Betty Book Giveaway!
The Divorce Party, A Novel
A chat with author Laura Dave
If you’ve not had the chance to experience the literary talents of Laura Dave you are sorely missing out. Dave has written London Is the Best City in America and The Divorce Party, which is recently out on paperback, and three lucky Betty readers will have a chance to win copies here!
I’ll admit, when I first picked up London is the Best City in America, I was unsure about it, only because I’m not a fan of the “English” English, and I assumed (on title alone) there would be a lot of talk about “fags” and “mums” and the telly, and all that other Bridgetty-Jones stuff that I can’t understand. (Sidenote: oddly I did love Bridget Jones’ Diary. ‘Nother sidenote: The book London is the Best City in America neither takes place in London nor has that element of English-speak in it.)
When a friend RAVED about London, I picked it up, and was hooked immediately.
Dave’s characters breathe on the page! That’s the only way to say it – they are real and true with obstacles that are believable and full of turmoil and you just feel for them. You want her characters to succeed in what they’re doing. You want them to find the happiness and love and self-satisfaction they truly deserve.
Dave’s got a knack for putting you there, pulling you in, and keeping you with the story. It’s just that simple to read a Laura Dave book. And, it’s also that incredibly enjoyable. So, of course, I had to learn more about Laura Dave and what it takes to write such compelling novels.
Stephanie: The Divorce Party takes place in a matter of a weekend. Is that hard for you to write a whole novel with that short of a time-frame? I think London was also in a short period of time too?
Laura: It actually makes it easier for me! In both novels, my main characters found themselves at a crossroads – and I wanted them to have to cross it, one way or another, in that very moment. The short time period helped this cause. Plus, it was fun for me to figure out how they were going to make such immediate choices with so much at stake: the loves of their lives, their families, their sense of self.
Stephanie: When you first heard of the concept of divorce parties, did that spark the idea for your book, or did you have an idea about your characters and storyline previous to learning about the divorce party trend?
Laura: I think it was a combination, really. I heard a strange radio segment about a psychologist couple, who were proponents of divorce parties (they had one themselves). Right around that time, I was also writing a story from the points of view of two women: one beginning her life with someone, one ending hers. Then, on a car ride with a friend in the Hamptons, I learned about The Hurricane of 1938 – and its lasting repercussions on the families of Montauk. This created a perfect storm in my mind. (No pun intended!) And The Divorce Party was born.
Stephanie: What do you find is the hardest part of writing a novel?
Laura: The beginning is the hardest part for me. With both London and The Divorce Party, it took me longer to write the first 60 pages than the next 250. But, once I hit 60, something clicks in. I know my characters, I know where they need to go, and I start having a lot of fun getting them there.
Stephanie: When you write, do you just bang out a first draft? What is your system to writing a novel?
Laura: It took me a little under a year to write each book. I do a ton of research, during the early days, before I ever put pen to paper. I like to know as much as possible about the places/people/times I am exploring!
As for my writing process, I write at a coffee shop near my apartment in Los Angeles, at a specific table there. (When someone is sitting there, it’s bad news!) Music is a HUGE part of my writing process, as well. I listen to a song on repeat while I’m working. The song changes for each book, but it serves the same purpose: it keeps the book on pitch for me, tonally. It is incredibly helpful.
Stephanie: I loved the characters of Gwyn and Maggie in Divorce. I also love the fact that in the book, each chapter is narrated by one or the other. I would be reading at night, and get to the end of the chapter and be like, “OMG, I NEED to find out what happens NEXT to Maggie,” and the next chapter is from Gwyn’s point of view, and I’d say the same thing about her story. You have a real knack for driving the novel forward and making the reader cringe at the thought of what comes next. Is that a hard process as a writer?
Laura: First of all, thank you! In terms of an answer, I have to say that I believe all good writing needs – in its way – to be suspenseful. One of my main goals is to keep my writing moving and exciting at all times. I love getting notes from readers that they couldn’t put The Divorce Party down. It makes me feel so happy, and makes me feel like I’m doing my job!
Stephanie: I think you’re a master at weaving a story. There are so many instances in Divorce when I actually went back to look for the clues you left in each chapter. Does that come easily to you, or do you go back after a first draft and add the little clues?
Laura: A little bit of both. I always know when the writing is going well for me because the details come naturally, and move the story along in surprising ways. That said, I am a big believer that writing is rewriting. And I write many, many drafts before a novel or story feels done to me. Some of the right details come in those later drafts.
Stephanie: If you could have dinner with either Maggie, the young engaged girl from Divorce, or Gwyn, the woman on the verge of divorce, who would you want to sit down with and why? These feel like real people to you, don’t they?
Laura: They have certainly become real people to me, which makes me want to have dinner with both of them. But I think, if I had to choose, I would have dinner with Gwyn. She is strong and brave and I feel like she is on the verge of great things in her life. I would like to know how those things are turning out for her.
Stephanie: Can you tell us about the next book? When can we expect it?
Laura: My new book actually came to me while I was mid-draft on a different project – but it came to me so forcefully that I put that book away and began telling this story. It is about a travel journalist who finds herself picking a brand new life on the heels of her old one falling apart. Then, as old lives can do, hers catches up to her again. I have a quote from Alice and Wonderland right at the beginning of the book, and every time I turn on my computer and see it, it makes me happy to start my work that day.
Stephanie: What are you currently reading? Who are some of your favorite authors?
Laura: How long do you have? I have about 40 books that I keep on my nightstand. Part of it is so that I can reach for them at any time, the other part has something to do with what I’m grabbing in case of a fire! I’ve got books there by Joan Didion, Matt Klam, Melissa Bank, Emily Giffin, Allison Winn Scotch, Charles Baxter, Frederick Reiken, Jane Green, Nora Ephron, Nick Hornby, Julie Buxbaum, Tom Perrotta, Jonathan Tropper, Stephen King, Michael Chabon, and Ursula LeGuin – just to name a few! I love them all.
I just started a book that has me excited to read more. It’s a memoir by Giulia Melucci called I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti.
Head on over to the BettyTalk section to enter to win a copy of The Divorce Party!