Sunday, July 23, 2023

Q&A with Scott Lord



Scott Lord is the author of the new novel Come November. A longtime trial lawyer, he lives in Santa Monica, California.


Q: You write that your mother’s experiences inspired you to write this novel--could you say more about that?  


A: Sure. As I’ve said elsewhere, my mother’s scrapbook and stories of her trip to the UN in 1947 was the starting point for my novel.


As a young woman, my mother was editor-in-chief of her high school at 17 (apropos of nothing, her predecessor in the job was Hugh Hefner), and the editor in chief of a small local daily in Chicago when she was 20. She was a terrific writer and highly skilled pianist.


But she went to secretarial school instead of college, then married and began having children at 22 instead of pursuing a career. It was in part her choice, but it was also due to the sexism and expectations of the time (the early 1950s).


She didn’t develop a full satisfying career (as an executive in a large corporation) until she was in her 50s and her five children were mostly grown. So, in a way, her journey was similar to Jeanne’s.


Q: How would you describe the relationship between your characters Jeanne and John?  


A: They meet and fall in love when they are very young – and their relationship has all the joy, intensity, uncertainty, pain, jealousy, and passion of love at that age. 


They meet again when they’re in their 70s – and discover that although they have the experiences of a lifetime and are supposedly older and wiser – their emotions are just as intense, just as painful, and just as passionate as when they were younger.


Q: How did you research the novel, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?  


A: I spent over a year researching the novel and worked with skilled specialists at the New York Historical Society, the New York Public Library, the United Nations Headquarters, and UCLA’s libraries.


I visited most of  the locations depicted in the novel: Chicago (where I was born and lived for nine years), New York, Lake Success, Queens, Rome, Italy, and Todi, Italy. 


Perhaps the most surprising thing I learned was the level of violence and terrorism that took place in Palestine during the British Mandate years (1922-1948) on all sides.


One of the most valuable resources was the New York Times “Time Machine” which enables you to access every daily NY Times going back to the 1920s. I could find daily reports of the events of 1947, the plays on Broadway, and who was headlining at local jazz clubs.


I was even able to find the exact time that the Queen Mary was due to embark from New York to London on Nov. 26, 1947 – as depicted in the book - in the “shipping news” section.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you? 


A: Come November is intended 1) to straightforwardly reflect the fact that most of the book’s action in the “1947” sections take place in November, including the UN vote on partition, and 2) metaphorically reflect that in the 2003 sections of the book, Jeanne and John are in the “November” of their lives.


The working title of the novel was “Lake Success” but during the editing process we discovered that another novel with the same title had been published a few years ago. We also felt it did not quite reflect the contents of the novel.


Q: What are you working on now? 


A: I’m about half-finished with a “coming of age” novel. I grew up in the West San Fernando Valley in the Los Angeles area in the late 1960s and 1970s where the U.S. aerospace industry was centered. Their work included the design and manufacture of rockets used in the space program as well as nuclear defense.


I remember the loud roar and the red glow of the sky at night as they frequently tested rocket engines in the hills (the same hills where Charles Manson and many counterculture types were holed up) a few miles away.


At the same time, very intense protests against the Vietnam war and nuclear war itself were taking place. The book is the story about a 17-year-old student who becomes enmeshed in the violent fringes of the antiwar movement. It is, to some extent, autobiographical.


Q: Anything else we should know?  


A: In addition to the hardcover and electronic version of Come November being released in July, there will also be an unabridged audiobook recorded by a terrific actress named Nancy Linari, a Second City alum. Like Jeanne, Nancy is from Chicago.


I attended every minute of the recording sessions and Nancy does a wonderful job of enacting all of the characters of the novel.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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