Monday, January 8, 2024

Q&A with Angela Brown




Angela Brown is the author of the new novel Olivia Strauss Is Running Out of Time. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times. She lives in New Jersey.


Q: What inspired you to write Olivia Strauss Is Running Out of Time, and how did you create your character Olivia?


A: Although Olivia and her whole story are entirely fictional, I drew a lot of inspiration for her from my own life.


At the time I started the book, I was entering my late 30s, which, to me, felt like a big transition point. There were still so many things about myself that I hoped to change, my dream of writing novels being just one of them.


However, I felt some guilt about wanting to make changes. Life, after all, was really good: I had (and still have) a really happy and strong marriage, I had a wonderful child (I now have two wonderful children), I had a good stable job.


And yet, there were still things I longed to pursue just for myself. Which made me think: is there an expiration date for our dreams?


There’s one line early on in the book in which the character Marian says to Olivia: “You know, it’s okay to be happy and to still have things about your life that you want to change.”


If I had to select a single line from the book that I think captures the whole point of the story, that’d definitely be it. That question that Marian poses is really the question that had been weighing heavily on me and that ultimately inspired me to write this novel.

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


A: Believe it or not, I was only about 20 or so pages into my first draft of the novel when the title came to me. I love a big clunky title – they always feel so fun!


I also like to have a strong working title picked out very early in my writing, which makes whatever project I’m working on feel more “real” to me (typically, titles like “Book Two” or “New Draft” will only exist on a document of mine for a few short days).


The title for this book just felt really perfect to me from the get-go – it’s very much Olivia’s story, so I love that her name is included in it, and the “Running Out of Time” part I feel lends a sort of urgency to the story right from page one, which feels appropriate for this book.


Q: The Kirkus Review of the book called it a “heartfelt exploration of figuring out what one truly wants from life.” What do you think of that description?


A: I was thrilled when I saw the Kirkus Review and this line in particular. This is more or less exactly how I would want someone to describe the book.


Although I feel the novel can be funny at times, I really did want it to be a heartfelt type of story – something to tug on the heartstrings a bit and, hopefully, really encourage readers to pause and think about their own lives and aspirations.


So, yes, I was very happy with and grateful for this review.


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I didn’t exactly know how the novel would end before I started to write it, though I did have a vision very early on for where I wanted the protagonist, Olivia, to physically end up in the final chapter and more or less what I wanted her to be doing.


However, I didn’t quite know early on the specific circumstances I wanted or needed to surround that scene or how exactly I would get her to it. In terms of process, I think I’m both a plotter and a pantser.


For this book, I let myself freely write the first 100 pages and see where they took me, though once I hit the 100-page mark I took a break from the writing and spent several weeks developing a fairly in-depth outline so from that point forward I would have a pretty clear vision of where the story was heading.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I recently submitted my second novel to my editor, and look forward to sharing details about it in the New Year!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Only that I’m very grateful for every single reader who picks up my book. Thank you!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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