Saturday, September 21, 2019

Q&A with Lisa Lutz


Lisa Lutz, photo by Morgan Dox
Lisa Lutz is the author of the new novel The Swallows. Her other books include the novels The Passenger and How To Start a Fire. She lives part-time in New York's Hudson Valley.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Swallows?

A: I had the idea to write about a gender war and a private school setting made the most sense. I can’t say where the germ of the idea came from. My ideas are rarely sparked by an article or something in real life.

That said, after I had the idea, I did read up on private school scandals mostly to confirm my theory that what happened in The Swallows was entirely plausible.

Q: The novel is set at a private school. How important is setting to you in your writing?

A: It depends on the book. With The Swallows it was more important than other books. It needed to be its own universe. I do prefer creating a setting from scratch rather than working off of a real location.

That said, a fake location has to be consistent in your descriptions, which can be tricky for someone with a sub-par memory and a sub-sub-par spatial memory. I drew a map, which was fun and I definitely indulged in place naming, which was constantly shifting as new, better ideas cropped up.

Q: The story is told from several perspectives. Did you write the book in the order in which it appears, or did you focus on one character before turning to the others?

A: During revisions, I would occasionally review only one character at a time just to stay in that voice, but I generally write in the order that the story will be read. I think that’s necessary in terms of pacing. That said, whenever I had to rejigger a plot point, it became a major headache since not all characters would be privy to certain moments in the story.

Q: The Kirkus Review of the novel calls it an "offbeat, darkly witty pre–#MeToo revenge tale." What do you think of that characterization?

A: It’s inevitable that people are going to talk about the #MeToo movement in connection with this book. However, I conceived of the story and began writing long before #MeToo. I don’t see a clear demarcation of societal standards before or after. I think the story was relevant before and I think it’s relevant now.

I understand that people see the movement as a sign of awareness and progress. I just see it as more awareness. I’m not sure I see the progress just yet. We are not as evolved as a society as we think we are.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I’m working on a crime novel that involves a 20-year platonic friendship. I’m not sure this is the perfect pitch, but think When Harry Met Sally with a couple murders.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I wouldn’t know where to begin. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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