Allie Larkin is the author most recently of the novel Why Can't I Be You. She also has written the novel Stay.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Why Can't I Be You?
A: My editor for Stay was inspired by an episode of This American Life about an improv stunt where people pretended to be mega-fans of an unknown band. She liked the idea of a story about someone becoming a new person after an experience like that.
While spinning that concept in several different directions, Jenny Shaw showed up, ready to get dumped at the airport and start a new life.
Q: Your main character, Jenny, faces issues of identity and loneliness. How do the two combine to affect her?
A: Jenny has been so busy trying to be who everyone else has needed her to be that she’s never had time to figure out who she is. When your life is basically a reaction to your surroundings, there isn’t room for deep friendships or connection.
So when Jenny has the opportunity to step into a life that comes complete with a group of bright, warm, funny friends, it’s too appealing to pass up.
Q: Do you think old friends really know a person best, or are they still responding to how a person was when he/she was younger and not seeing the changes in that person?
A: Certainly, when we’ve been out of touch with old friends, there’s that funny regression that happens when we get back together. We all go back to being who we were, at least a little bit.
But when friendships continue over time, I think there’s an evolution that happens. There’s a special kind of magic in friendships with people who understand where you come from and also who you are now.
Q: How do you view the role of humor in your novels?
A: I think life is funny. We’re all a little ridiculous, aren’t we? I love celebrating that. Sometimes, even in the midst of darkness, humor creeps in, and that relief is beautiful. So, I don’t think there should be an absolute divide between funny and serious. I think they can work together.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on a project that has been in the works for a very long time. I’m not quite ready to share details on it yet, other than to say that my love for this book is enormous.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Julia Whelan, who read the audiobook for Stay, also reads Why Can’t I Be You, and she’s incredible. I’m an audiobook junkie and a huge fan of Julia in general, so it’s something I’m extremely excited about.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb