Thursday, February 9, 2023

Q&A with Amy Meyerson


Photo by Amanda Treyz


Amy Meyerson is the author of the new novel The Love Scribe. Her other novels include The Imperfects. She teaches in the writing department at the University of Southern California, and she lives in Pasadena, California.


Q: What inspired you to write The Love Scribe, and how did you create your character Alice?


A: I think most writers wrote their “quarantine novel,” and this was mine. The “quarantine novel” looks different for everyone, but something about the isolation of being at home allowed many writers I know to try new things.


While The Love Scribe has the bookish quality of my other novels, as well as the focus on family, on the surface it’s a pretty different novel. At the time I started writing this, I was craving an escape. Alice and Madeline’s world became somewhere I was excited to visit when I couldn’t really go anywhere in my daily life.


I came up with the idea of a love scribe—someone who has the power to write stories that make people fall in love—before I discovered Alice. I was drawn to the contradictions of someone who could provide others with love but didn’t want love for herself.


That’s when the questions started buzzing: why wouldn’t she want love? What’s she afraid of? What’s her backstory? I knew I wanted Alice’s story to be something more unique than a bad breakup that ruined her on love, even though that happens in life. That’s how I started to think about someone who might be equally afraid of finding a perfect love as one that fails.


For the first draft, Alice’s name kept changing. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to call her. One day, right before the paperback edition of The Imperfects came out, my brother’s family was over, and I gave a copy to my then 3-year-old niece, Alice.


As she was looking through the book, Alice’s mom asked her if she would like Aunt Amy to name a character after her, which was very exciting to her. Plus, I liked how Alice was also a call to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, so it just clicked as a name.

When I told my sister-in-law that I’d named the protagonist after her Alice, she said that Alice, who is learning to read, would be very excited to find her name on the pages of my novel. That alone makes it the perfect name for my character.


Q: The writer Amy Jo Burns said of the book, “Amy Meyerson has written a clever investigation of romance that reads like a most beloved fable, and she completely charmed me with her wide-open heart.” What do you think of that description, and do you see the story as resembling a fable?


A: I absolutely love Amy Jo Burns’s novel Shiner, so I was honored to have her words of support for my new book. In The Love Scribe, Alice goes to visit an old woman in the woods, so I was definitely thinking about fairytales and fables when I was writing this. And I wanted to language to a have a fabulistic quality to it. I’m so pleased she saw that quality in the novel.


Q: What do you see as the role of fate in the novel?


A: In early drafts of the novel, I was grappling with whether Alice’s talents were really magical. After people read her stories, they fall in love, but is that because Alice’s stories have power or is it because her clients inform the stories with power? In other words, when they find love, is it magic or free will?


Later in the novel, Alice’s best friend Gabby explains to her that she was always going to meet Oliver—the man Gabby fell in love with after reading Alice’s story—but Alice’s story made it feel fated. Love always feels a little magical, a little pre-determined, and I wanted to capture that quality in the book through Alice’s stories.


Q: The book begins with an epigraph from Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet: “For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us...” Why did you choose to include those lines?


A: Without giving too much away, Letters to a Young Poet plays a prominent role in the novel. It’s very important to one of the characters. I’ve always loved that collection and the way Rilke talks about love.


When I was rereading the letters, I was struck by this line and the way it presents love as work. It resonated with how I wanted to capture love in my novel, as something active, something that requires effort. I think this epigraph prepares the reader to expect the multifaceted exploration of love that follows in the novel. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on a few projects, but I haven’t fully committed to what my next novel will be. I’m usually very quick to tell people about what I’m working on, but it’s fun, having it be private for now. It makes me feel like I can take risks and make mistakes because I’m not contending with anyone else’s expectations. Once I’m a little further along, I’ll share more😊


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: The Love Scribe provided me with an escape when I needed one, and I hope it can do the same for readers. If you get a chance to read it, I’d love to know what you think.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Amy Meyerson.

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