LINDAS BOOK OBSESSION INTERVIEWS AUTHOR SUSAN HENDERSON
1.What motivates or inspires you to write your novel?
I always begin with something that either haunts or obsesses me, and in this case, it was the town where my father grew up and where I used to visit as a child. The town, at its height, had 2,000 people in it, and now it has about 180. There is no hospital or firehouse. There are no traffic lights. We used to go out there every couple of years to clear the sagebrush and rattlesnakes out of our family cemetery (which is further out of town, away from all civilization), and most of the plots had handmade markers, made of scrap metal.
So I went back to that small town with the sense that I was being called there and not sure what I was meant to learn or write. I simply went back and listened and took pictures and went to any event I was invited to, but the story didn’t come to me until I was back in New York and felt the jarring difference between our lives.
- Are any of the characters based on anyone that you know?
No. All of the characters come from my imagination. In fact, there’s no funeral home in the real town, but in the fictionalized version, the mortician and funeral director are at the center of the story.
However, I did listen intently to the community during my month-long stay there. I tried to capture the sense of loss and frustration with the many unemployed and underemployed residents. I also tried to understand that sense of disconnection and suspicion they felt about the world I live in, the one they only know from television.
- What is your goal for your readers to take away after reading your novel?
I suppose I wanted to build a bridge between my world and theirs. When you watch the news, it can feel like there are two Americas and very little empathy between them. I wanted to tease out some of the frustrations, that tension between those who fear and those who desire change.
- How do you maintain a “balance” in your life,being a mother, author, etc?
My kids are both in college now (MIT and Emerson), but when they were still living at home, I did a lot of my writing in waiting rooms while they had music lessons or kung fu. Balance is more of a daily negation. Sometimes the muse is whispering in your ear and you have to go with it. And sometimes, your child or husband or dog or neighbor needs you, and you have to drop everything to be there fully.
- In your downtime what are some hobbies, (cooking, pets, sewing, reading, etc.) that you enjoy?
Oh, so you happened to step right into my current heartbreak. I lost both of my dogs last year, and they were such a huge part of my life. I’m still struggling with it, and so is the cat, who began wailing at night when our greyhound passed. So that is a big empty space in my life right now, and I’m not ready to get another just yet.
I’m constantly reading novels, essays, collections of poetry. Right now I’m reading Salt Houses by Hala Alyan. It’s fantastic. And I go for long walks every day. It’s also how I do much of my writing–I think better when I’m moving–so I often talk my scenes and chapters into my Audio Memo app.
- Are you writing any new projects, and if you are can you share something with us?
Once again, I’ve fallen for a setting and know my next novel will take place there. It’s an abandoned asylum in my town. I walk past it several times a week, and it’s covered in graffiti and vines. The doors are bolted shut, but the local teens have found ways inside. You see flashlights moving all around it at night. Right now it feels like I have a few pieces of the puzzle but can’t see the big picture yet. It’s a process of exploring and digging until I discover the heart of what this building and my gut both need to say.
- Where and how would you like your readers to contact you? (or follow you)
My favorite place to interact with people is on Instagram or via my blog, LitPark. And I absolutely love hearing from readers… many end up becoming friends.