Joining the Author Spotlight this week is novelist Amy Koppelman, here to chat about the re-release of A Mouthful of Air
Author Name: Amy Koppelman
Book Title: A Mouthful of Air
Book Genre: Fiction
Release Date: August 17, 2021 (Two Dollar Radio, pink cover edition)
Release Date: September 28, 2021 (Two Dollar Radio, movie tie-in edition)
Publisher: Two Dollar Radio
Welcome, Amy! What inspired the idea for A Mouthful of Air? And what prompted you to re-release it now?
I’ve spent the twenty-five years since I gave birth to my first child writing about motherhood and women’s mental health. Driving me — always — is a desire to reach through the page and connect to the reader. To form a communion of understanding. An acknowledgment of shared truth. And to try — in some small way — to remove the stigma of mental illness from motherhood.
Julie Davis is a young mother who sees life’s heartbreaking beauty — cherishes it — yet believes that the only way for her children to be safe is to live in this world without her. In A Mouthful of Air, I try to understand this dichotomy. How can you love life, love your family, and still want to slip away?
Nearly twenty years had passed since I wrote the novel and I had thought — because famous people had spoken about their own struggle with postpartum depression — that everyone knew about it. But then one day, I was driving down the Westside Highway listening to a talk show on the radio when a woman called in crying— weeping… “Please help me. I can’t handle being a mom.” At that moment I realized that there were still people who didn’t know. At that moment, I made a pledge to myself to do everything in my power to reach that mom.
This past weekend, in 818 theaters across America, Sony Pictures released my adaptation of A Mouthful of Air, and the fierce and indefatigable indie press, Two Dollar Radio re-released the novel. Neither version of the story is easy. But I hope they will help women open up about how scary it is to be a new mom, so that they — we — no longer live in shame.
What advice would you give your newbie writer self or writers just starting out?
Writing is a way to create a world in which you feel safe — or perhaps the better word is understood. You don’t need to ask for permission. You just need to pick up a pencil and start. Try not to judge yourself. There is not “right” or “wrong” there is only your truth, as you see and hear it. Stay true to that and you will find your way.
What’s capturing your imagination these days outside of reading and writing?
I think I’m going to sign up for an art class. I’d like to learn how to draw. I think that would be really wonderful. Learning how to shadow. I’d also like to get better at crochet. But more than anything I want to build a dollhouse from scratch. I still believe in the ideal of home.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on now?
Right now I’m working on a new novel. It takes me a long time to write a novel. I’m about six years in, and I still have no idea how or if I’m going to be able to figure it out but I’m trying. I keep telling myself what I’ve always told myself — be honest. I believe if I’m honest. If I listen to the voice inside my head, I’ll find my way to my characters’ truth. And through their truth, I’ll find the story. (Gosh, how funny. This is basically everything I said above. I’m still giving myself the same advice all of these years later…)
Where can readers find you?
I’m really bad with technology so I’m pretty much sticking to Instagram and only Instagram because I sorta understand how to work it. That’s the best place to find me.
Thank you, Amy! The new edition of A Mouthful of Air is OUT NOW.
Compared to seminal feminist works such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, A Mouthful of Air is a powerful, tragic statement on motherhood, family, and survival.
A Mouthful of Air is a compassionate and wrenching portrait of Julie Davis, a young wife and mother torn between the love she feels for her family and the voice in her head that insists they’d be better off without her.
We meet Julie several weeks after her suicide attempt, on the eve of her son’s first birthday. Grateful to be alive, Julie tries her best to appreciate every moment—“this tree, that passing car, the pretzel guy up ahead on the corner. She has, for whatever reason, been given a second chance”—but her emotional demons are unrelenting, and she is slowly and quietly losing the battle.
Within the narrative of A Mouthful of Air is an argument about the nature of depression—its causes, cures, and the price it exacts from its victims. With spare, elegant prose, this brutally honest portrayal of family and self illuminates the power and complexity of the human psyche.
Originally published in 2003, A Mouthful of Air now includes an afterword by author Adrienne Miller.
Amy Koppelman is the author of three critically acclaimed novels: A Mouthful of Air, I Smile Back, and Hesitation Wounds, a 2016 Independent Publisher Book Award winner. She produced and co-adapted the film adaptation of I Smile Back, starring Sarah Silverman, who received a SAG award nomination for the role. The film premiered at the Sundance, Toronto, and Deauville film festivals. Her latest film, A Mouthful of Air, is her first undertaking as a screenwriter, director, and producer. Amy lives in New York City with her family. She is an outspoken advocate for women’s mental health.