Friday, May 31, 2024

Q&A with Holly Gramazio


Photo by Diana Patient


Holly Gramazio is the author of the new novel The Husbands. She is also a game designer. She is from Adelaide, Australia, and she's based in London.


Q: What inspired you to write The Husbands, and how did you create your character Lauren?


A: A bunch of different things came together to inspire The Husbands.


For example:
* Sitting with friends while they went through their online dating chores - watching them scroll through this endless carousel of faces, the exhaustion and frustration of it.
* The weird tension between the feeling of really, really liking my partner, feeling lucky that I met him when I did - and the intellectual knowledge that there are probably other people out there who I'd be just as happy with.

* An interest in the way that friends and partners can nudge us in different directions, teach us new hobbies, introduce us to new people, leave us someone we wouldn't otherwise have been - I thought a lot about what it might be like to be parachuted into a differently-partnered version of your life, how it would feel to find yourself at a different edge of the plausible range of people you could be.


And part of it was that when the pandemic lockdowns kicked off, I was back at home visiting my family in Australia. And being unable to leave the city you grew up in is definitely a good way to encourage you to think about different versions of people's lives, different ways things might have turned out! 


Lauren, I think, was shaped a little by the needs of the story - she had to be someone who struggled with decision-making, who didn't like to risk being wrong, who wanted to be in a relationship but probably wasn't going to do anything much about it, who would be curious and not TOO terrified by the whole magic attic situation.


And then once I had that basic concept of what she was like, I built it up by experimenting with her in different situations. 


Q: You’re also a game designer--do you think that background influenced the writing of your novel?


A: Absolutely. I wrote in a very piecemeal kind of way, a scene here, a character there, very much out of order, building up a huge stack of material and then using that as something to work with to shape the novel.


I think that's definitely influenced by games writing, where quite often you write things out of order, or directly into spreadsheets. 


Q: The Publishers Weekly review of the novel said, in part, that “there’s plenty of intelligence and candor in the author’s creative spin on the conundrum of commitment.” What do you think of that description, and what do you think the novel says about commitment?


A: I think it's a very kind thing to say!


For me, what The Husbands is saying about commitment is pretty simple, I guess: that it can be difficult, that it can be hard to give up on the idea of finding something or someone that's absolutely perfect, so clearly correct that the choice washes away all objections.


But for pretty much anything - what do you want for dinner, what movie do you want to watch, where do you want to live, what course do you want to enroll in, and of course relationships - the same thing is true: there are good options, and bad options, and okay-ish options, but there's not one perfect option that's so much better than all the others that we should wait to find it.


If you're hungry, eat some lunch, right? Don't walk around the city for two hours looking for the perfect combination of cheap, delicious, good vibes, not too busy, seat isn't too near the bathroom.


There's a value in just making a decision over and above the value of whatever the option you've picked might be. (Can you tell I struggle with where to eat basically every time I'm in town on my own?)   


Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I had NO idea - I knew that there wasn't going to be one perfect match for Lauren, but beyond that I didn't really know where it was going.


And in fact, the version of the book I sent to my agent had a branching ending, with three versions of the ending quite different from the version we ended up with - she came back to me and said: look, this needs a better ending.


And I stomped around crossly for a month thinking "if I could have THOUGHT of a better ending I would have WRITTEN it" until finally - I think - I found one.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: A couple of different ideas that I'm hoping will turn out to be the next book, but it's all still a little bit up in the air - I'm just accumulating scenes and characters and words and hoping it shakes out into something! Might have a better idea of where it's going in a couple of weeks...


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: None of the major husbands are based on anyone I know, but at least four of the annoying short-lived husbands who only turn up for a sentence or two are based on me. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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