Q: What inspired you to write The Wise Women, and how did you create your characters Wendy, Clementine, and Barb?
A: The Wise Women was born out of a big year of personal and professional change. In many ways, I felt like Clementine—like the rug had been pulled out from underneath me. I was faced with so much uncertainty and wanted to explore that.
What happens when the life we have been building no longer exists? And who are the first people we turn to in those moments of crisis? My answer was family.
I've always been fascinated by family dynamics, particularly mother-daughter relationships, and how one siblings' experience with their parent can be so different from the other.
I'm lucky to have a wonderful relationship with my mother and sister. My sister and I are very different people, but we love one another and have each other's backs. I wanted to take that to the next level with Barb and Clementine and show how even though Barb isn't a mother, she has acted as one to Clementine for most of their lives.
And like a lot of women of her generation, Wendy is both a product of her time and a reaction to it. She means well with her often terrible advice intended for a certain type of traditional woman, even though she isn't one herself.
I have a lot of love for these characters, and it was important to me to portray them as multi-dimensional women. Even if we disagree with them, I wanted us to see and understand their point of view.
Q: The author Caroline Leavitt said of the book, "About the price of real estate, the power of aging, class, parenting, family and, of course, love, The Wise Women is at heart about finding your personal True North." What do you think of that description?
A: I love that description! I think she nails it. These women are all trying to find their way while staying true to themselves. They get lost along the way as we all do, and we follow them on their journey to get to where they hope to be.
Q: How does your background in acting affect your writing?
A: I think it affects how I approach character and story. I like to create complex people and understand what motivates them. It's character that informs my story, and following those characters and seeing what they get up to, shapes my plot.
I also think my experience in improv allows me to play with dialogue and situations more freely than I might otherwise.
Q: Can you say more about the dynamic among your three protagonists?
A: It's complicated and messy and full of love.
Clementine is very much the baby of her family and a people pleaser. She knows that her mom had to work hard to make a life for herself and her children, and she spent her childhood not wanting to rock the boat.
Barb had to act as a mother to Clementine and shoulder a lot of responsibility at a very young age. As a result, she missed out on being mothered herself and has some deep-rooted resentment toward Wendy.
And Wendy has alternated between not being present enough as a mother to her daughters and overcompensating by meddling in their lives.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm currently working on a book about three friends who haven't seen each other in a decade since one of them ghosted the other two. It's a book that explores the question of what now? I think that it's a question that many people face mid-life. It's a book about friendship, forgiveness, and second chances.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: It was important to me to write a novel that celebrated the strength and resilience of women and how we come together and support one another. I wanted it to be witty and warm of full of hope, and I hope that comes through!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Gina Sorell.