I am so thrilled to host R. L. Maizes and her incredible novel, OTHER PEOPLE’S PETS (Celadon Books, Macmillan). It was a Library Journal Best Debut of Summer/Fall 2020. She is the author of the short story collection WE LOVE ANDERSON COOPER (Celadon Books) and her stories have aired on National Public Radio, and can be found in Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading and in The Best Small Fictions 2020 (forthcoming). Her essays have been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and have aired on NPR.
Let's look at the dazzling praise:
"While reading R.L. Maizes' Other People's Pets, I could not stop saying, as La La mouths to herself at one point, remarkable. Every time the novel opened up yet again to reveal some new depth, much like La La and her ability to experience the emotions of the animals around her, I worried how the novel could hold such wonder without bursting, could control the pain and joy of this remarkable story. But Maizes possesses such magic. This examination of family, across all lines and definitions, will open you up in such necessary, beautiful ways."
―Kevin Wilson, author of Nothing to See Here and The Family Fang
One of Library Journal’s Best Debuts of Summer/Fall 2020
"'Other People’s Pets,' with its lively voice and unexpected characters, makes a perfect addition to anyone’s summer reading pile, but it is required for those who understand that coming of age has absolutely nothing to do with age." Full review here.
—The Washington Post
"This debut novel brings to life a wholly original, deeply charming, and seriously flawed character whose enormous heart leads her into a mess of trouble. A beguiling tale that will make readers want to leap into the pages...." Full review here.
―The Library Journal, STARRED Review
“With its powerful exploration of a dysfunctional birth family and the life that can be made from and despite the traumas of inheritance, Other People’s Pets is, quite simply, a great read.” Full review here.
—Washington Independent Review of Books
"While its quirky combination of fictional elements and adroit, deadpan writing give the novel a wryly comedic atmosphere, La La’s story is melancholy and moving. An uncanny, appealing blend of suspense, irony, tragedy, and how-to for lock-picking, burgling, and ankle monitor removal." Full review here.
Maizes was born and raised in Queens, New York, and lives in Boulder County, CO, with her husband, Steve, and her muses: Arie, a cat who was dropped in the animal shelter’s night box like an overdue library book, and Rosie, a dog who spent her first year homeless in South Dakota and thinks Colorado is downright balmy.
Thank you so much!!!
I always want to know what was haunting an author when they write their books? So what was on your mind when you wrote Other People’s Pets (which I really really loved by the way)?
I was thinking about whether you could thrive as an adult if you were neglected as a child, and what that would take. I was also considering what animals give us and wondering what it would it feel like to experience animals’ physical and emotional sensations as the main character, La La, can.
I love the whole idea of relating to animals better than with people—but what I loved equally was that you created a heroine who steals from houses and we love her for it.
I’m so glad La La resonated with you as a character. I knew when I created a protagonist who was a burglar that one of the challenges would be to make her sympathetic. Not that all main characters have to be sympathetic. But I wanted her to be. It helps that she is loyal to her father and takes care of animals in the homes she robs, though both put her at great risk.
I am totally obsessed with family—especially how we escape the confines of the ones that we are born with and the ones we are able to make for ourselves? Can you talk about that please?
I’m so taken with the idea of found family. That we can create families as adults and choose who will be in them fills me with hope. We all have wounds that we carry because our parents and the way we grew up were less than perfect. Our ability as adults to create family out of friends and lovers and animals and through that to give ourselves some of what we missed as children is one of life’s gifts.
I cannot believe this is a debut because it just GLEAMS. What was it like for you writing this book? Do you plan these out? Or do you just wait for that pesky muse? And what lessons do you feel you’ve learned about writing that you will use in your next work?
Thank you so much. I wrote six days a week, so I definitely didn’t wait for the muse to show up. For the first messy draft, I worked without an outline, telling myself the story. Then I created an outline in which I fixed many of the problems that had arisen in the draft. I began a second draft with one eye on the outline. But I’m always listening to my characters, and if they want to stray from the outline, I follow them, and then revise the outline. That happened with each subsequent draft.
Writing the book taught me there’s no need to panic when problems arise in the text. (Which doesn’t mean I won’t when I write my next book. I probably will.) But I did see that most problems are less intractable than they appear at first. It may take a lot of revision. You may have to wait a bit for a solution to arise, but most problems have solutions.
What, beside the pandemic and the world political situation is obsessing you now and why?
I’m concerned with people sharing false information on the internet,
intentionally and unintentionally. That affects the political situation and the
pandemic, and even apart from those contexts, it can and does destroy people’s
lives. We all need to ask ourselves before we repost, retweet, or share
information: is this true? How do I know?
What question didn’t I ask that I should have?
What’s the best vegan ice cream you’ve found? Costco sells orange coconut creamsicles. Very little nutritional value, but you’ll never regret eating one.
Can you give a shout-out to another author and to an indie bookstore you love?
I love Clare Beams’ new novel, The Illness Lesson. The language and the story are fantastic.
It’s feminist, and it has magical birds. What more could you want?
The Boulder Book Store is a wonderful indie bookstore that gives tremendous support to writers through events and through the Radio Bookclub they produce with KGNU public radio.