Out of Twenty: Laura Dave, Author of The First Husband, Answers Six Questions

In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing victim author and they choose their own interview by choosing which questions, and how many questions, they want to answer!  I read Laura Dave last year for the first time when I picked up The First Husband, and not only did I really enjoy the novel, I enjoyed the food included in it as well. Here is what Laura had to say about reading, writing, and using cooking to unwind.

Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved reading and writing. By the time I was in elementary school, I’d written my first “novel.”  I would describe my novels (the ones I’ve written as a grown-up: my most recent are The First Husband and The Divorce Party) as stories about families, marriage, infidelity, and friendship. Ultimately, they all aim to ask a question about what we are willing to risk for the people we love.

I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?

There are two big rituals important to how I write: listening to music (while I’m writing) and cooking (after I’m done working for the day).  I often sit in the same coffee shop to write — but, wherever I write, I listen to music, usually the same couple of songs on repeat.  It creates a meditative state for me while I work.  And, since writing is such a solitary affair, I love to cook with my husband at the end of the day.  It’s a way to leave my writing behind and focus on the rest of my life.  Since we moved to Santa Monica, we’re in walking distance of an amazing farmers market. I’ll go there on the weekend and let what I find dictates how and what we cook.  I’m not the world’s best cook, but I’m very enthusiastic!  And cooking brings a lot of joy to my life.

 Did you know what you wanted the title of the book to be? How involved were in choosing the name of the book?

I think I came up with the title The First Husband almost before I started writing.  I imagined a conversation between two women—very much like the characters of Annie and Jordan—who were discussing how one of them married quickly after a traumatic breakup.  As I was contemplating this conversation, I imagined Jordan trying to convince Annie to leave her quickie and reactive union by arguing the point: “He’s just your first husband.”

I wanted to take a look at the irony of that ideology and, in the process, have an opportunity to discuss how we become proactive in our own happiness.  (And our own marriages.)  I spoke to many marriage experts while I was working on the book — about how to make a marriage successful and thriving.  The First Husband title is also a bit of a wink to the idea that relationships are disposable when I believe so much of our happiness comes from committing to the opposite.

Did you have to do much research when working on your books, and do you tend to write first or research first?

Oh, I love doing research!  With all my books, especially The First Husband, I’ve done background work on the people and places I’m writing about.  I tend to do a lot of my research at the beginning of my work on a novel. And I often revisit researching as I move deeper into the book.

Where do you most love to write? Are there places where it comes to you easier than others?

I write at the same place every morning.  It is a local coffee shop/larder.  I like to sit in the same table toward the back, drink my coffee and dive in for several hours.  I get my best work done there.

What’s next?

I’m working on a new novel that is set against the backdrop of northern California and Austin Texas.  It keeps surprising me, which I’m really enjoying.

Giveaway: One reader with a  US or Canadian mailing address (no PO boxes, please), has the opportunity to win a copy of Laura Dave’s The First Husband. For entry, fill out this form by end of day, 11:59 p.m, April 30th, and you’ll be entered for your chance to win.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Literary Feasts – Running the Rift, by Naomi Benaron

About: Laura Dave was born in New York City in 1977 and grew up in Westchester County. She attended The University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated with a BA in English, and The University of Virginia, where she earned her MFA. . Laura is the author of the acclaimed novels “The Divorce Party” and “London is the Best City in America.” In addition to writing books, Laura has also worked steadily as a journalist. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Glamour, Self, Modern Bride, Redbook, ESPN the Magazine, and The New York Observer, as well as on NPR’s All Things Considered. Laura lives in southern California, where she is at work on a new novel.

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The Day The World Ends (Poems) by Ethan Coen – Book Review

April is National Poetry Month, and every now and again I get the urge to be relevant. So in honor of the month, I read a collection of poetry. The Day The World Ends is a collection by Ethan Coen, the filmmaker whose creative talents contributed to such works as Fargo, No Country For Old Men and True Grit.

Coen’s poems are irreverent, funny and go to the limit with crass and crude imagery. Yet, every now and again he surprises with a thoughtful and well-crafted gem. Never sticking to one form, he plays with everything from limericks (of which there is an extensive collection, and which are very, very dirty) to  free form, with a variety of lengths (some being just a few short lines and covering several pages). Among the numerous fart jokes and bawdy sex jokes, Coen displays a tender preoccupation with the care of animals, aging, romantic relationships, and loneliness.

I would recommend this collection for fans of Ethan Coen who want to keep up with his collection in all formats, and for those who enjoy ribald potty humor every now and again. Poignancy is at a minimum here, and if you are looking for something deeper, the poems are few and far between.

Read More Reviews At: Love, Laughter, and A Touch of Insanity – Necromancy Never Pays

One reader with a  US or Canadian mailing address (no PO boxes, please), has the opportunity to win a copy of Ethan Coen’s The Day the World Ends (Poems). For entry, fill out this form by end of day, 11:59 p.m, April 27th, and you’ll be entered for your chance to win.

 1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen   Book Review

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These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen – Book Review

These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen examines the lives of three young women trying to make it in New York City. Each is troubled by some aspect of their past. Renee and Cate both work at Gloss magazine. Cate has just been made a features editor, but she lives in fear that a past indiscretion will catch up to her, even as she also worries about her newly divorced and increasingly lonely mother. Renee is struggling to win a promotion as a beauty editor though she feels as if she is too overweight for the position. Renee’s recent discovery of her father’s infidelity and the surprise of a sister she never knew also weighs heavily on her mind. When the girls’ roommate moves out unexpectedly, they scramble to find a replacement, and offer a room to Abby, the sister of a writer whom both Renee and Cate have a crush on.

Sarah Pekkanen writes in a savory and evocative style that allows for nothing less than complete immersion into These Girls. I was so taken with this group of women – their struggles for self-hood, their burgeoning companionship, their attempts to face their personal challenges were endearing. Pekkanen puts you right inside their lives and hearts, and their emotions feel like your own, or at least like those of a close friend. No matter whose perspective was being explored, I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next, and how they would resolve their dilemmas of weight pills, sexually aggressive bosses, inappropriate affairs, and inconvenient love. Pekkanen plays with the narrative by following Cate and Renee in real-time, but she breaks that pattern to follow the root of Abby’s heartache partially  in flashbacks to Washington, DC, where she suddenly fled her position as a nanny. These Girls is a beautiful story of female friendship and I could have hung out with them for far longer than Pekkanen has allowed. Recommended.

Read More Reviews At: My Friend AmyYou’ve Gotta Read ThisDevourer of Books

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 What It Was by George Pelecanos – Book Review

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BOOK CLUB – Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers

Welcome to BOOK CLUB, a joint venture between me and Jen from Devourer of Books.  Today we are discussing The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers which is being  published by Harper Perennial next month.


About The Testament of Jessie Lamb:

A rogue virus that kills pregnant women has been let loose in the world, and nothing less than the survival of the human race is at stake.

Some blame the scientists, others see the hand of God, and still others claim that human arrogance and destructiveness are reaping the punishment they deserve. Jessie Lamb is an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl living in extraordinary times. As her world collapses, her idealism and courage drive her toward the ultimate act of heroism. She wants her life to make a difference. But is Jessie heroic? Or is she, as her scientist father fears, impressionable, innocent, and incapable of understanding where her actions will lead?

Set in a world irreparably altered by an act of biological terrorism, The Testament of Jessie Lamb explores a young woman’s struggle to become independent of her parents. As the certainties of her childhood are ripped apart, Jessie begins to question her parents’ attitudes, their behavior, and the very world they have bequeathed her.

If you plan on participating in today’s BOOK CLUB, please consider subscribing to comments at the bottom of the page, and check back throughout the day as more questions are added to the post.

Let’s go!

  • What were your general impressions of the book?
  • Did you think about the title of the book at all? Did it shape your experience and thoughts while reading? How?
  • The Testament of Jessie Lamb  is filled with a number of issues that are particularly resonant with us today. Which concepts and themes did you find yourself returning to throughout the novel’s progression.
  • What kinds of questions did you have during your reading? Were they answered?
  • What was your reaction to who was holding Jesse captive? Were you surprised? Did you feel as if her kidnapper’s reaction was justified? How would you have handled the situation?
  • Jesse’s father feels as if she has been brainwashed into her position, and there are many ethical decisions concerning the Sleeping Beauties and whether they are being taken advantage of. How did you feel about the lab and the doctors there? Did they taking advantage? Are Jesse and The Sleeping Beauties able to make the decisions they did? Should they be allowed?

Read Reviews At: Devourerof Books – Must Read Faster

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

15 review copies of The Testament of Jessie Lamb  were provided by Harper Perennial in order to facilitate this discussion. Thank you so much!

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Bad Kitty For President by Nick Bruel – Book Review

Bad Kitty For President book cover

Bad Kitty For President book coverBad Kitty is back and she has some improvements on the way she would like to see the neighborhood run. She doesn’t like all the stray cats running around the place, so she decides she’ll do something about it and begins her campaign for president. Kitty is ready to jump right in and get the party started, but first she has to learn the rules- the ins and outs of securing her party’s nomination and beating the competition- that’s where Uncle Murray and Nick the Narrator come in.

Bad Kitty for President is the perfect introduction to delegates, the Electoral College, campaigning, and the (basically) two party process. It’s not comprehensive, but children, and probably most adults, can benefit from this funny and general overview of the process as illustrated by Bad Kitty and her cohorts. There are some well-illustrated examples and concise definitions of the political process – and the ads Kitty runs, the platform she campaigns on…are not to be missed. Recommended.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 What It Was by George Pelecanos – Book Review

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What It Was by George Pelecanos – Book Review

Waht it was book cover

What it was book coverDerek Strange is a newly minted private investigator when a young woman comes in asking for his help finding a cheap ring. As it turns out, the ring is connected to the murder of an acquaintance by a gangster name Red Fury (so named for the car that his girlfriend drives). During Strange’s  inquiries into the whereabouts of the ring, he hooks up with his former partner at the Baltimore Police Department, Frank Vaughn, a man whose views of black society and the world in general are outdated, and not in line with emerging 1970’s culture. The two ex-partners  end up more entwined in the case than they planned,  and tension between rival parties escalates and the body count continues to rise.

Pelecanos is often an astute observer of human behavior, relationships and language, but I had mixed feelings on this novel. Something about the distance of the voice in the storytelling, and maybe my own unfamiliarity with 1970’s, made Strange, Vaughn and the various villains come off as little more than caricatures – even as the story was engaging enough for me to want to see how it culminated at the end. This is not Pelecanos’s first outing with these characters, so it is possible that I am missing something in not having experienced the fullness of their history together, but still this short but full story fell flat to me in comparison with his other novels.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 The Gods of Gotham   Giveaway

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The Gods of Gotham – Giveaway

gods of gotham picture

gods of gotham pictureWhen Jen and I picked The Gods of Gotham for BOOK CLUB, it was a pretty easy decision for us to make. She had read and loved Lyndsay’s first book, Dust and Shadow, and besides trusting Jen’s opnion, I usually like books from the Amy Einhorn Imprint,  and liked the time period explored in Gods (1845 New York). The book has dynamic characters and scenery, vivid language, and a satisfying mystery at its heart. It’s well worth a read for your personal pleasure or in discussion with a book group.

NPR’S Maureen Corrigan called  The Gods of Gothamone of the worthiest successors yet” to The Alienist, Caleb Carr’s best-selling crime novel of old New York. You can also take a look at some of the voices from our BOOK CLUB discussion, below:

4ever overhead – Beachreader – Between the Covers – CaribousMom – Devourer of BooksKaren White Audiobooks – Linus’s Blanket – Must Read Faster

One lucky reader gets a signed a US or Canadian mailing address (no PO boxes, please), gets a personalized hardcover copy of The Gods of Gotham. For a chance to see if you agree with the critics, and all of us, fill out this form by end of day today, 11:59 p.m, April 17th, and you’ll be entered for your chance to win.

Good luck!

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Living Proof by Kira Peikoff Book Review

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Living Proof by Kira Peikoff – Book Review

In Kira Peikoff’s Living Proof, Arianna Drake is a young fertility specialist whose Manhattan clinic has experienced a spike in popularity in recent months. The year is 2027, and the United States population, government and laws have been heavily influenced by religious fervor and sentiment, to the extent that the disposal of unused embryos is a crime punishable by jail, and expectant mothers are monitored during their pregnancies to ensure they aren’t harming their fetuses in any way. The New York Department of Embryo Preservation assigns Trent Blake as an undercover agent to investigate the clinic, even though it continually passes all inspections. It remains to be seen whether Blake will successfully be able to complete his assignment given what he learns about Arianna and how he starts to feel about her.

Living Proof has an interesting premise and would have been a timely exploration of hot button issues that are playing out in the US today. Women’s reproductive rights, taken for granted and as law over the last 40 years, are now called into question, and are being subtly changed by new legislation. Peikoff presents a picture of what a society might look like if government and religious factions start morphing into the same entity; but the elements and characters are thin, and the plot is mostly inconsistent and implausible – while the dialogue was wooden and preachy on both sides of the issue. Peikoff does provide suspenseful moments, but I never connected enough with the characters to believe in their actions or feeling for each other enough to care about the drama and the obstacles they faced.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 The Face Thief by Eli Gottlieb – Book Review

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The Face Thief by Eli Gottlieb – Book Review

The Face Thief follows the parallel stories of a woman waking from a coma with severe head injuries, and her conversations with a young investigator. As he slowly probes into what caused her injuries the reader learns the stories of two men whose lives have been all but destroyed by a young female con artist. One searches for her in an attempt to recover his life saving, and the other is ruminating over how he, who had mastered all the signs of body language and face reading, has been duped by one with a greater natural aptitude and talent. I don’t think you’re meant to have any doubt that all the stories are connected, and that the men have been involved with the same woman. The mystery remains in exactly who attempted to kill her. The men we meet certainly have ample motive, but I wondered if it could also be connected to some other crimes she may have committed, or lives she has destroyed.

The Face Thief is a fast and entertaining read. The info and technique of face reading was attention grabbing, but some also seemed a bit farfetched.  They lost me a little with hairlines and ear shapes having anything to do with personality and the ability to know divine another’s thoughts. A glimpse into the lives and motivations of the men involved with Margot given, but the novel would have been that much stronger with a more solid rationale for why Margot acted as she did. Her behavior just seemed way off the rails and for really no plausible reason. I needed more to believe in her. Most of this book functions as a character study, so it falls short when Margot lacks the needed depth to make her completely believable.

Read More Reviews At: Raging Bibliomania 

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie   Book Review

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