My friend, Elizabeth LaBan, returns to the blog this week to discuss: writing what you know, the thrill of shaping a draft, and her latest book, Beside Herself. Welcome back, Elizabeth!
Author: Elizabeth LaBan
Book Title: Beside Herself
Book Genre: Women’s Fiction
Release Date: October 22, 2019
Publisher: Lake Union
Hi Elizabeth! Can you tell us a little about Beside Herself?
Beside Herself is the story of the Bents whose happily chaotic life comes to a screeching halt when Hannah makes a terrible discovery. While dealing with the unexpected, Hannah Bent must answer the question: is infidelity the deal breaker she always assumed it would be?
What a great idea for a book! What inspired it?
In many ways the title inspired the book, which has not been the case for most of my novels. It is a phrase I use a lot, either to say I’m beside myself when I’m upset about something, or she was completely beside herself. One day my husband said, “That would be a great title for a novel.” The idea stuck, and when the story began to come to me, I immediately connected it to that title, which helped the whole story form in my mind. But at the base of it is this idea that if someone is lucky enough to have a long marriage, there are most likely going to be unexpected hard times along the way, some of which will make a couple stronger, and some that could break them. I wanted to explore that.
Yes, the title inspiring the content–how cool! Is the end product close to that original idea?
For this book it was pretty close in the sense that I always knew where Hannah and Joel were going. But much of the middle of the story, and the ins and outs of how they got from one place to the other, changed and grew as I wrote the book and got to know the characters better.
In what ways do you think you’ve evolved as an author over the course of your career so far?
The main thing I have noticed is that situations and characters are much further from my life and my experience. Having said that, I always tried to steer away from my real life, but sometimes it slipped in anyway. With The Restaurant Critic’s Wife there were many details taken from my life, but I worked really hard to make the main characters different from me and my husband. That was also somewhat true of Pretty Little World in the sense that the characters lived on a block similar to my own and had the same sense of community that I’ve experienced in my little corner of the city. I moved further away from my own personal experiences with Not Perfect, and even further away with Beside Herself, though you will find nods to places and events that I did experience (The University of Michigan connection in Not Perfect, and the Eagles Super Bowl win in Beside Herself, to name a few). I know the old cliché is to write what you know, and while I am a big fan of that, I think with time I am a little more confident and willing to step away from what I know and create an entirely fictional world.
What’s your favorite part about being an author? What’s challenging?
My favorite part is after I have an entire first draft and I can go back and make sense of it all. I just finished my next novel, or at least what I hope is a readable draft of it, and I could see how sometimes while writing that very first draft I would add in details or events that either went nowhere, and I would eliminate those in the drafts that followed, or sometimes those details and events would end up being the core of the story, so I then worked to elaborate on those. I find that part of the writing process to be the most exciting, when I know the characters and their world and what makes sense and what doesn’t. The most challenging part is writing that first word, then the first page. I have a concept now for my next novel, but I have not sat down to write even one word yet. I find it daunting.
Outside of writing, what are some of your favorite activities?
I love to read and take walks. We eat out a ton and are always looking for the next great restaurant. And we are sports fans, and love watching football – we are Michigan fans as well as Eagles fans. We also love basketball, again the Michigan Wolverines and the 76ers. It is a great way to relax and be together as a family.
And what are you working on now?
I just finished the draft of my next novel – which I sent off to my agent this week. We’ll see what he says! And I have a kernel of an idea for the next one. Maybe tomorrow I’ll sit down and write that first sentence, maybe the first page.
Where can readers find you?
My website is elizabethlaban.com, I am on Twitter and Instagram as @elizabethlaban, and I have an author page on Facebook – Elizabeth LaBan.
Thanks so much for the great interview!
Thank you, Elizabeth! Beside Herself is available as of TODAY!
When she finds out her husband cheated, Hannah Bent thinks her marriage is over. Isn’t that what happens after an affair? But she’s seen friends divorce, and it’s not pretty. Plus, she and Joel have kids and an otherwise-happy life, and she still loves him, although begrudgingly.
Furious and feeling stuck, she suggests having her own affair to even the score. Joel, desperate for forgiveness, agrees. But does she really want to go through with it? And how exactly does a married mother of two get back in the dating pool? Many awkward dates follow until she finds a deep and unexpected connection where she was least looking for it.
Just as she thinks she’s made a decision, her journey to happiness is waylaid by storms of doubt. But the important thing is that she’s finally figuring out what she truly wants for herself, and she understands that whatever choice she makes must be hers and hers alone.