Thursday, November 15, 2018

Q&A with Jennifer Lourie

Jennifer Lourie is the author of the memoir Alone in the Backseat. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Q: You note that you wrote the first draft of this memoir in 23 days. What compelled you to write it, and how much did you change it in subsequent drafts?

A: "Compelled" is a great verb to describe how my book came into fruition. As I recount in the book, "Nathan" and I went on 11 dates before he decided our age difference was a deal breaker.

Despite him not wanting to be with me, he was someone I not only was in love with but who I also really liked, admired, and respected, especially for the way that he ended things with me in a straightforward manner that left no room for hope or confusion.

Fast forward 15 months and after keeping in touch but not seeing each other, we had an unexpected night together. I was so happy to see him and be near him that, five days later, still on such a high, I sat down to write a love letter, not to send, just to get out the feelings that were in my heart and head.

After reading the letter over, I said to myself, "WOW. This is REALLY GOOD. This is the beginning of a book." I had always known I had a story to tell, I just never knew where to begin.

That night, I started to write. My book flowed out of me and I worked on it non stop for the next three weeks, until I had enough words to form a reasonably sized paperback.

This story can be found in my blog in two different posts, here and here.

The book went through so many rounds of edits. Every time I thought I had finished editing for the last time, I'd find more changes to make. However, I did not change the structure of the book at all. The way I tell the story is the exact way that the story came out.

What I did make changes to were adding descriptions here and there to paint a clearer picture for the reader, tightening up the language, and hopefully improving some of the transitions so that the non-chronological story would flow for the reader in a way that made sense.

Q: What do you feel you've learned from having 71 roommates over the past eight years, and are you still housing renters in your apartment?

A: I learned that I am excellent at reading people and seeing right through them, to their essence. I also learned that I can do what needs to be done with a positive attitude and am adaptable.

I was not unhappy with strangers in my home and I am not unhappy now that I am by myself. You just do what you need to do and when you do it with a positive attitude, you make good stories to tell. 

Q: How did you come up with the book's title, and what does it signify for you?

A: I love this question. I actually came up with the title of the book probably 10 years ago. My husband had recently left me and I was in the backseat of my friends' (a married couple) car. They had picked me up to go out to dinner.

Sitting there alone in their backseat, I realized how I had always been alone in the backseat as a child and that even as an adult, I'd often go home to visit my parents unaccompanied by my husband and still find myself alone in the backseat.

That night I was with my friends, alone in their backseat and I said to myself (and possibly out loud too), "If I ever write a book, it is going to be called Alone in the Backseat." 

The title signifies to me the failures of my adulthood based on the expectations I had as a child when I'd be alone in my parents' backseat pretending I was next to someone, a husband actually.

As I recount in the book, even as a little girl, I had wanted to replicate my idyllic childhood with a husband and family of my own. None of that worked out so... now I am still alone in the backseat. 

Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?

A: There are various messages I want readers to take away from the book. First and foremost, that you should never give up because you never know what can happen.

Secondly, I want readers to take the time to look at the blessings in their lives and to be appreciative of both the big and little things. I want them to be kind in the dating world.

I want spouses to be nice to each other and appreciate each other because no one should take for granted having someone at their side, even when they are annoying. I want people to not be brats to their spouses like I was.

I want them to know that even if you look like everything should be going your way, you can still feel the most painful pangs of loneliness and that lonely people are not alone. Anyone can be lonely.

I want people to learn about different cultures and foods and have the chance to live vicariously through my experiences. I want people to be self-reflective and find strength to be solutions-oriented when life throws them for a loop. 

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Now I am working on trying to grow my audience so that my book can get in more people's hands. That includes my blog, photography to grow my Instagram to reach more people, and travel. I also have a full-time job. What I really want is for more people to read my story because it is GOOD.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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