Susan Schoenberger is the author of the new novel The Liability of Love. Her other books include A Watershed Year. A longtime journalist, she now works as director of communications at Hartford Seminary. She lives in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Q: What inspired you to write The Liability of Love, and how did you create your cast of characters?
A: This story started out with a challenge to myself to create more realistic and layered male characters. In fact, one of the main characters, Douglas, was the principal protagonist in my first draft.
But as seems to happen with me, the story and characters changed radically as I rewrote new versions of the novel. The four main characters who tell the story emerged after many iterations.
Strangely, two minor characters – Ollie and Tiffany – came to me almost fully formed. I greatly enjoyed employing them in different scenes with the main characters.
Q: The Kirkus Review of the book called it "A novel that explores how societal expectations can make people hide their true selves." What do you think of that description?
A: I think it’s right on the money. Almost every character in the book is in love with the wrong person at some point or another, but they hide it because they don’t think their feelings match society’s expectations.
The character Fitz not only hides his feelings for his college friend Margaret, but he develops an eating disorder because of what society expects of someone with his wealth and status.
Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: Oh, gosh, I never know how my stories will end. Well, I have an idea when I start, but I’m usually proven wrong. This story, in particular, changed so many times that I couldn’t even tell you the number of drafts.
The ending also changed radically from one late draft to the final one, and I think that’s what ultimately brought the whole book together.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?
A: I hope readers think about the risks that we take when we fall in love, how that’s terribly fraught but also terribly exciting. I loved thinking about how liability – in the insurance industry – is a measure of risk and how that compares to the liability inherent in our emotions.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’ve started a new novel about a “hyperpolyglot,” or someone who speaks an extraordinary number of languages. It’s been slow, but it’s coming along.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I love hearing from readers. If you like The Liability of Love, or even if you don’t, please reach out to me through my website www.susanschoenberger.com
Thank you for the great questions!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb