7 Questions with Ariel Lawhon
Today marks the paperback release of the (based on a true story) mystery,
he Wife, The Maid and The Mistress by Ariel Lawhon and we are delighted to bring her to the Bona Fide to visit.
Q1. You have written this knock-it-out of the park novel. I don't know if you wrote as a child but did you ever find that you were 'thinking in story'?
Thank you! And yes, I did write as a child! I can remember knowing from an early age--maybe five--that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. So I would scribble my own stories any chance I got. But more often I'd act out the stories that my mother read to me at night. The Hobbit. Anne of Green Gables. All the Narnia tales. I truly believed that Story and my deep, desperate belief in it, not only changed my life but saved it.
Q2. What makes a story one for you personally that you don't want to put down?
I can usually tell from the first page, often the first paragraph if I'm going to love a book. There's something about the tone in those first words that says so much. But beyond that it's about characters and heart and that deep sense of being carried away that a good novel brings. I think of The Thirteenth Tale. Or The Book Thief. Or Outlander. Or Water For Elephants. Or Peace Like A River. All of those books have a soul to them. Something so close to the surface that you can FEEL it when you begin to read. I want a novel to break my heart and then patch it together again at the end. The Time Travelers Wife did this for me. As did The Kite Runner. I want to care so much about the people on those pages that I can't put the book down. I want to think about them when I'm not with them.
Q3. What was it about this particular story, a true crime fact, that made it one you didn't want to put down or leave alone but bring to the page?
It was the judge's wife, Stella and her yearly ritual at a bar in Greenwich Village. Every year on the anniversary of her husband's disappearance Stella would go to a bar called Club Abbey. She would sit in a corner booth, order two shots of whiskey, and raise one in salute of her missing husband. "To Joe! Wherever you are!" Stella would drink her glass then she'd get up and leave the bar, the other shot of whiskey untouched on the table. She did this every year for thirty nine years. Even though she remarried. Even though she moved on with her life. When I read about Stella Crater doing that, she took up permanent residence in my mind. I had to understand why.
Q4. You have written this sexy, sassy novel with three powerful lead female characters that are simply wowzer. Just for the fun of it if we were playing cast a movie, who would you choose for the three main leads?
Ha! I never know how to answer this question. Truly. The women in my mind don't share a face with anyone else. They are their own persons. And if the book was ever made into a film I would have to let go of my idea of who they are. Not that I would mind of course!
(Just for the record we will now have to work on casting this one in our free time. Hollywood hope you're paying attention because there are 3 powerful women out there ready to grab these leads.)
Q5. This is very special time period story but there is something that is candidly alive about it. When reading it I never felt I was reading something historical set in the days of the prohibition but that I was actually there, in the story, in that nightclub, hearing that music. Can you tell us a little of what went into the writing to make that true?
Tears and gnashing of teeth. That's what went into it! I'd never been to New York City before I wrote the novel and I almost didn't write the book because of that. I was afraid I'd get it wrong. And getting a city like New York wrong just isn't an option. It's so iconic. It's so gritty and dark and exotic. Especially at that time. Or at least that's how it seemed to me. But then, a slight miracle happened. I discovered that Stella Crater published a memoir in 1963 (published by Doubleday, ironically--who know I'd end up at the same publisher?). And suddenly I had much of the story in her own words. Stella was able to bring NYC alive for me. I was finally able to see it through her eyes and translate it to the page. What you read in the book truly is Stella Crater's NYC.
Q6. One of our characters is a dancer and there is quite a bit of sashay going on in the novel. Just wondering, can you dance?
Sadly I was born with a tin ear and two left feet. I can not sing, dance, clap in time with music, or write poetry. I'm a one trick pony. Novel writing is all I have.
Q7. If you could have written any work of literature by another writer from any period in time what would it have been and why?
I want to answer this question a thousand different ways. I can think of so many novels that moved me on a deep, primal level. But if I had to pick just one I would say The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It's the first book I ever loved. Lucy Pevensie was the first character I ever wanted to BE. Hell, I still want to be Lucy. She was the one who always saw Aslan first. She was the bravest, the kindest, the most tender, the most honest. And because of Lucy I remember thinking, as a very young child, that if Jesus was anything like Aslan I would love Him too. That's a powerful thing if you think about it. I'm thirty-six years old and I remember that thought, word for word. A book made me feel that. Just paper and ink the thoughts of one man. Never, ever let it be said that books don't matter. They change the world because they change people first. They make people better. They make people hope and laugh and love. They make children aspire to things beyond their reach.
Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (Doubleday) is based on a true missing persons case from 1930. Ariel believes in coffee, stories, and friendship. You can find her online at www.ariellawhon.com