Monday, September 12, 2011

Author Interview: Claire LaZebnik

I am excited to announce that today I have an interview with author Claire LeZebnik! She is here to share some about her new novel Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts!

What three words would you use to describe "Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts"?  
Romantic, realistic and relatable.  (I went for the alliteration.)

How did you get the idea for this book? 
My books never come from one single idea or story or thought--a lot of different strands come together from a variety of different sources.  But the piece of the puzzle that came to me first was the idea that a girl in her twenties could already be deep into a longterm relationship.  I actually did know someone who started dating a guy when she was fourteen and was sure she'd marry him.  She didn't, but it was so interesting to watch her as she tried to stay loyal to a relationship she was clearly growing out of.  

If you could be one character from your book, who would you be and why? 
My protagonist/narrator.  I like Keats.  She's smart but insecure, competent but self-doubting.  I find that in life I'm drawn to people like her, people who are funny, introspective and uncertain--they're the ones I want to be seated next to at a dinner party.  And she's young, with a lot of choices in front of her, waiting to be made . . .   That sounds nice.

Why writing? Have you always loved it or is it something new? 
Simple answer: I'm not good at anything else.  I've wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid (a little kid who read all the time).  I have no other abilities or talents so . . . it was an easy decision.  Not so easy to actually get published, but even that happened eventually.  As someone I know likes to say, "Where there's no choice, there's no problem."

What are your inspirations when you write? When you get stuck, what do you do? 
Nothing's more inspiring to me than a deadline.  I like writing under contract for that reason. 

You know, it's funny: we writers like to talk about muses and inspiration and writer's block and all these sorts of things, but most jobs require you just to show up and do your work ,whether or not you feel "inspired," and I've come around to feeling that way about my writing--I just need to put the time in at my computer, whether I feel like it or not.  With a busy household, I need to work whenever I have the time--I can't sit around when the kids are all at school waiting for inspiration to strike, I just have to dive in.  

That said, there are days when I feel too tired or too disappointed with what I have so far to want to keep going.  For the exhaustion problem, I'll focus on rewriting instead of creating new pages: I can edit and tinker even when I don't have a ton of energy.  As for the "I hate what I'm writing" problem, I know I'm always going to have that little voice in my head that says, "This sucks.  Give up."  When that happens, I've learned to just say politely to that little voice, "Fine, I hear you and I promise to come back and fix it later, but I'm just going to keep getting words down on the page, even if they're not good."  Because if I start giving in to those doubts, it's over--I'll never get anything done.  

What do you do when you're not writing? 
I have four kids so most of my non-writing time is spent doing mom stuff--driving them places, stocking up on groceries, cooking and baking, doing laundry, consulting on homework, etc.  I also have three pets (two dogs and a cat), so I spend a LOT of time cleaning up their messes and taking them on walks.  For pure relaxation, nothing beats crawling into bed with a book or something good on the TV, and that's where you'll find me as early as possible on pretty much any evening.  I wish I were more exciting, so I'd have something better to write about, but I lead a pretty pedestrian life.  It's a good one, though.  I wouldn't trade it for anything.

What is your favorite book/author and why? 
It's pretty hard to beat Jane Austen's EMMA--it's a near perfect book and I've reread it a hundred times without getting bored.  If I need to pick something more contemporary, Suzanne Collins's YA novel THE HUNGER GAMES is magnficent--it just soars from the beginning to the end and if you read the entire trilogy, you'll absorb a powerful anti-war message.  

What's next?
I'm finishing up my second YA novel (the first one, EPIC FAIL, was released this summer), and also working on a proposal for another "adult" novel.  I'm hoping I'll be allowed to keep writing in both genres.  Oh, and I have a piece in an anthology play that's opening in New York this fall at the Primary Stages Theater called MOTHERHOOD OUT LOUD, and I"m very excited to be a part of it--it's my first experience in playwriting!

Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts
Summary: Despite her name, Keats Sedlak is the sanest person in her large, nutty family of brilliant eccentrics. Her parents, both brainy academics, are barely capable of looking after themselves, let alone anyone else, and her two uber-intelligent siblings live on their own planets. At least she can count on one person in her life, her devoted boyfriend Tom. Down-to-earth and loving, he's the one thing that's kept Keats grounded for the last decade. But when Keats's mother makes a surprise announcement, the entire family is sent into a tailspin. For the first time, Keats can't pick up the pieces by herself. Now she must re-evaluate everything she's ever assumed about herself and her family - and make the biggest decision of her life.

I want to thank Claire so much for being here today! You can find more information on Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts here:


  1. OMG Claire and Jessica together! I haven't read "Families," but loved, loved, LOVED "Epic Fail," and look forward to Claire's other books. Great questions, Jessica - the kind of things readers actually want to know about an author they like. And Claire, those are interesting and thoughtful answers, delivered in your trademark wry and direct style. Thanks so much to both of you for a great interview! Wow, two of my favorite book people together in one place! Excited!

  2. Thanks so much Fred!! I'm so happy you enjoyed it :)


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