As promised - the rest of our interview with Lauren Groff. Enjoy!
Lauren Groff: The ancestry is fictional though some of the characters come from James Fenimore Cooper’s fiction and personal biography, though those of the latter source are so patently fictionalized that I was able to just have fun with it. My intention was to allow the people of Templeton who are generally not allowed to have a voice in history to speak—the wives and servants and slaves and regular people and obscure sons of big, important people. The family tree was the hardest thing to do, and even into the ARCs (Advance Readers Copy) there were some big issues with the genealogy—it gets so very tricky to weave all the separate strands, and I’m sure I’d horrify actual genealogists. For me, the characters were the important parts.
GJR: I (Lisa) knew immediately who Willie’s father was when I met him. What was your reasoning behind choosing this particular individual?
LG: Congratulations! As far as I’ve heard only a few people like you so far did know off the bat—and I’m not going to write much more about this, in the fear of spoiling the plot for those who haven’t read the book yet. Well done, in any case!
GJR: Willie has an interesting relationship with her mother, sometimes there seemed to be a lack of respect happening. Why did you feel the story was best served by having this sort of relationship between the two women?
LG: I think because even in very close relationships between parents and daughters, even when the children are grown, there are moments where there’s an apparent lack of respect! Willie loves her mother, but is massively frustrated and irritated and bemused by her, and has always had a sort of co-parenting role in the relationship anyway—she feels a little bit as if her mother, who was so very young when she had Willie, grew up at the same time that Willie herself did. Willie has a protective, almost sisterly relationship to her, and though she acts poorly at times she does, deeply, respect her mother. That aspect I think only comes clear the deeper you go into the book, though.
GJR: One of the things we enjoyed most was the fact that the novel is written in so many different voices and information comes in different forms (i.e. letters, diary entries, etc.) What compelled you to use these devices?
LG: Thanks! They only came clear on the fourth draft—I was trying to write a panorama of a town during the many eras in its existence, and the best way I came up with for doing that was allowing the actual voices of the town to surface.
GJR: Are you at work on another novel at the moment? Is it a going to be a new idea or will you base it off of a short story you’ve previously written?
LG: I do have a short story collection coming out next, which I’m thrilled about, and I’ve been at work on another novel (with a new idea) for about a year--which means I have about thirty “keepable” pages, alas. It’s due in 2010, which is starting to seem way too close for comfort.