Let’s welcome Laurie Frankel to Reading Reality! Her latest book, Goodbye for Now, just came out on August 7, and is a fascinating blend of technology, social networking, science fiction and near-future possibilities. It’s a love story. And it’s also about the eternal realities of the human condition. A lot gets packed into one story! (See review for more details)
You’ll have a chance below to win a copy of Goodbye for Now for your very own, but in the meantime, here’s Laurie to answer a few questions.
Marlene: Tell us a little about yourself. What does Laurie Frankel do when she’s not writing?
Laurie: Well, I have a little boy, so mostly what I do when I’m not writing is parent. I used to also teach college — writing, literature, gender studies — but that left me not nearly enough time to parent and write. I do yoga. I listen to baseball on the radio and cook. I go to the theater as often as I can. I love to travel though, on account of the small child, I do that less these days than I’d like. And I read. A lot.
Marlene: Some advice here, please. How did you convince you mother to think of your books as her “grandbooks”? That sounds awesome.
Laurie: I didn’t have to convince her. It’s her term, all her idea. It is awesome. Both of my parents are just really, really great — supportive, loving, generous, and absolutely over-the-moon stoked about my writing. I am very lucky. So I guess that’s my advice: be lucky enough to have great parents. (Not especially helpful advice, huh?)
Marlene: What inspired you to write Goodbye for Now?
Laurie: At the beginning, honestly, it was frustration with Facebook and all the time we all spend online these days. I kept having the sense that the time and energy I was spending keeping in virtual touch with old classmates and ex-work-colleagues was time and energy I was taking away from keeping in actual touch with my close friends and family. That’s not what Goodbye For Now is about, but that is where the inspiration came from.
It also came from an idea I had when my grandmother died. She and I emailed each other a lot, and when she died, I had this idea that a good programmer could write software that could fake emails from her. I sat with that idea for years, convinced it was a great idea for a product, before I realized that I’m not a software engineer nor an inventor nor a developer, and that this was a good idea, not in real life, but for a novel. And luckily, I am a novelist.
Marlene: Reviewers are making comparisons between Goodbye for Now and David Nicholls’ One Day. Do you think the themes are similar? (I keep thinking of Steven Spielberg’s film A.I.)
Laurie: Goodbye For Now and One Day are both high-concept love stories, but thematically, indeed, I think A.I. is probably closer. People also keep saying Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I think that’s a pretty good comparison too.
Marlene: And when you describe the story to people, what genre do you think it falls into?
Laurie: Great question and hard to answer. When I started it (and this wasn’t that long ago), I was calling it Speculative Fiction, even Sci-Fi, but by the time it’s coming out, it’s just not that farfetched anymore. There are lots of people working on technology remarkably similar to the tech I imagine. There are lots of people suddenly concerned about what happens to our online, virtual selves — all our archived emails and chats and Facebook activity and blogs and social media presence — after we pass on.
Marlene: It looks like Goodbye for Now might BE turned into a movie. Wow! Who would you like to see playing Sam and Meredith?
Laurie: Yup, film rights have been optioned. Very exciting. The folks working on the movie are just amazing. It’s great talking to them. The best part of the movie is it has almost nothing to do with me. Watching someone else take this project on — including the casting — is just incredible. I, for instance, have no idea who should play Sam and Meredith, so I’m delighted to leave that in the capable hands of the filmmakers. I have, however, been casting my fantasy version of the film with dead actors — since Goodbye For Now is all about virtually recreating the dead — and I think Jimmy Stewart as Sam and Natalie Wood as Meredith would be just about perfect!
Marlene: A lot of people are going to focus on the technology in Goodbye for Now. Do you think something like RePose might ever be possible?
Laurie: Very possible. There’s a TED Talk about this very thing called, “After Your Final Status Update.” There’s a Facebook app called “If I Die.” There’s a service called Dead Soci.al that sends messages — on your behalf, as you — after you pass on. A decade-and-a-half dead Tupac came back to perform at Coachella. So yeah, very possible I think. Likely even.
Marlene: Do you believe in soul mates?
Laurie: I do. Because I’m certain I am married to mine. I cannot explain though why some people seem to find theirs and some people don’t. This doesn’t seem fair to me. Maybe some people don’t have or don’t need or don’t want a soulmate. I don’t know. But I do believe I found mine. Lucky, huh?
Marlene: Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?
Laurie: A little bit of both. This book came to me whole — a miracle — but as a play and then it changed a lot in the writing of it anyway. My favorite part of the whole book-writing process is when it surprises me, when characters cross their arms and say, “No Laurie, sorry, but that’s not what’s going to happen next,” or even better, when they say, “Hello?! Are you a moron? That’s not what’s about to happen. This is what’s about to happen. Duh!” And they’re so right. I love those moments. So I have a sort-of plan, but then I let it — even encourage it to — rewrite itself.
Marlene: Who first introduced you to the love of reading?
Laurie: I remember learning to read — not the process, the actual moment. I was three. My dad and I were stopped at a light, and there was a sign that said, “Stop here on red.” I turned to my dad and said, “That says stop!” and he knew I was actually reading it because it wasn’t a stop sign — I was reading the word not just the shape. He made a huge deal of that which, of course, is why I remember it. My mom is a reading teacher, so I had help as soon as I was ready for it. My grandmother started reading me Shakespeare when I was about five. I come from a family of readers for which I have always been grateful.
Marlene: Who influenced your decision to become a writer?
Laurie: Same people. Reading and writing are two sides of a coin for me. They have always been one drive. Reading good books has always inspired me to put them down and write between chapters. And when I get stuck or need inspiration writing, I take a break to read something good — usually just a few pages does the trick. So while my family was nurturing me as a reader, they were also nurturing my writing. They have always been very supportive. As I say, my parents are more excited about my becoming a published author than I am. They are very, very proud.
Marlene: What book do you recommend everyone should read, and why?
Laurie: Hamlet. You gotta read Hamlet. Reading tastes differ and times change and everyone has different literary needs, but Hamlet is in everything and everything is in Hamlet. Sometimes that play annoys me, and often that character annoys me, and parts of it just draaaaaaagggggg, BUT it also includes passages which are simply the best use of language to date. You know how they say Mozart makes your brain smarter without your conscious mind having to do anything? I think reading Hamlet does that too.
Marlene: What projects do you have planned for the future? What comes next after Goodbye for Now?
Laurie: Soon, soon, I will take a break from promoting Goodbye For Now and start another novel. I can’t wait! I’m dying to get back to writing. I’m not talking about the next project yet, but I am very excited to get back to it. I’ll keep you posted.
Marlene: Coffee or Tea?
Laurie: Both. For sure. Hot in winter. Iced in summer. Four or so times a day. At least.
That sounds to me like a case of “instant writer, just add caffeine”. Works for me.
Speaking of things that work, Laurie’s publisher, Doubleday, is giving away a copy of Goodbye for Now to one lucky entrant here at Reading Reality. The winner will receive a print copy of the book, so this giveaway is open to US entries only.
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