The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman. Read it here. This week she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.
Girls Just Reading (GJR): This novel kept me guessing until the end, how did you come up with the idea?
Laura Lippman (LL): I was thinking a lot about a classic template, one that has been used by Lois Duncan, Val McDermid and Kevin Wignall to name just three writers: A group of friends with a tragic secret. And then I began thinking about how much more interesting it would be if there were two groups with different yet overlapping secrets. Children and their parents seemed a perfect fit. If each group knew what the other group knew . . . But we often don’t. It’s funny how much parents and children can love each other, yet sometimes don’t have a clue what’s going on in each other’s heads.
GJR: I enjoyed how you bounced back in time, telling the story from all the characters’ viewpoints. Who was your favorite character to write? Why?
LL: I think it might be Go-Go, who’s on the page so fleetingly. But he became very real to me as I watched others respond to him. When I wrote the chapter about how he marched in ice skates, in that 4th of July parade, I would find myself almost miming his movements as I worked.
GJR: One of my favorite characters in the novel was Doris Halloran. Her protective relationship with Go-Go fascinated me. Another interesting aspect is how the parenting of each child varies from family to family (and even in the same family with the Hallorans). Do you think anyone was a better parent than the other was?
LL: I think each parent did his/her best, even Rita. Clem Robison is the least conflicted parent, but he also has the fewest conflicts – he has a secure job that pays him well enough so that money is not a pressing concern and he has a stay-at-home spouse.
GJR: It was nice to see a familiar pop up at the end of the novel. Did you plan that from the beginning or was it a surprise to you? What else surprised you about this novel?
LL: It was a surprise to me – I had expected that the PI would be unsavory, given the task at hand, then realized it was more interesting if a sympathetic character did a troubling thing, something that PIs have done, according to a source of mine.
GJR: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
LL: Probably social work of some sort.
GJR: What are you currently reading?
LL: The new Ann Patchett and Tomatoland. The decline of the tomato has been on my mind for a while. Seriously, it has.
GJR: Who are your favorite authors? Why?
LL: I love writers who write about writers, now that I think about it, from Maud Hart Lovelace to Philip Roth. But some of my favorite writers are my favorite people – I love the work and the person: George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, Alafair Burke, Mark Billingham, Ann Hood, Stewart O’Nan – really, everyone with whom I’ve taught at Eckerd College’s annual writing workshop. I admire Jennifer Weiner, who I don’t think gets her full critical due. Oh, I could go on and on and still leave out a hundred writers. I am thinking of so many I left out of this list and hoping I haven’t offended anyone. (Oh, Kate Atkinson! Lionel Shriver!)
GJR: Are you working on a new novel? If so, what is the premise?
LL: Yes. It’s the story of a single mother approaching middle age, unsure of her job, unsure of what she’ll do if she leaves her current job, trying to maintain an uneasy truce with the father of her child, worrying about the costs of the small business she runs, a woman whose lifestyle has left her lonely, with very few friends – an everywoman who happens to be a madame/prostitute, whose life might be in jeopardy because of things she did long ago.
GJR: What do you like to do when you are not writing? Do you take time off between novels?
LL: I love exercising, cooking, going to theater, eating, reading. And I love traveling with my husband, who is a very satisfactory travel companion, adventurous and spontaneous.
GJR: Something different: Where are your favorite spots to eat blue crab in Maryland?
LL: It’s actually in Delaware, where my parents now live. My father used to put out crab pots in the Little Assawoman Bay and knowing that he had caught dinner made it that much better.
Thank you Ms. Lippman for the great interview.