and Stella now has a completely different personality, something that will dramatically change both their lives, as well as the life of Libby, the young doctor caring for Stella.

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

Truthfully, my favorite chapters to write were Stella in her coma. I’m not sure why, but it felt so different, so somehow freeing. What gave me the most trouble was the first chapter where it all is so fraught, and they are fighting and it’s blizzarding outside and everything, everything is falling apart. I was so into the scene, I kept going into my husband’s office across the hall to make sure he was there and we were all right!

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

I’ve been blessed to be with Algonquin for my past four novels, so that is a definite high! My low was that just as I had this book sort of mapped out to sell, my editor there left! I cried, she cried, and though I could have moved on with her to another publisher, Algonquin had changed my life—they had truly given me a career—and I just couldn’t do it. So I was working with a new editor who bought the book, the award-winning Chuck Adams, and I was anxious. Would this work out? Would he like me and like my work? It turns out it was a brilliant move, and that is always the best, because the relationship between a writer and your editor is something sacred.

I’m writing this answer now months before things begin to happen, though I’ve already sold audio rights in auction, and the book was named 202 Most Anticipated by She Reads. There’s film interest. BUT there is a lot more scary things to come, like pre-pub reviews, etc. etc. You can never know how a book is going to be received. The only way I can protect myself from obsessing is to hurl myself into a new novel, which I’ve already started!

What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?

Never ever give up. When you most feel that what you are writing is junk and you should give it up and apply to dental school, it means that you are really digging deep into your subconscious, and your subconscious is doing push-back. Write what scares you.

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

I was surprised by the emotions that the book brought up in me. I didn’t realize that I was so tortured by the idea of fame, who gets it and why, what it does and doesn’t mean, but it all came out with my character of Simon. I also didn’t realize I was writing about midlife, and how what we want changes as we change, until I reread some of my pages!

How did you find the title of your book?

Ah, titles! NO ONE liked my original title, which I honestly don’t remember. I had to come up with 20 more titles and they all hated those, too. (This is par for the course. I had wanted to call Pictures of You, Breathe, and they nixed it. I had so many titles, I finally told my editor to call it whatever she wanted so we could move on!) Same thing happened with Cruel Beautiful World, and my actor son Max, named it! Chuck, my editor, decided on With or Without You. And it stuck! (Hilariously, I am not a U-2 fan.)

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

Stella’s mom makes this for her, and being Stella’s mom, she has no exact recipe.

Throw into a blender:
2 cups of nut milk of your choice, or whole milk if you want
1 ½ cups of fresh strawberries (or frozen is okay, too)
Dash of cinnamon
Drip of vanilla (almond extract is also the bomb!)
If you are daring, a dash of chile powder
Whir to the consistency you want!
Add a paper straw!


READ MORE ABOUT THIS AUTHOR: www.Carolineleavitt.com



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