Guest Blog: The Author of The First Husband On The Search for a Place Called Home (Plus: Win a Copy of Her Book!)
April 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
Laura Dave, whose wonderful piece about her chronic sleeplessness appears in the current issue of LHJ, is a California-based writer whose third novel, the critically and popularly acclaimed The First Husband, arrives in bookstores in paperback tomorrow (April 24). Here, Dave tells us how she came to write what USA Today called a “playful, unpredictable and emotionally resonant” story about Annie Adams, a conflicted young career woman who finds herself torn between two wildly different men and two equally different lifestyles.
Bonus: Be one of 20 lucky readers who will win a hot-off-the-presses copy of The First Husband! Leave a comment on this post to enter.
I began writing The First Husband almost by accident. I was knee-deep in a different novel that took place in Big Sur, California. That novel was about fathers and daughters. Or, I should say, it started out as a novel about fathers and daughters. But the book had turned out to be about many disparate things including the American west, identity theft, and broken hearts. All of which is to say that the deeper I got into the writing of that book, the further away I seemed to be moving from why I’d wanted to write it.
So, almost surreptitiously, I opened a new document. I didn’t tell myself I was starting a new book—how could I? I told myself I was just writing one scene, which kept coming to me: a woman sitting on her couch in her house, right before her longtime boyfriend walks in and changes everything in her life.
I immediately felt for this character, even thought I knew very little about her at first: Just her name (Annie Adams), what she did for a living (she wrote a travel column called Checking Out) and what she truly wanted out of life—even if she didn’t know it yet. This thing she wanted? After all of her travels, it was a place of her own. A place to call home.
I once had a writing teacher who wisely said, “We write about the things we are trying to figure out. The things that elude us.” Perhaps I connected to Annie and The First Husband right from the start because I was certain what eluded her—what I wanted to help her find. In many ways, it reminded me of the very question that had long eluded me: In a world that is obsessed with reinvention and exploration—where we routinely seek cities and spouses and careers far from where we started—how do we commit to staying still and building something that lasts?
The plot of The First Husband is fictionalized, but so much of the emotional life of the book comes from my seeking an answer to that question—and from an old-fashioned desire to do the hard and important work of building a family, a home, and a life that matters.
Perhaps that’s why The First Husband was so rewarding to write, especially after trying to manage the different agendas of my Big Sur novel. By focusing in on a singular emotional question, one that so many people I knew were wrestling with in their own lives, I was able not only to construct a narrative I found entertaining, but also to work through this question for myself. And I was reminded that, for me, the process of writing a novel, at its most satisfying, is not only about helping your characters find where they need to go, it’s also about helping the people you love do the same thing.
Watch Laura Dave’s exchange with fellow novelist Jonathan Tropper about the art of writing blurbs for other writers’ books.
Photo of Laura Dave: Angie Smith
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