Saturday, December 31, 2022

Top 10 Posts of 2022: #1


Counting down the top 10 most-viewed posts of's #1, a Q&A with Ellen Marie Wiseman first posted on Aug. 6, 2020.
Ellen Marie Wiseman is the author of the new novel The Orphan Collector, which centers on the 1918 flu pandemic. Her other books include The Life She Was Given and The Plum Tree. She lives on the shores of Lake Ontario.

Q: The Publishers Weekly review of The Orphan Collector says, "Wiseman’s depiction of the horrifying spread of the Spanish flu is eerily reminiscent of the present day and resonates with realistic depictions of suffering, particularly among the poorer immigrant population." What is it like to have a book about the 1918 pandemic be published during today's pandemic?

A: It certainly is surreal! A number of people have asked if I have psychic powers because I finished The Orphan Collector in January 2019. But I can guarantee you, I don’t! When I turned the manuscript in to my editor, I never imagined we would be living through something so similar.

I thought the issues of immigration and our treatment of immigrant families would be the most talked about aspect of the book because of the character Bernice, who thinks she can turn immigrant children into what she feels are “true" Americans.

And honestly, after the virus started, I worried that people wouldn’t want to read about a pandemic while living through one. But thankfully I've discovered the opposite to be true—early readers say they found comfort and hope while reading the book, which makes me relieved and happy.

People also have a lot of questions about the Spanish flu and how it relates to what’s happening today, which is something I addressed in a piece for Vanity Fair called “What 1918’s “Forgotten Pandemic” Can Teach Us About today.” Here’s the link if anyone is interested in reading it.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Orphan Collector, and for your character Pia?

A: In between novels, I love to ask my readers for ideas for my next project. Of course they’re always happy to help and you’d be amazed by some of the fascinating stories they share!

After I finished my fourth novel, The Life She Was Given, a retired nurse asked if I’d ever heard of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and the brave nurses who risked their lives by visiting homes during that frightening time. I had to admit I hadn’t heard of the Spanish flu, but upon doing a little research I soon discovered I wasn’t the only one—1918 is called the year of forgotten death for a reason.

I also learned that Philadelphia was the hardest-hit city in the U.S. and the visiting nurses sometimes entered houses where all members of a family were dead, or both parents were dead and the children were starving. It didn’t take much digging to realize it was another little-known historical subject I wanted to explore.

Around the same time, a friend told me that her son-in-law and his twin brother had been found in a closet as infants, and the main plot point quickly came together in my mind.

As far as how I came up with Pia, I knew she had to be young enough that taking care of her baby brothers after her mother died would present a real problem.

I also made her a German immigrant living in the Philadelphia tenements because the immigrants and poor were effected by the Spanish flu at higher rate than those with living in other sections of the city. And because of the anti-German sentiment at the time due to the war, people blamed the German-Americans for the flu. It was a lot for Pia to deal with!

Q: What kind of research did you need to do to write the novel, and what especially surprised you in the course of your research?

A: Before I started writing, I read several books on the subject, including The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry. I also visited The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia website quite often, which was an invaluable resource.

Then I started writing and researching simultaneously, both for historical details to help make the story more authentic, and for facts and figures that needed verification. 

A lot of things surprised me during my research but probably the most startling fact was that the Spanish influenza infected one-third of the planet’s population and killed approximately 50 million people. Some estimates say it killed twice that many.

I was also shocked by how quickly victims died, especially during the second wave. They would be fine one minute and incapacitated and delirious the next.

Another subject I found extremely interesting were the medicines people used during that time, some of which were downright dangerous. Along with tying garlic around their necks, eating extra onions, and sucking on sugar cubes soaked in kerosene, they took formaldehyde tablets, morphine, laudanum, and chloride of lime.

They even gave whiskey and Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup to babies and children, despite the fact that it contained morphine, alcohol, and ammonia. The American Medical Association called the syrup a “baby killer” in 1911, but it wasn’t removed from the market until 1930. I often wonder if any of our current medicines or medical practices will be considered dangerous or barbaric in the future. 

Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story, especially given the Covid pandemic?

A: I hope readers will be drawn to Pia’s resiliency, courage, and determination in the face of impossible odds, even when shame and fear threaten to swallow her whole. I hope it will help them keep the faith that Covid will either end or be controlled someday. I also hope Bernice’s story will remind us that empathy for others, no matter their race, nationality, or religion, is always the right choice.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: My sixth book is partly set in Willowbrook State School, an institution for children with intellectual disabilities on Staten Island. Geraldo Rivera did a report on the school in the early ‘70s to expose the horrible conditions. 

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I’m incredibly grateful to you for having me, and for readers who decide to pick up The Orphan Collector. I can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks!

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Ellen Marie Wiseman.

Dec. 31


Dec. 31, 1908: Simon Wiesenthal born.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Top 10 Posts of 2022: #2



Counting down the top 10 most-viewed posts of's #2, a Q&A with Adele Myers first posted on March 2.


Adele Myers is the author of the new novel The Tobacco Wives. She works in advertising, and she lives in Brooklyn.


Q: In your author’s note, you write that the “seeds of the book ‘germinated’ for many years, over twenty years to be exact.” What made you decide to write the book?


A: I always knew that I wanted to write a novel at some point. I wrote mostly short stories and essays for many years, while building a career in public relations and advertising. My days were spent writing press releases and remarks for media events. At night I took classes in short story writing at The New School.


It was there that I met the teacher who planted the first seed of what would become The Tobacco Wives. I had written a short story about the wealthy wives of tobacco executives. I still have it actually, along with her note scrawled on the back page. “I think this could be a longer piece. There could be a novel here.”


My job took up most of my creative energy in those years, and then I got married and had a son. My own writing took a backseat, but my teacher’s comment stayed with me. Eight years ago, I decided it was time. I made a commitment to write a book based on that short story.


A combination of factors spurred me to make the decision at that time. My son was older, my work was less demanding, and I had grown as a person. I gave myself permission to focus on my passion.


Q: The writer Kristin Harmel said of the book, “The Tobacco Wives is a perfect example of the kind of historical fiction I love best: a story firmly grounded in the past that still feels powerfully resonant today.” What do you think of that assessment, and how would you compare the two eras?


A: I was thrilled when I first read Kristin’s comment. First of all, just because I’m such a big fan of her work, but also, I totally agree with her assessment.


The Tobacco Wives explores issues that are still relevant today; the parallels between Big Tobacco and the opioid epidemic, for instance. Both are situations where greed and deception led to public health crises.


My book also explores women’s rights. The cigarette factory workers had no job protection and made less than men. Even the wealthy wives of tobacco executives in fictional Bright Leaf, North Carolina, had no real power, and certainly no seat at the boardroom table.


Unfortunately, those same problems persist today. As of last year, only 8 percent of Fortune 500 companies are run by female CEOs. The gender gap in pay has remained relatively constant over the past 15 years, with women typically earning 84 percent of what men earn in similar roles. 


Q: How did you create your character Maddie, and why did you decide to make her a seamstress, as one of your grandmothers was?


A: The Tobacco Wives was inspired by my childhood growing up in tobacco country. Both sets of my grandparents lived and worked in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and my summers there were magical. Maddie came from those early experiences and evolved from there.


I decided to make her a seamstress because it gave me a way to put her inside the mansions of the tobacco wives. At that time, dressmakers visited the homes of wealthy clients. I loved the idea of dropping Maddie into this glamorous, unfamiliar world. What might she overhear? What might she find? There’s also an intimacy between a dressmaker and her client that I find fascinating.


Q: How did you research the novel, and what did you see as the right blend of history and fiction as you wrote it?


A: I started my research by going through old photo albums and talking to family members. I drew upon my relatives’ deep connections to tobacco, as well as my love of Winston-Salem.

I went through my father’s high school yearbook and noticed that the RJ Reynolds High School mascot was a devil. I noticed that the charm bracelet my mother left to me had a Jr./Sr. Prom charm with a big black R for Reynolds. I had always admired the antique thimble my grandmother left me, but didn’t realize at first that the beautiful flowers painted on it were tobacco blossoms.


My grandfathers also served the wealthy tobacco families, one as a senior executive with Wachovia Bank and the other as a home builder and cigarette factory worker. My great uncle was a portrait artist who painted seven RJ Reynolds presidents as well as countless wives and children.


What struck me most about my family’s experience was the immense pride that people felt back then about helping to build “the tobacco capital of the south.” In hindsight, it’s hard to believe that they didn’t know about the dangers of smoking, but during those years they had no idea.


What was it like for them, I wondered, to have such pride in their work and community, only to learn that they're producing products that kill people? How did proud tobacco town executives and workers react when medical studies linking smoking to cancer emerged in 1950? How would a tobacco wife react if she was the first to know, or better yet, if she discovered her husband had been covering it up?


These questions took the book in an exciting direction and spurred me to learn all I could about the fall of Big Tobacco.


The tobacco industry cover-up and campaign to deceive the American public is well-documented, and I found two sources in particular that were incredibly helpful -- The Gilded Leaf: Triumph, Tragedy, and Tobacco: Three Generations of the R.J. Reynolds Family and Fortune by Patrick Reynolds and Tom Shachtman; and Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition by Robert N. Proctor.


I also combed through congressional archives, read transcripts from tobacco executives’ testimony, and watched every movie and interview I could find on the topic.


While The Tobacco Wives is set in the fictional town of Bright Leaf, North Carolina, in the 1940s, I borrowed from the Big Tobacco revelations that came later, well into the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, and chose to focus on smoking’s effects on women in particular.


The 1940s was a time of social unrest, wartime conflict and emerging new options for women, a time that some historians say spurred the modern women’s rights movement.


Setting the book in this period and taking liberties with the timeline and nature of tobacco studies emergence enabled me to explore themes such as Southern women’s role in society, the impact of WWII on the workforce, and the use of advertising to shape public opinion. 


Anne Firor Scott’s book The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics 1830-1930, gave me an invaluable perspective on women’s lives and the influence they wielded behind the scenes.


My expertise in public relations and advertising gave me insight into the strategies employed by tobacco executives to mislead the public. 


I spent 18 years of my career at Porter Novelli public relations, a company that pioneered public health marketing campaigns like The Truth Anti-Tobacco Campaign, and The Know Your Numbers Campaign, which encouraged people to learn their numbers related to cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, weight and body mass index (BMI). 


I drew upon my experience in the field to develop Mr. Winston's plan, using techniques like credentialing, target audience insights and attribution of health benefits to ingredients vs. the final product.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on a second novel that is based in the South and involves another cover-up situation.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: If you want to write a novel, go for it. As Victorian novelist George Eliot said: “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Dec. 30



Dec. 30, 1922: Jane Langton born.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Top 10 Posts of 2022: #3


Francis Levy, photo by Hallie Cohen
Counting down the top 10 most-viewed posts of's #3, a Q&A with Francis Levy first posted on March 15, 2018.
Francis Levy is the author of the new novel Tombstone: (Not a Western). He also has written the novels Erotomania and Seven Days in Rio. His work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The New Republic.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Tombstone: (Not a Western)?

A: I have always been obsessed with death and the notion of the way that life and matter comes into being and then falls into oblivion. It’s the old philosophical question of something out of nothing and the reverse. 

Birth and death are both inexplicable mysteries that it’s impossible to fathom. The other is divinity and whether from a teleological point of view there is a first cause and prime mover.

I’m a rationalist and have trouble with the notion of an anthropomorphic conception of God—God as some cosmic telephone operator fielding requests. On the other hand the notion of the indifference of the universe, of the cosmic yawn is a little difficult to countenance for a weak and fearful creature like myself.

On a more pragmatic basis I simply had to deal with what my survivors would do with my remains, as everyone does. And before I knew it I had a novel.

Q: Did you know from the beginning how the novel would end, or did you change things around as you wrote?

A: I always think of Dante, but that didn’t lead me to the notion of an ending. The paradigm of paradise, hell and purgatory, however, present signposts and provide a map, along with way stations, particularly when it comes to suffering.

And so I envisioned a whole journey beginning on a lower level of pragmatic considerations, which I tended to dispose with humorously and then proceeding to other levels. Along the way, there would be obstacles, like the financial crisis and there would be teachers like the gurus you meet at the all-inclusive resort whose guests deal with death related matters.

I glommed onto the notion of the retreat, the sanitarium, a la Mann and The Magic Mountain, and that led me closer to the idea of the kind of ascendance you see at the end of the novel when the characters cross over into the afterlife.

Q: You've noted that you wrote about death before, including writing your own New Yorker obituary and a parody of Sherwin Nuland's book How We Die. Are there similarities in the approach you take to writing about death in Tombstone?

A: Yes, it’s very similar. I have a tendency to use humor to deal with issues that I actually take quite seriously. I can’t make a joke out of something unless I'm truly attracted to it. Again the resort dealing with afterlife issues exemplifies this.

On the one hand all the characters are imposters and frauds modeled on Moliere’s Tartuffe. On the other, I take them totally seriously. Just like my most deluded characters, I’m a seeker. The difference is that I’m a trifle more defended and that’s reflected in my use of parody.

Q: You describe the funeral industry as "a total rip-off." Why?

A: I was rather young when I arranged my first funeral. By the way, the original title for this book was “The Arrangements.” I guess I was kind of traumatized by what a business it turned out to be. You pick out caskets the way you do cars, only there are no trade-ins and you can’t buy a used one.

Jumping to the chase, I have a deep aversion to memorial services, the chapel, the sacrosanct speaker who receives his or her gratuity, the whole commodification of something which is ineffable. It’s more expensive to be buried than cremated since you have more paraphernalia and you have to buy real estate, i.e., a grave.

But after all is said and done what drives me crazy is the fact of the congregating. It’s supposed to be for the survivors, but every time I attend a funeral, people are in a rush. They're in a rush to get to their yoga and therapy appoints or to their trysts and they’re actually impatient.

I personally don’t want to be responsible for forcing people to come to some event that's going to cost my estate money and that they feel they have to attend to save face.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: My next novel is The Wormhole Society. It’s a kind of reversal of classical therapy. Instead of working inside out. I propose the sci fi idea of traveling to a parallel universe in which you can attain a more adaptable mode of living.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Dec. 29



Dec. 29, 1922: William Gaddis born.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Top 10 Posts of 2022: #4



Counting down the top 10 most-viewed posts of's #4, a Q&A with Elly Fishman first posted on Nov. 4, 2021.


Elly Fishman is the author of the new book Refugee High: Coming of Age in America. It focuses on Chicago's Roger C. Sullivan High School. Fishman worked as a senior editor and writer at Chicago magazine, and now teaches in the Journalism Department of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She lives in Milwaukee.


Q: You note that you were inspired to write about immigrant and refugee life in Chicago following protests in 2017 about Trump's immigration and refugee policies. What led you to Sullivan High School?


A: I had been reporting out of Chicago for a number of years at that point and had written about different schools. I called my network and asked around where refugee and immigrant kids went to school.


I realized Rogers Park was the landing point for so many refugees in the city. Sullivan was their neighborhood school.


I was encouraged to reach out to [principal] Chad Adams; our mutual contact knew him and said he probably would be open to a story at Sullivan.


Q: How did you choose the students on whom you focused in the book, and what do they think of it?


A: I purposefully took my time choosing the students. I wanted to make sure I had several conversations before diving into a multi-year project.


I had done a magazine piece, “Welcome to Refugee High,” and when I came back, a number of kids knew me and introduced me to their friends.


I spent time in the library getting to know the kids and seeing who seemed interested. I also wanted to choose kids with different backgrounds. The resettlement process is so diverse; I wanted windows into different elements, and that their on-the-ground day-to-day experiences would be different enough.


I did use translators, but I didn’t want four translators in school with me every day, so I needed to find kids I could talk to and kids I connected to. We needed to spend a lot of time together.


I tried to stay in touch. Covid has made it hard. [Before that,] I knew if they ignored me for a few days, I could find them in class.


Some have read the book—I tried to get it to all of them. The reactions were really positive in some cases. Some were excited to have their stories out there to help other refugees.


For others, it was more challenging to see their stories on the page. This always comes up when you’re reading someone’s version of you. I encouraged the kids to ask me questions and feel they had agency, but at the end of the day, it’s my version of the story.


Q: What impact did writing this book have on you?


A: So much! Three to four years is a long time. I grew up in Hyde Park, and had written about young people—homeless youth, queer youth—but I had never immersed myself in the refugee experience. I feel I got a global education. I felt like it made me a more empathetic person, a better neighbor. This took me to new places I hadn’t been.


Q: And what do you hope readers take away from it?


A: The reason I chose to write the book through an intimate close lens of young people’s experiences is that this is a narrative we can take to heart.


So much of the refugee issue involves numbers, the big picture—but it’s important to look at life on the ground. It moved me, and I hope it moves readers to be more empathetic and eager to reach out to people in their own communities.


Q: What do you see looking ahead when it comes to immigrants and refugees in the United States?


A: There’s a lot of hope right now after three years of a pretty bleak landscape. I’m so moved by the incredible enthusiasm for helping resettle Afghan refugees in particular. I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of Afghan refugees in Chicago.


There also are evergreen inherent challenges in finding your path. It’s a different administration but the anti-immigrant rhetoric has not gone away. It’s a continuing challenge. It’s coming up in elections all over Europe.


Refugee crises are not going to end, especially with global warming and political changes. It’s a mix.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m not working on another book yet. I’m hoping to continue to tell more of these stories now that more refugees are entering the country.


I’m thinking about other issues that have emerged as I reported the book and we’re still navigating the pandemic. There are big ideas, but I need to find the story. I’m hoping to send time on the ground doing reporting and see what comes next.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Another reason I decided to focus on young people and what their lives looked like was because when I first walked into Sullivan, it was a dynamic, exciting high school with all the elements of high school—flirting, cafeteria cliques, texting.


It upended my image of refugee experiences—images of families fleeing to safety, refugee camps. Those are important, but this complicated that. It humanized the experience. They’re teenagers. There was so much that felt familiar to me. It felt like an important part of the story to highlight.


It shows kids’ resilience—they’re not only defined by the moments of trauma they carry. I wanted to put resilience front and center.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Dec. 28



Dec. 28, 1895: Carol Ryrie Brink born.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Top 10 Posts of 2022: #5



Photo by Christopher Michel


Counting down the top 10 most-viewed posts of's #5, a Q&A with Katie Hafner first posted Aug. 1.

Katie Hafner is the author of the new novel The Boys. Her other books include Mother Daughter Me. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times and Esquire. She lives in San Francisco.


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


A: In the summer of 2017, I was on a bike trip in Scandinavia with my daughter. It was one of those trips where they take your luggage from one destination to the next, and you stay in really nice hotels and eat delicious food.


During one of those delicious meals, one of the guides told a story that I found intriguing, and so did my daughter, because she said, “Mom, that’s a novel.” And so I wrote it. I knew only the barest of facts and let my imagination take it from there.


I knew I wanted the main character to be a man -- an anxious man who hasn’t integrated very successfully with the outside world. Then I just let him develop from there.


Q: The writer Laura Zigman said of the book, “Hafner is a wry and wise explorer of the secrets buried deep in our most intimate relationships.” What do you think of that description, and how would you describe the relationships in the novel?


A: One of my main goals was to get the reader to connect with the characters by watching the characters connect with one another. I also wanted all the relationships in the book to originate with Ethan, in a hub-and-spokes way.


So, I created relationships for him that would help him connect to the wider world, the most important being with Barb, his wife, who's empathic and outgoing. She becomes Ethan's sturdiest spoke. It's Barb who shows Ethan that intimacy and connection needn't be dangerous, and can be wonderful and rewarding. 

That central Ethan-Barb relationship plants the seeds for more connection in Ethan's life. Tragically, so deep is Ethan's bond with the two boys he and Barb foster that he drives Barb away. And yet....


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 knew generally how it would end but I got stuck on just how to pull it off. There had to be a plausible ending, and filling in the gaps with just the right particulars was a challenge. I hope you think it works!


Q: The novel is set in the Philadelphia area, and also in Italy. How important is setting to you in your writing?


A: Setting is super important to me. I chose Philly because I wanted an East Coast location, and although I’m not from Philly, my husband went to undergrad and medical school there, and when I was working on the book my daughter was living there.


There’s a key role played by the Mütter Museum in Philly, which was another reason to set it there.


I also wanted to find just the right house for Ethan and Barb to live in, and I found it in west Philly. My husband and I were admiring the house from the outside one day when the owners came walking up the street, and they gave us a tour.


Italy is important as a setting because it’s such a magical place: the hills, the villages, and the little churches everywhere. So I set Ethan and Barb’s honeymoon there in the first half of the book, then had Ethan repeat the trip with the boys, as he tries to recapture the magic.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: A few things:


I’m getting back to a book I started in 2015, which has a story I really love. It’s a low-key (no one is threatening to blow up the world) science thriller. But the plot is very intricate, the story multi-layered.


When I started that book, I realized it was a lot to take on as a first novel, so when the plot for The Boys fell into my lap, with a much cleaner narrative line, I put the first book aside. I think I’m ready now to take it on.


I’m also very busy with the podcast I produce, Lost Women of Science, which we publish in partnership with Scientific American.


And I’m working on a collection of essays about taking up the game of golf later in life in order to spend more time with my husband. Strange, I know.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Katie Hafner.

Q&A with Elinor Lipman




Elinor Lipman is the author of the new novel Ms. Demeanor. Her many other novels include Rachel to the Rescue. She has taught writing at Simmons, Smith, and Hampshire colleges, and she lives in Manhattan and in Holmes, New York.


Q: What inspired you to write Ms. Demeanor, and how did you create your character Jane?


A: I create all my characters one sentence at a time. I rarely begin with an inspiration or even with a story to tell, and I know almost nothing about my characters until they reveal themselves. I’m always thinking what’s next? What makes sense? What makes a story? I’m a stern editor of my own work and can sense when I’m going down the wrong path. I do a lot of cutting--whole chapters. 


I was once collecting advice for my students at a summer workshop, asking other members of the faculty, “What do you do when you’re stuck?” The author Carol Edgarian’s answer was, “Go back to the truest line.” I follow that almost daily. And I also follow David Mamet’s practice: Get into a scene as late as possible and leave it as early as possible. 


Q: The author Wally Lamb said of the book, “Lipman, a master chef of literary romantic comedy, cooks up a deliciously entertaining story whose ingredients include wit, sass, sex, and social satire.” What do you think of that description, and would you describe your work as satirical?


A: What do I think of that description? I love it. I think there’s a difference between social satire and being satirical. The former can be gentler. I don’t let social satire invade the novel’s entire voice; it’s more in the characters’ individual observations.  


Q: How would you describe the dynamic between Jane and her twin sister, Jackleen?

A: Both Jane and Jackleen see Jackleen as the alpha twin. She’s bossy and quite often condescending. Most of the time, Jane remains indulgent of Jackleen’s patronizing because it’s partnered with generosity and love. Jackleen means well. I think we all have a Jackleen in our lives. And I made sure to give Jane her due.


Q: You dedicated the novel to the memory of your friend, the wonderful writer Mameve Medwed. Can you tell us more about her?


A: She was my best friend for over 30 years, and though she’s only been gone a year, my brain is still wired to want to share with her every thought that runs through my head.


For decades I sent her everything I wrote for her feedback—every novel chapter as I polished them; every book review, every essay, every blurb I was asked to write. And vice versa. We were each other’s first readers, unofficial editors and cheerleaders. Her six novels are funny, sweet, poignant, smart. I wrote about the friendship here


When people ask “Who do you write for? Who is your audience?” the truthful answer was “Mameve.”


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m on the third chapter of a novel that I’d better not characterize, because I recently threw away 30 pages of what I thought was the next novel when it went aground.


But here’s a hint: I did crowd-source one element of the new pages on Facebook: I asked my FB friends help in naming a fictional business that ran estate sales…


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Sheltering during Covid wasn’t exactly house arrest, but it did provide some parallels. Like Jane, I went nowhere, did an awful lot of cooking, and binged on British Police Procedurals. The pandemic isn’t mentioned in the book. My editor thought it best to keep the story timeless.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Elinor Lipman.