Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Q&A with Ann Garvin




Ann Garvin is the author of the new novel There's No Coming Back from This. Her other novels include I Thought You Said This Would Work. She is also the founder of Tall Poppy Writers, and she teaches creative writing at Drexel University. She lives in Wisconsin.


Q: What inspired you to write There’s No Coming Back from This, and how did you create your character Poppy?


A: I made a joke to my friend. I said, “Wouldn’t it be funny to remake all of Nora Ephron’s romcoms but with dogs? We laughed, and then I said, “It would be so great to make millions as the costume designer on that set and be able to tell everyone how you got your money.”


This was way before I understood that costume designers are not millionaires. Despite my basically zero knowledge of what costumers do on a movie I took that off-handed comment, and the idea for There’s No Coming Back from This was born.


Q: The novel is set in a film studio--how important is setting to you in your writing?


A: Place and setting is another character in my books. I’m an enormous observer of how different people are depending on where they live. There is something fascinating about fish-out-of-water stories. Dropping a Midwestern people pleaser into the shark tank of a Hollywood movie set--the humor writes itself.


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


A: I often find my book titles in something the characters say. It’s like a golden ticket in the book. You’re reading along and boom, there it is.


For this book, the line seemed like a perfect title because it signifies two things. “There’s no coming back from this” sounds like it’s a bad thing, but in many cases, that’s life. There’s no coming back from anything if you’re learning and growing. So, I want people to feel the tension of the words and think harder about how change is inevitable. 


Q: The writer Jessica Strawser called the book “a relatable, moving, laugh-out-loud story of determination, grit, and the things we do for love. It’s the best kind of fish-out-of-water story, and a ton of fun.” What do you think of that description, and what do you see as the role of humor in your writing?


A: Jessica’s comments are the kind of comments that an author lives for. It’s exactly how I want people to feel about this book. Like their best friend had an adventure, and she wants to tell you all the things. 


Humor writing is often disparaged as lacking depth and being no more than light fluff. But humor lives in the seat of pain. To write humor you have to understand what makes people cringe, cry, feel shame, and blush—then you shine a light on it. You make it relatable, and fill it with a dose of surprise so people can see themselves as human and flawed.


And that this not only okay, it’s funny. Funny takes the sting out of our faults and shrugs its shoulders at our imperfections. I’m lucky because it’s the way I think, so it’s easy for me. I think everything is funny and a little bit sad.

Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m writing the book of my heart. I’ve been working on this book for so long and I finally figured it out. It’s the story of a woman who has been trying to break away from her family business—a summer theater camp for kids that has been transformed to a camp for anxious and depressed adults run by anxious and depressed college students.


It’s the kind of place I think the world needs, and my protagonist will do anything to get out of it. It’s called Bummer Camp and it comes out in 2024.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I’d like people to know that I love bringing my odd characters to light because I find we are all odd characters. I want people to see themselves in my work, smile and nod, and feel better about themselves. That’s my goal. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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