Questions from a Reader

Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 10.21.32 PMI did a live Google+ Hangout yesterday during which several of my readers participated. One of my readers, Amy Feld, was unable to hook up with the Hangout (it was a technological challenge, for sure!), so she sent me her questions separately, and I thought I’d answer them here for everyone to see.

(Here’s the Google+ Hangout link, if you’d like to check out the interview. It was fun, but if I look and sound like I had a cold, you’re right!

And here are Amy’s questions:

Q.In Necessary Lies, how did you manage to  perfectly capture Jane’s feminism in 1960 in such a way that made her uncommonly progressive for that era, yet if we judged her by today’s standards, her use of phrases like “my husband allowed me to work…” would seem subservient today.

A. In so many different aspects of this novel, I tried to strive for the middle ground because I wanted the story to feel realistic. For that reason, I didn’t want to make Jane a flaming feminist. At the same time, she’s not a meek little housewife. She was raised in a household that valued helping those less fortunate and that was a huge part of who she was. When she married and found herself with money and a comfortable lifestyle, she didn’t forget her roots. I think the fact that she does still have traditional values common to women in 1960 made her actions in helping Ivy that much more dramatic.

Q. Is your Sheltie Keeper named after Keeper of the Light?

A. Yes, he is! One of my dogs was named “Chapel” after the Chapel House in my first novel, Private Relations, and I knew that two of my adopted dogs were meant for me because of their names. My big, long departed golden retriever, Ben, came into my life when I was writing Secret Lives, in which one of the central characters is named Ben. My other Sheltie, adopted just this last year, is named Cole, which was the name of a main character in Private Relations. When I heard his name, I knew he’d be ours.

Q. I thought The First Lie added so much to Necessary Lies, to me it was integral to the enjoyment of the book. How were you able to mature Ivy’s voice from 13 to 15 in such a nuanced way? I could see the more proper vocabulary (or less improper ), more sophisticated (or less unsophisticated) words. Was this difficult?

A. For anyone who doesn’t know, The First Lie is a short story available only in ebook format and it takes place two years prior to the opening of Necessary Lies. In my opinion, it’s not at all necessary to read it, but it is an added bonus. Here’s the truth about the short story: It was written months after Necessary Lies, not before. I decided to write it after a conversation with my publisher, during which we discussed having a short story that linked to the book. So rather than “mature” Ivy’s voice, I “immature” it for the short story. It was fun to imagine what she was like two years earlier and no, I didn’t find it difficult. I felt as though I knew her so intimately by then. I was thrilled to get to revisit her, since she’s one of my all-time favorite characters. I also wrote a very short story about Ivy and the neighborhood children for a United Kingdom magazine, My Weekly. I don’t know if that’s been published yet.

Q. So many writers use multiple voices that sound exactly the same, with you they are entirely distinct and unique.

A. Thank you. This is a challenge. It was quite easy in Necessary Lies because Jane and Ivy are different ages and from such different backgrounds. It was much harder in a book like The Midwife’s Confession, for example, in which four of the five point-of-view characters are women in their forties with similar backgrounds. What I do in a case like that is write the book, then pull out all the scenes from each character’s point of view and read through them to be sure I have a distinct voice for that character. I like that part of the process.

Thanks for your great questions, Amy, and I hope you can join me in another Google+ Hangout someday soon!


  1. shana on October 8, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Hi! I took out a bunch of your books from the library and just finished “The Lies We Told” and I am fuming at Adam for his selfishness and immaturity and lack of heart!! I am so crushed for Maya’s sake!

  2. hamza malik on January 7, 2014 at 11:30 am

    hi! I just started reading and I am very happy to tell that the first book that I read was yours and I am very impressed by the way you get to the heart of the story an once when I started reading that book of yours I couldn’t stop reading

  3. Diane Chamberlain on January 7, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    Spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t read The Lies We Told: I believe Maya is better off without him, Shana. 🙂 She will be fine!!

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