April Lurie has three published novels to date, each of which take place in a different time period. Her characters have danced in Brooklyn in the forties, flirted with the mob in the seventies, and accidentally shoplifted underwear in the present day, which is, of course, when our interview took place.
When crafting a story, do you first think of the plot and setting or of the characters? If you create the characters first, do they set the time and the pacing?
It's been a little different with each book, but generally I begin with a character. To date, my protagonists have been loosely based on real people, so the time period and the setting naturally follow. When I first started writing, plotting was difficult, but I think (at least I hope!) I've gotten better at it. Once I find my main character's voice and what he/she wants to say, that's when I can begin the story.
Yes! Actually, the book was a gift to my parents. My mom and dad (and both sets of grandparents) were Norwegian immigrants. They settled in the Norwegian community of Brooklyn, New York, and grew up during WWII. Judy (the main character) is loosely based on my mother, and Jacob (her love interest) is a lot like my dad. It's funny because my parents were childhood sweethearts and have been married now for over 50 years.
What are your favorite Brooklyn hangouts?
Well, unfortunately, I don't get to hang out in Brooklyn anymore - I live near Austin, Texas - but when I was a kid, I liked to hang out at the schoolyard and play handball and stickball. Another hangout was the local pizzeria, where they had the best pies (yes, we called them pies) and gelato. In the summer, I spent a lot of time at Manhattan Beach. Mostly, my friends and I liked to take the subway into the city and stroll though Central Park or Washington Square.
The Mafia and shag carpeting are both present in your second novel, Brothers, Boyfriends & Other Criminal Minds. If a thrift store were to give you an offer you couldn't refuse, what furnishing staple from the seventies would be featured in your household?
Well, I'm a sucker for cool posters, so I'd have Al Pacino as Serpico, Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.
The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine is your first book written from a male point of view. How challenging was it for you to give him a voice?
Strangely, I had a total blast. When I first began I didn't know if I was going to be able to pull it off, but it came fairly naturally. I grew up with two brothers, and I have two teenage sons, so I believe that helped. Plus, my husband is my first reader and he would let me know if I got something wrong. The book I'm writing now is also from a male POV so maybe I'm on a roll. We'll see.
Your books tend to have both drama and comedy. When reading for fun, just for yourself, what genre do you tend to pick up?
Hmm, that's a tough one. I read a variety of genres. I prefer literary fiction over anything commercial. I like stories that can make me laugh and cry at the same time. If something intrigues me, I'll read the first page; if I'm drawn into the narrative, I'll give it a try.
What are your ten favorite books of all time?
Another tough one. There are so many.
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going
The Hours by Michael Cunningham
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Fortune's Rocks by Anita Shreve