Interview with Natalie Wexler, author of The Mother Daughter Show


Publisher: Fuze Publishing

Publish Date: December 1, 2011

Order From:  Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kindle / Fuze Publishing

Synopsis: At Barton Friends a D.C. prep school so elite its parent body includes the President and First Lady - three mothers have thrown themselves into organizing the annual musical revue. Will its Machiavellian intrigue somehow enable them to reconnect with their graduating daughters, who are fast spinning out of control? By turns hilarious and poignant, The Mother Daughter Show will appeal to anyone who's ever had a daughter - and anyone who's ever been one.

Natalie Wexler's Bio: Natalie Wexler is the author of The Mother Daughter Show (Fuze Publishing 2011) and an award-winning historical novel, A More Obedient Wife. She is a journalist and essayist whose work has appeared in the Washington Post Magazine, the American Scholar, the Gettysburg Review, and other publications, and she is a reviewer for the Washington Independent Review of Books. She has also worked as a temporary secretary, a newspaper reporter, a Supreme Court law clerk, a legal historian, and (briefly) an actual lawyer. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband.

Q. How did you come up with the idea for The Mother Daughter Show?

It sort of fell into my lap. I was working on a historical novel that wasn’t going all that well, and I got involved, somewhat reluctantly, in a longstanding tradition at my daughter’s school: a musical revue written by mothers of graduating senior girls for their daughters. I had heard that conflicts often erupted among the mothers on the show, and pretty soon I could see that this year was going to be no exception. I found it difficult to extricate myself from the planning for the show, and it some point it occurred to me that what was going on could give me material for a comic novel, while also providing an opportunity to write about mother-daughter relationships. Because I was “really” working on the historical novel, I gave myself just four weeks to write a first draft of what became The Mother Daughter Show—I wasn’t at all sure I’d be able to come up with anything. But I finished the first draft just a little behind schedule, in six weeks, and I thought there was something there. Then, of course, the book went through about 12 more drafts and took over my life for a year and a half.

Q. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Not so much a message, I guess, as some perceptions I’d like readers to take away from the book. One thing I wanted to get across is how patterns of behavior between mothers and daughters get repeated generation after generation. It seems, for example, that it’s almost universal that the mother of a teenage daughter wants to know more about that daughter’s life than the daughter wants to reveal. And I do think that our mothers’ parenting style usually influences our own, for better or worse. Two of my characters unconsciously repeat the very behavior that drives them crazy in their own mothers, while another does everything she can to be different from her own mother and still ends up having a troubled relationship with her daughter. (Of course, there are many happy, problem-free mother-daughter relationships—but if you’re writing a novel, you need problems!). And ultimately, I’d like readers to see that although our relationships between mothers and daughters may be fraught on a day-to-day basis, underneath there are strong bonds—even if, as in the book, it may take a crisis to bring them to the fore.

Beyond that, I hope readers will recognize something of themselves in the characters—as I certainly do—and have a good laugh. I think being able to laugh at yourself helps to maintain a sense of perspective. That’s one reason I wrote the book—I needed some distance from what was going on, which at times was pretty painful, and laughing at the situation seemed like the best way to get it.

Q. How much of the book is realistic?

It depends on what you mean by realistic. I started with a real series of events, but in creating characters and a plot I departed from reality quite a bit. My intention was never to write about the real people involved in the show—that generally doesn’t work well, and I had no interest in invading their privacy. So while I hope my characters are realistic, in the sense that they’re believable (and I’ve been told they are), they’re not thinly veiled representations of real people. I was more interested in the situation—a group of women trying to write a show together during their daughters’ senior year of high school, a time when emotions often run high—and what sorts of tensions that situation brought out year after year.

Q. What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Coming up with a good plot. While there were advantages in writing about something that was more or less transpiring before my eyes, initially I was too bound up in what really happened. I was told that all those planning meetings in the book weren’t actually all that fascinating, and I needed some other sources of drama. So I had to come up with a new plot that more or less meshed with what I already had and try to shoehorn it in—not easy, but I managed to do it. For instance, I made two of my three main characters good friends, and then had their friendship unravel as a result of tensions on the show. I had one character embark on a job search after twenty years as a stay-at-home mom. And I introduced a flirtation between two characters that looks like it might be heading towards an extra-marital affair. So the show became more of the background to the story than the main event.

Q. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

One thing I learned was that you have to be open to making changes—even seemingly massive changes.  With my first novel, I’d made quite a few changes, but they basically consisted of cutting material I already had. Coming up with a new plot was a change of a different order of magnitude, but I’m glad I did it. I also learned how important it is to have an engaging plot.

Q. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I’ve been interested in writing for as long as I can remember, so it’s hard to say. But it might go all the way back to the method my mother used to teach me to read when I was four. She knew I loved to tell stories, and she was an experienced stenographer. So she took down my stories in shorthand, typed them up, and gave them back to me, knowing I would be desperate to crack the code that would enable me to read my own words. It certainly turned me into a reader—I was reading entire books by the time I reached kindergarten—but recently I’ve wondered if it turned me into a writer as well. I hope I’m not quite as much of an egotist as I was at four, but I still get a thrill when I see my words in print. And that early experience may have helped convince me that others would be interested in the stories I made up—although perhaps not quite as interested as my adoring mother!

Q. Tell us your latest news.

I don’t know if it counts as news, but I’m well into a first draft of my next novel—which is actually the historical novel I was working on when I got sidetracked by The Mother Daughter Show. Like my first novel—A More Obedient Wife, which is set in the 1790s—this novel is based on the lives of some real but obscure historical figures. One of my main characters is based on a woman who founded and edited a magazine in 1807, when she was 26 years old—and who was, I’ve discovered, the first woman to edit a magazine in the United States. With my first novel, I relied on letters to and from my main characters for the bare bones of the story and filled in the rest with my imagination. With this one, I’m relying on the magazine instead of letters, interspersing excerpts from it with my fictional narrative. It was a tumultuous year for my character, and I’m enjoying trying to recreate it.

Thanks so much for hosting me!






2 comments:

  1. Star, thanks for allowing Natalie to stop by.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love your blog and thank you for sharing it with me. Your writing style has an infectious (in a good way) feeling of life, laughter and energy that makes me smile. I can’t help but smile, when i read it.
    Good link!! Like it..

    ReplyDelete

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