Karen Brown, The Longings of Wayward Girls author, agreed to be interviewed about The Longings of Wayward Girls, her writing space, and her thoughts on social media as how it would relate to her main character, Sadie.
Check back on Wednesday, as I’ll feature an Author Spotlight on Karen Brown- and she’ll reveal favorite books, #literarycrush and more!
Interview with Karen Brown:
1. What was the inspiration for The Longings of Wayward Girls?
The novel emerged from a combination of two short stories, “Little Sinners” and “Housewifery,” that appear in my second collection Little Sinners and Other Stories. Both stories are set in the same Connecticut suburb. “Housewifery” explores the world of stay-at-home mothers who discover a hidden pond, while “Little Sinners” focuses on two young friends who play a prank on a neighbor girl. The town in the book is loosely based on the one where I grew up—we used to put on shows, and play Old Fashioned Days House. Our parents hosted an annual Lobster Bake. When you grow up in a place filled with very old houses and barns you always feel a part of the past. I was aware of this while writing the book, and I read a lot of diaries and journals of colonial New England women. I wanted to reveal a world in which certain ideals of marriage and motherhood remain the same, despite the era, but also show how women who transgress ultimately suffer. And yes, I vaguely remember as a child hiding notes under a stone to trick a neighbor girl. Thankfully, without the repercussions in the novel.
2. From the beginning to end, how long did The Longings of Wayward Girls take to write?
I began the novel in May of 2010 with some notes about a group of children in a neighborhood who want to put on their own Aquacade, a swimming show like the one they discover in a 1930s New York World’s Fair playbill in a neighbor’s house. About this time I also wrote a story, “Housewifery,” which appeared in Good Housekeeping in July 2011. I knew I wanted to involve the women from this story in my novel. After a year of drafting I showed it to my agent, who worked with me tirelessly, and after a major revision sold the book last summer. Of course, that wasn’t the end—I revised the book some more, with the help of my brilliant editor, until October 2012.
3. Do you have a writing space? A writing routine?
I like to write in the mornings. This was always after my children were dropped at school, and the house was empty and quiet. I used to sit in one room, in one chair, but I’m lucky that my house is large enough, with multiple rooms with couches and chairs, that I can branch out. I know, though, in which place I’ve written which story, or which scene, so I am a bit superstitious about choosing places. I’ve learned to write with the television as background noise on the weekends—right now, for instance, I think I hear “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
4. Are any of the characters based on people in real life? Or just figments of your imagination?
I never base main characters on real people, but I will use people I meet in random places in supporting roles. So, pregnant Emma with her red hair and lovely tattooed arm is someone who served me breakfast at an Inn in St. Augustine, Florida.
5. Will you be going on a book signing tour? If so, what are you looking forward to the most about the tour?
I have a few places in Connecticut and in Florida lined up for readings so far. I love talking with readers about my work, and I’m most looking forward to revisiting the book again after time away from it.
6. Do you want The Longings of Wayward Girls to be made into a movie one day? If so, who are the actors that would comprise your dream cast?
It would be wonderful to see the book as a movie. I wouldn’t begin to guess who would play what role—I’d rather be surprised. I like the idea of leaving it up to the new creator’s expertise and interpretation.
7. Sadie, the precocious main character in Longings of Wayward Girls, is a character that is hard to forget. How did you create her? Was it hard to write about a character like her?
I think children can be filled with resentment and spite without really knowing why, and Sadie’s cruelty toward Francie seems to arise out of her own sorrow and confusion about growing up. For this reason I was able to sympathize with her and understand her. Because she does some of the things I did as a child (I really wrote a musical called “The Memory of the Fleetfoot Sisters”) I could relate to her creative side. The adult Sadie’s actions were harder to imagine and write about—but I felt that the two Sadies—young and old—are so closely linked. She’s never grown out of the past, and I felt I was essentially continuing her story.
8. Describe Longings of Wayward Girls in 10 words or less?
A suburban mother reawakens old love and a haunted past.
9. The setting for Longings of Wayward Girls is an idyllic, sleepy town. Way before the days of Facebook and Twitter. Can you picture Sadie as a precocious girl using social media?
The “letters under the stone” incident in my own past occurred to me after reading one of the many reports occurring now in which someone corresponds via social media with an unknowing victim. I think it’s all too easy now to pretend to be someone else, and sadly I’m sure Sadie would have taken Facebook and Twitter in stride with similar disastrous results.
*Special thanks to Karen Brown for this interview!