How does your second novel, West End Quartet, relate to Seeking Sophia, your debut novel?
WEQ is actually four related novellas about young women in the 1980s who lived together in Manhattan as members of a feminist commune housed in a West End Avenue pre-war building with many bedrooms. (Use Woody Allen’s Hannah and her Sisters apartment as your visual.) Though connected through their politics, Mallory, Kleio, Gwen and Mina take different trajectories when the group splits up. The novellas follow three of the women on the paths they intended before their political interlude interrupted them. The fourth novella, in which Mallory is organizing a reunion thirty years later, tells of the rocky road ahead for Skye and Sophia, the adolescent daughters of Mina and Kleio.
Seeking Sophia explores in greater depth the life path followed by Kleio through cancer, adoption in middle age and reverse immigration to Greece in a journey that resolves the pressing issues of youth.
What inspired you to write both novels?
I was highly affected by the period in which I came of age, the Sixties, during great social unrest, not only here but worldwide. Everyone took sides because everyone was touched, pro or con, by Viet Nam, the pill, civil rights, The Beatles, love-ins and radical politics, which resulted in breaking boundaries and bringing the world closer. We are again in a transitional historic period, maybe for the worse this time, with too much tolerance of walls going up, violence, war and greed, without nearly enough energy for the well-being of children and women worldwide. It seems like a good time for my novels, which are about personal change among women.
What writers inspire you?
Oh so many! Michael Mitchell, Colm Toibin, Alice Munro, Elena Ferrante, Ali Smith, Orhan Pamuk, Penelope Lively— to name a few.
What will you do after West End Quartet?
Write a group of short stories built on what the author Valerie Martin recently termed the “pastry-chef theory of realism in fiction.” You’ll have to wait to see what that means for me.
Quote from How to Change the World, the first novella in West End Quartet:
Would he still be waiting for her? Mallory’s Rolex read exactly 6:46 p.m. Late! Late! Late! She dashed up the subway stairs to Canal Street and burst into a run to Paco’s El Burrito Bar down the long block.
West End Quartet is due to be released in December 2015.