Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Q&A with Libby Sternberg




Libby Sternberg is the author of the new novel Daisy, which tells the story of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic The Great Gatsby from the perspective of Daisy Buchanan. Sternberg's other books include Sloane Hall. She lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.


Q: You write that The Great Gatsby was one of the books that inspired you to be a writer. Can you say more about that, and about why you decided to write this novel?


A: I found The Great Gatsby very moving when I read it the first time. I remember the emotion of it more than the plot itself, how it captured that great yearning of Gatsby’s, a sense of sehnsucht, as the Germans might say. And I wanted to be able to write like that, to ignite feelings within readers that stayed with them.


Writing Daisy was like writing a piece of fan fiction, in a way, something based on Fitzgerald’s original that I hope pays tribute to him while exploring a character who’s not three-dimensional in the novel.


Q: What did you see as the right balance between Fitzgerald's version of Daisy and your own?


A: I don’t know if I consciously thought about balance as I wrote Daisy. I knew the skeleton of the story should stay in place, but I felt free to play with details, to diverge from the original in places where I wanted Daisy to tell a different story. So readers of the original will find some surprises in Daisy that I hope don’t disappoint them.


Q: How would you describe the dynamic between Daisy and Gatsby? Daisy and Tom?


A: I’ve half-joked that Gatsby is really, well, a stalker. He carried the torch for his love, Daisy, and then buys/rents a house across from her and throws lavish parties all to entice her to his door, even though he knows she’s married. When that doesn’t work, he enlists her cousin Nick to get her alone at Nick’s more modest abode.

So as you look at him that way, his obsessiveness becomes a bit alarming. In my novel you see her beginning to wonder about that, especially since she already feels that her husband’s obsession with her fidelity while he engages in affairs is troubling, to say the least. She begins to see that the men in her life might think of her as an object more than as a person.


Q: You note, “As I explored her [Daisy’s] character, I came to ponder how hemmed in women's lives were during that period.” How did that affect your recreation of Daisy Buchanan?


A: In Daisy, she begins at some point to think about how she’d live on her own if she left her husband. Back in the 1920s, though, it would have been hard for a woman, even a woman of wealth, to sustain herself without a man. Her financial well-being was tied to her husband.


She might have also had a difficult time keeping her daughter with her, given her husband’s wealth and possible influence.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Another book with a somewhat feminist theme, a gentle romance about a woman in 1919 who seeks admission to Johns Hopkins Medical School, one of the few medical schools that admitted women at the time because of conditions a Hopkins donor (a woman) put on a major gift – that women should be admitted equal to men (that part of the story is not fiction).


I think the romance genre is undervalued (it’s a genre dominated by women writers and readers, so go figure), and I enjoy writing in it in addition to penning more upmarket fiction.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Just that I love to write and I’m very excited about Daisy. I hope readers enjoy it and find it a good companion to the original. I’ve been lifted up by some pre-print notices it’s been getting. It warms writers’ hearts to hear people like their work.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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