Interview: Elinor Lipman

Elinor Lipman has been a favorite author of mine for several years now. She’s one of those authors that once you discover one book, you immediately find everything she’s ever written so you can read those, too. As I mentioned earlier, I recently picked up her latest book, The Family Man which was a joy to read. (I highly recommend it.)

I think my favorite all-time book of hers was Then She Found Me: A Novel, a smart and touching story about an adopted girl who finds her biological mother. The girl is sweet, the mother outrageous, the story absolutely lovely. It has always had a special meaning for me being adopted.

Elinor’s characters are the type that stay with you long after you read about them. I encourage you to check out everything she has written. Grab a cup of tea, and sit down to enjoy. You’ll find yourself smiling along with the dialog, laughing at the situations, and wondering about the unique characters in each story.

I’m such a fan of Elinor Lipman that I didn’t want to bombard her with questions. I could have (and perhaps should have?) asked her a million more things. But I know you’re going to love her answers, especially the one about her book signing! Enjoy this interview.

elinor_lipman

You’ve written such a great selection of books, which is your favorite?
I never tell. But maybe it’s okay to say that it’s almost always the newest book, which in this case is The Family Man.

Any funny fan stories from the book signings you’ve done?

Well, there was a reading in Florida where only one person showed up, and she was drunk. On that tour I hit the same nights as the final episode of “Frasier” and the final episode of “Friends.” At a reading at a Barnes & Noble in Framingham, MA, there was a blackout. All the guests followed me out to the parking lot, and I read there and signed books by a pen light.

When crafting a story, do you start with the characters first or the action of the story?

I usually start with just an opening line.

I loved the series of short stories you wrote in Into Love and Out Again. Will we ever see those characters again in a novel somewhere down the line?

I’m guessing, because I wrote those stories more than 20 years ago, that if Tim and Hannah haven’t crept into a novel by now, it’s unlikely they ever will.

In your opinion, what’s the best thing about writing?

Readers, and the element of surprise the work can inject into a life. When the phone rings, it can be something a little life-changing.

Share some of your writing goals.

Nothing more than to write the next one and the one after that.

What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?

“Interesting” would have to go to two biographies: VERA: MRS. VLADIMIR NABOKOV by Stacy Schiff and GEORGE S. KAUFMAN: AN INTIMATE PORTRAIT by Howard Teichmann.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’d say in junior high, but I was thinking journalist rather than fiction writer. That didn’t happen till my late twenties.

Favorite authors?

Carol Shields, Alice McDermott, Cathleen Schine, Jill McCorkle, Tom Perrotta, Stephen McCauley, Mameve Medwed, Philip Roth, Ring Lardner, Barbara Pym, Fay Weldon, and of course Jane Austen.

What’s the measure of a successful writer?

In these hard times, I’d say success means getting some measure of attention on the publication of a book. Success can no longer mean fame or money or best-sellerdom because those things seem like flukes. As my husband once said, “Any second-string weatherman on the local TV station is more famous than any novelist.”

Advice for other writers?

Keep at it every day. Revise and polish every sentence. Make it sing.

Where can we learn more about you?

On my website (www.elinorlipman.com) there are links to essays and op-ed pieces I’ve written over the years, many quite personal, some political, plus the obligatory biography. Also, check the Boston Globe and New York Times archives. I wrote about having one of my novels, Then She Found Me: A Novel
, made into a movie at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elinor-lipman post_145_b_98502.html.

Anything else you’d like to add?

If you write me at author@elinorlipman.com, I always answer.

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