Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Q&A with Ellen Meister



Ellen Meister is the author of the new novel Take My Husband. Her other novels include The Rooftop Party. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times.


Q: What inspired you to write Take My Husband, and how did you create your character Laurel?


A: I was working on another book—and truly in a zone, dedicated to finishing it—when the muse flew into my home and landed in my lap, delivering the idea to write a book about a happily married woman who wants to kill her husband. It is, of course, pure coincidence that the muse paid a visit at the exact moment my dear husband interrupted my writing session!


As far as fleshing out the character, I knew Laurel would need to be someone who clung to very traditional ideas of marriage—a woman utterly committed to subjugating her own needs for her husband’s.


From there, I pushed into her background, her psychology, to figure out how she landed exactly where she did. Along the way, it opened  a window on her childhood, and the character of her mother—a doll-collecting agoraphobic—became a key part of the story.


Q: Without giving anything away, did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I basically knew how it would end. In fact, that’s how I always plan my books—I figure out the arc I want for my main character, and then form the story around it. That said, there’s more redemption in this book than I expected there to be. I guess I wound up liking Laurel more than I thought I would!

Q: How would you describe the relationship between Laurel and her husband, Doug?


A: It certainly follows a traditional model of marriage, with the wife in service to her husband. But of course it’s more layered and nuanced than it seems. Laurel was someone who needed a lot of love, and Doug provided that. He was sweet, funny, and utterly adoring. And yes, he was needy. But that evolved over time, and Laurel has to grapple with the role she played in that trajectory.


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


A: First, I hope they’re engaged and entertained. Second, I hope they see at least some part of themselves in these characters. And lastly, I hope the reader will recognize the message that a good relationship cannot be based on the subjugation of one person’s needs for another’s. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m going back-and-forth between two books right now. One is a collaboration I can’t really talk about. But the other is a story about a young woman with almost heartbreaking earnestness, and it centers on her relationship with her irascible father. I can’t give away too much yet, but it takes place in Brooklyn, and I’m having so much fun with it.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: A few different reviewers have mentioned that Take My Husband would make a great dark comedy television series. That tickled me, because I teamed up with the creative folks at Can Do Entertainment to write a pilot, and we’re trying to interest some studios. Stay tuned!  


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

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