It’s publication day for my second novel, THE GOOD NEIGHBOR, and today, multi-published, New York Times bestselling women’s fiction author, my friend Patti Callahan Henry is flipping us all upside down and interviewing me on my own blog! (Eleanor Brown interviewed me for THE GLASS WIVES. Am I lucky, or what?)
I hope that after continuing on this journey with me that you’ll take a chance on THE GOOD NEIGHBOR and that you’ll encourage all your family, friends, and neighbors to do the same!
Want your copy before you read the interview? Click here!
Author Patti Callahan Henry Interviews Amy Sue Nathan About THE GOOD NEIGHBOR
Patti: As a writer, I am always fascinated about the inspiration behind a story. You know, the real story behind the story. Can you tell us how this book started? What made you say “Now, this is a story I want to tell.”
Amy: Believe it or not, it all started with the 1945 movie, Christmas in Connecticut. My friend Christina Gombar encouraged me to watch it, knowing my penchant for romantic comedies and old movies. She also suggested it was a modern story cloaked in a black and white, war-era film. And she was right! In Christmas in Connecticut, Barbara Stanwyck plays Elizabeth Lane (I totally named Izzy after her, and you’ll see why)who is a popular columnist at a New York women’s magazine (remember those?). She shares recipes, household tips, and pontificates on her Connecticut farmhouse life with her husband and baby. Sounds great, right? It would be if any of it were true. This Elizabeth Lane is a single woman who lives in New York and can’t even boil a pot of water. One day, Elisabeth’s publishers asks (demands) she invite a huge fan and injured soldier to her home — her Connecticut farmhouse home — for Christmas. Elisabeth has just days to find a house, a husband, and a baby. Mayhem ensues.
What struck me about this hilarious movie was the potential for a modern twist, the what-if this happened now. Then I realized, as a blogger since 2006, how I’d really laid everything on the line and was honest. What if I hadn’t. What if I’d made up everything I shared when I was “mommy blogging” back in the day? What if I did that now? (I don’t. I’m an open book, forgive the pun.)
The thoughts of what’s shareable and what’s not came to mind right away. Is there a difference between a lie and a secret? How about privacy? Does that come into play? We all love the internet but it can really get it into trouble. How would someone get out of that kind of trouble?
That’s when my Elizabeth “Izzy” Lane was born.
I also yearned to write a story set in a Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood like the one I grew up in, without having it set in the sixties or seventies. Thanks to fiction, I had the pleasure of inventing a neighborhood like mine that was right for Izzy right now.
Patti: Izzy is so witty, so full of ideas and fun (even as she ‘lies’ in her blog). And you are so funny and witty, so full of ideas and fun. How much of you is in Izzy? And if any of you hides in Izzy, was it on purpose or did you only see it in hindsight?
Amy: You are very generous, Patti. Thank you! When I started writing The Good Neighbor I was actually relieved there was such a distance between me and Izzy. I knew enough about her to write her, but it wasn’t so close that I had to remind myself it was fiction. I never got the two of us confused. Then one day I was saying as much to a friend who has known me for about 24 years — how Izzy is a decade or more younger than I am, how her experiences don’t mirror mine at all, and how much of a relief that was to be in a different place in life than a main character. Then this happened:
“So Izzy doesn’t have any of your experiences?”
“Nope. Not really. And she’s a lot younger than I am.”
“How old is Izzy in the book?”
“And she just got divorced?”
“How old were you when you got divorced?”
I hesitated. Then said: “Shut up.”
So to answer your question, Patti? Hindsight.
Patti: What was the biggest surprise when you were writing this book? Often, I find that just when I think I have a hold of the story, it gets a hold of me and BAM, surprise. Did this happen to you at all?
Amy: It always happens to me and I love that. Someone comes around a corner you didn’t expect and everything changes. It’s hard to explain that phenomenon of the characters taking over the story to non-writers, but it totally exists! In The Good Neighbor I was totally shocked at things surrounding Mrs. Feldman (can’t say what, because spoiler alert). She told me her part of the story. I was merely the scribe.
Patti: Mrs. Feldman is a voice of wisdom and advice, a woman we all wish we knew. Do you have someone like this in your life? Was Mrs. Feldman based on anyone you knew?
Amy: Mrs. Feldman wasn’t based on anyone, and honestly, I’m not sure where she came from. I grew up with wonderful neighbors, had two grandmothers (one until I was 14 and one until I was 40), and some teachers I admired. I guess Mrs. Feldman has tidbits of all of them but it wasn’t intentional, I mean, that makes sense, right? She also has things about her that I can’t attribute to anyone else but her. She’s her own woman for sure (and I think she’d agree).
Patti: What is next for your beautiful storytelling voice?
Amy: <3 I’m steeped in writing my third novel right now, about a woman named Teddi Lerner who, after six years, goes back to the hometown she abandoned during her best friend’s funeral. Needless to say, Teddi’s got a lot of explaining to do to a lot of people.
Thank you for to all my WFW blog readers!
You are a huge source of support (yes, even when you’re lurking)!
Click here for ways to purchase the book. Also available at your local Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s! If you see TGN out in the wild, take a photo and share it with me!