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Little Willow

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Interview: Garret Freymann-Weyr

In Garret Freymann-Weyr's best novel to date, STAY WITH ME, a young woman attempts to figure out what would cause her older sister to commit suicide, and why her family is the way that it is. I highly recommend this complex, well-written novel to adults and to older teenagers. ( Continue reading my review. )

Was the title derived from the exchange between Leila and Eamon or did you have it in mind prior to writing that exact scene?

I wanted a different title (and a different cover!) I had used Stay With Me for an earlier draft (the Clare & Raphael period), but thought that because of Leila and Eamon's exchange, Stay With Me sounded like a romance novel. But, in the end, I decided that "stay with me" is what you say to the people who leave you, but who you wish had never left, and so it made sense as a title.

Which Stay With Me character came to mind first? Which plotline?

Leila and Eamon came first. Only his name was Drew and hers was Violet and she was a twin and he was the 30 year old son of the man who owned the restaurant where Leila worked. Eamon (Drew) was the one who had scars on his wrists. I was interested in information carried on and in the body. Also in the idea of making a bad choice that is actually a good one. Leila (Violet) was very close to her father. He was always named Julian and a man who had fled Alexandria. For a long time, the characters I cared about the most were Clare and Raphael. This answer should tell you a little bit about how messy and image driven my writing is.

What is more important to you: liking what you do or conquering it?

I love this question, but I'm not sure I have an answer. I've been sitting and staring at it as if the words will hand me something to say. Anything worth fighting for (and, thus, conquering) had better be something you like. But I have been beaten up by the writing process so often, I can't speak with any authority about conquering it. But even when my work shows me how little I accomplish, I still like doing it. So liking it wins by default.

An earlier novel, My Heartbeat, revolved around a triangle: a girl, her older brother, and his best friend, who is also her crush. All three are, in turn, honest and dishonest as they try to figure out who they are and how they truly relate to each other. Whose voice was the easiest to capture, and why?

Ellen's was the easiest. Of the three, she is the quietest and while James and Link confuse her, her soul is peaceful. The boys are in a constant state of uproar. And they love what they hate and hate what they love so they were harder to know, if only because they had a hard time explaining themselves.

The Kings Are Already Here features prodigies who are dedicated to their crafts - or, rather, they were prior to questioning their talents and futures. One is a chess champion; the other, a ballerina. Are you more adept at chess or ballet?

I am the worst chess player in the world and I'm not a very good dancer. New York City Ballet's school wouldn't take me because my bones were too heavy and the Russian ladies who ran their hand over my body said I would be "Big, tall." Yup. Also, I don't have much musicality, which is kind of crucial in dance. I wound up at ABT's school. The three years I was there, I watched the older girls as if I were starving and they were food. In my twenties, I had a massive crush on Garry Kasparov. My friends like to make fun of me for this, but I think, hey, if you're going to have a crush, why not on a genius who loves his mum? So, I think my answer is I am quite adept at loving two things -- ballet and chess -- but not at all adept at doing either of them.

What is the premise of your next book?

I'm not sure. I have a 5th or 6th draft of a 200 + page manuscript that I may put aside so as to write something else. It's due in September, so I'd need an extension if I did that.

It's about that moment when a girl realizes that her appearance, her whole being, is subject to public scrutiny. She's not just a kid becoming a woman. She's a girl discovering that she will spend her life having to contend with the fact that women are -- still -- viewed as objects. Or, as my main character would put it, as bounty. It's also about rage. The title is Across The Eyelids of the World and is from the poem, A Moment in Troy, by Wislawa Szymborska.

Would you care to share your list of ten favorite books?

Well, this is a kind of fluid answer. As in these are the ten I think of right now. Other than the chapters from Mary Poppins, these books just flashed to mind. It means, I think, that they were or are important to me. This doesn't mean they're my favorite:

The Secret Garden
Mary Poppins, especially chapter 11
Mary Poppins Comes Back, especially chapters 3 & 5
Speedboat by Renata Adler
Pitch Dark by Renata Adler
Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion (I have not read this in 15 years, as I have no desire to find out it doesn't hold up to the brilliant thing it is in memory)
Still Life by A.S. Byatt (I skipped all the bits about Marcus -- Byatt thinks with more power than I can absorb)
Jane Eyre (never fails to be hard, bracing and new)
I should have a man on this list.
The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard.
Okay, that didn't help.
Maurice by E. M. Forster. It is his novel about two men in love. It leaps off the page like fire. His other novels (especially, Room With a View) touch on forbidden love by making it a class story, but it's only when he gets to his real topic that his language takes off. God, I really love this book.

Harriet the Spy should be in there somewhere, but I can't think how. Maybe it shares the Jane Eyre slot as I had to conceal from my parents how often I reread each one.

Visit to learn more about Garret and her novels.
Tags: books, cybils, interviews

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