Bringing Hollywood to Life – interview with Emma Straub

I think it was last week (this hurricane has played havoc with my sense of time) that I met Emma Straub at the Darien Library in Connecticut. She was there (all the way from New York) to talk about her first novel, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, which was published by Riverhead Books in September. Her debut story collection Other People We Married, arrived in February 2012, also published by Riverhead Books. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published by Tin House, The Paris Review Daily, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Vogue, and many other journals, and she is a staff writer for Rookie, an online magazine for teens. She’s done a fantastic job of promoting the book, with readings, events and offers to book clubs to join them via Skype. I have to say, she deserves the success she’s having.

GC: How/where did you learn to write?

ES: My father is a writer, and my mother runs a literacy program, so I learned to read and write in utero, I’m pretty sure. I started to take writing seriously when I was about ten, I’d say. I always liked to read more than just about anything else.

GC: This novel covers quite a swathe of time. What first got you interested in the idea of a saga?

ES: Most of what I’d written previously was bite-sized–my short stories in particular. I wanted a novel that felt like it couldn’t possibly take any other form. And who doesn’t love a saga?!

GC: You said you weren’t a film buff, yet you seem to know a lot about Hollywood in the 30’s and 40’s. How did you find out about it?

ES: Well, some people would probably call me a film buff–I do go to the movies once or twice a week, probably. But I didn’t have an encyclopedia of film already embedded in my brain. I went to the library! Several libraries. And bookstores. And, of course, to the movies.

GC: Are any of the characters based on real people and if so, why did you choose the ones you did?

ES: I couldn’t resist–though I knew I wanted Laura, my main character, to really be her own person, I couldn’t help sneaking a couple of fictionalized versions of real actors and Hollywood types in there. Laura’s best friend Ginger is based on Lucille Ball, for example, because I just loved learning more about her.

GC: Do you have any favorite authors you like to re-read?

ES: Jennifer Egan, Lorrie Moore, Ann Patchett. Those are my fave, fave, faves.

GC: Can you tell us exactly where you write and why you like to write there?

ES: I have a small office, with a chaise lounge. I recline. Why not, you know? I just don’t like sitting at a desk. And it has to be at home, because I need total quiet. And my cats.

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2 thoughts on “Bringing Hollywood to Life – interview with Emma Straub

  1. What fun to read this, Gabi! I spent a few months working for the Straub family when Emma was about 8. Sometimes when her parents went out for the evening, I took on Emma’s bedtime reading. A nice precursor to the joys of doing so with my own girl so many years later. I haven’t read Emma’s novel yet but love her short stories.

    • Meanwhile, back in the small world department… Emma is great fun and I enjoyed reading her novel by flashlight during the Storm. She transported me to Hollywood – a much more appealing place!

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