Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Let's hear it for debuts, part two: L. Alison Heller talks about The Love Wars, being a lawyer and a writer, and so much more

The Love Wars by L. Alison Heller is a sparkling debut you'll want to tuck into your beach bag, along with your sunblock.  Heller follows matrimonial lawyer Molly Grant, who spends her time juggling high profile clients, until she meets the desperate former wife of  one of the firm's most important clients, a media icon who is determined to keep his ex from her kids. Can Molly bend the rules and keep her job? Or will the price for doing the right thing be way too high? As delicious as iced lemonade, with a refreshing twist.

Thank you so much, Ms. Heller, for coming on my blog.

What sparked the writing of this book? How do you know what you know about the subject and why were you compelled to write about it?

Like Molly, the main character in The Love Wars, I switched to divorce law from a more commercial field because I was in search of a connection to actual, human clients. I explained this while interviewing at the firm where I eventually worked and one of the lawyers warned, “be careful what you wish for!” 

It was a fair point. Divorce work certainly involves a human connection—but at times to an overwhelming degree. It’s alternatively tragic, ridiculous, frightening and uplifting. My colleagues had a mantra: someone oughta write a book. (They had a lot of mantras; another was you can’t make this stuff up, which I apparently took much less to heart than the oughta write a book one.) 
I’ve always loved to write and the idea of writing fiction set in the world of New York divorce law stuck. After I’d stopped litigating for long enough for my memories to gel a bit, I sat down to do it.

What kind of writer are you? Do you outline or just "follow your pen?" 

I do both. I start with a very rough outline that I change along the way because a fair amount of my plotting happens as I draft. Basically, it’s a lot of fits and starts until I get to the part where I feel like I’m living and dreaming the story, at which point things flows easier. Would that I had a magic pill to get me to there . . . but alas, I must sweat and experience false starts and periodic freak outs that there’s only 100 pages worth of story in the idea that seemed so terrific not too long before.

What surprised you in writing this particular book? 

From a process standpoint, how much joy it gave me. Writing requires work, for sure—keeping your butt in chair for hours, thinking to the point of brain-freeze, the fits and starts described above—but somehow it’s still refreshing. 

From an industry standpoint, everything was a surprise. I’m set in my ways as a lawyer and have my little systems down, but publishing was all new to me: The editing process! The pitching and publicity! The waiting (oh, the waiting)! I’m sure, however, I’ll be much savvier when my second novel comes out next June—because that’s how it always works, right? (Right?!?)

What's your writing life like?

If I could, I’d write from early morning to mid-afternoon, but I can’t always claim those prime hours. So, I write whenever I can. My work-in-progress perpetually jiggles in the back of my mind though. 

What's obsessing you now and why?

Obsessing is a default mode for me and I could give at least five honest answers here. So as not to scare, I’ll stick to one: the structure of my third book, with which I keep experimenting.

What question didn't I ask that I should have?

Because I always enjoy hearing other peoples’ reading lists, I’ll share the last book I finished: WONDER by R.J. Palacio. It’s summer reading for one of my nephews and was literally lying in a chair at his house. I picked it up casually—so I wouldn’t end up sitting on it—and ended up glancing at the cover, which is a soothing shade of blue and has on it an intriguing drawing. I wound up not putting the book down until the next day because it was so emotionally riveting, with such a wonderfully moving message about kindness and inclusion. 

1 comment:

Alison Heller said...

Thank you for hosting me, Caroline! Such a thrill to be on your blog.