Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Q&A with author Randy Susan Meyers

Randy Susan Meyers is the author of the new novel Accidents of Marriage. She also has written the novels The Comfort of Lies and The Murderer's Daughters, and co-written the nonfiction guide What To Do Before Your Book Launch. She lives in Boston.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Accidents of Marriage?

A: It had a long genesis. I used to work with batterers, and when I would drive to do groups, I would go around a rotary, and would think about how they never blame themselves for the violence. I thought about rageful driving, and what would happen if they ran over someone they loved. That was the genesis.

People think of domestic violence as “them” or “us,” but it’s a continuum of actions, from the very worst to an outburst of crummy words.

Q: Why did you decide to write from the perspectives of three different characters?

A: I really enjoy reading and writing about families, or systems, from different perspectives. Everyone is the star of their own show, and believes in their own perspective—I try to see if everyone can come around and see others’ points of view.

Q: As you wrote from these different perspectives, did you feel different degrees of sympathy for the characters?

A: I seem to enter a very close third person [perspective] where I do feel that person’s point of view; the others go out of my head. Either I’m very crazy, or I like getting behind the eyes of different people!

I learned working with criminals that if you can’t be empathetic, you can’t help them. With my characters, I’ve got to be empathetic.

Q: What kind of research did you do to write this story, or did a lot of it come from the knowledge you’d gained from working with batterers?

A: I really knew [from my work] about walking on tiptoes. It’s a common experience; you take it and exaggerate it. I had done so much work with domestic violence that that part [of the writing] came easily.

It was harder to do research on what car to use. I spent an entire holiday having my family act out a car accident with my granddaughter’s little cars.

And I did a lot of research on brain damage. It feels like I read every single memoir out there; people with brain damage and caretakers. “Just the facts, ma’am” was easy, but getting the feeling of it—I thank about 30 memoirs.

Q: How did you pick the title?

A: The title always changes. The original title was A Thousand Suppers; it came from a line in the book. The title came to me by playing word games. I can spend a week playing with titles. I took words that were relevant, and played around with them.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: A book that’s based on a couple where the wife is unaware of the man’s fiscal improprieties until it comes out as a huge deal. There are hints of the Madoff deal. What is it like to be the wife? I was going to do it from the point of view of the wife, and now I’m starting to explore the guy.

I’m enjoying this, but when you do research, you do 1000 percent more than what you put in the book. I’m reading about fiscal stuff—the register of brokers and dealers from 1965!

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. For a previous Q&A with Randy Susan Meyers, please click here.

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