Q. Why did you start writing?
A. I felt I had something to say.
When I look at the novels that have stuck with me for decades, the common thread is that the characters grapple with ethical conundrums. Nick in Gatsby, Scout in Mockingbird, Holden in Catcher, Pip in Great Expectations, or Huckleberry Finn — and on-and-on — all struggle to become good people. They aren’t effortlessly kind or self-aware or heroic but fumble about a bit before finding their paths.
I’m not sure exactly why that theme appeals to me, only that it does.
Q. So what issue does the main character in Water Damage face?
A. Liv Edlen is fairly naive art student when she lands in England in the mid-1970s. For the first time in her life she’s exposed to fascinating people and extreme wealth, the kind that goes back centuries and comes with titles and stately homes and ridiculous privilege. She has the opportunity to grab some of that for herself. But only if she is willing to turn a blind eye to questionable practices.
Many writers, musicians, artists struggle with the idea of being true to the creative process — and survival. The temptation in Liv’s case is she could enter this world on her talent but would have to disregard the amoral creep factor of her benefactor.
England in the ’70s England was a rare place and time when the classes were mixing like never before. It felt revolutionary. It also previewed today’s issues of wealth inequity and people wanting to create and . . . good Lord, I sound pretentious.
I meant to say; I felt I had a story to tell.
The characters are interesting. And parts of it are pretty funny.
Q. What do you read for pleasure?
A. I enjoy what I think of as popular literary fiction including Goldfinch, Leave the World Behind, Signature of Everything, Beloved, Remains of the Day . . so many. Some of the most amazing nonfiction books I’ve read in many years are Behind the Beautiful Forever about life in a slum in India, and Plasticity: The Brain That Changes Itself, and I love a memoir that can illuminate the universal through the personal. There are so many good writers in this world. Going into Powells, an…