Thursday, June 27, 2019

Susan Jane Gilman is in the a book giveaway

We're excited to have Susan Jane Gilman at CLC today to talk about her latest novel, Donna Has Left the Building, and share a funny story with us. Melissa A loved her previous novel, The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street (reviewed here)and is excited to check this one out too. Thanks to Grand Central Publishing, we have TWO copies to give away!

Susan Jane Gilman is the bestselling author of Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress, Kiss My Tiara, Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven, and the novel, The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street. She has provided commentary for NPR and written for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Ms. Magazine, among others. 

Visit Susan online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Donna Koczynski is a failed punk rocker, recovering alcoholic, and suburban mother of two teenagers whose relatively peaceful existence suddenly detonates when she comes home early from a sales conference in Vegas to find the surprise of a lifetime. 

Suddenly realizing that life can be more than the rut of middle-aged motherhood, she sets off on an impulsive quest to reclaim everything she believes she sacrificed since her wild youth: Friendship, great love, and art. But as she flees her family and drives across the U.S. on what she calls an "emotional scavenger hunt"(and others might call a midlife crisis), nothing will turn out as she imagines.

When her trip ultimately deposits her on faraway shores, making sacrifices of a wholly different kind, Donna begins to redefine what it means to be brave -- and what matters in the end. Irresistibly funny, sharply-observed, and surprisingly moving, DONNA HAS LEFT THE BUILDING spins an unforgettable tale about how to make every day count as a wife, a mother, and a woman.

What were the biggest rewards from and challenges with writing Donna Has Left the Building?
I’d been dying to write a funny, female anti-hero that I haven’t seen in books before: a 45-year-old former punk rocker, now a recovering alcoholic, married to a dentist with two teenaged children, who is in the throes of a modern, midlife crisis – wondering how she’d jettisoned all the coolest, edgiest, wildest parts of herself over time. I wanted her not to be simply a victim of middle age – with the requisite cheating husband – but to blow up her life herself as well. She doesn’t merely go on a pilgrimage of “self discovery” or to find a new love. She does what so many men do: She hits the road and behaves very badly. Oh, she makes some terrible decisions! And once she does spiral down the rabbit hole and come out the other end, she finds herself halfway around the globe embroiled in a world crisis. She finds she’s not obsolete. But she wakes up to much more than herself. She finds a sense of place, purpose, hope, responsibility. She truly grows up.

It’s a hopeful, funny story for anxious times.

I haven’t seen this exact story in a novel before, so it was tremendously rewarding to write something that takes lots of expected tropes and turns them on their heads. The challenge, of course, was the same thing: How do you take familiar stories and turn them inside-out?” How do you defy expectations in a way that feels organic? How do you find the humor in serious places?

How are you similar to or different from Donna?
I confess: I am a bit of a smart-ass, and Donna and I are of the same generation, so I’m dealing with all that hormonal “fun” of perimenopause – which no one talks about because it’s so damn uncool. The only images we have of women in this stage of life are of pathetic granny-ish women fanning themselves and sweating in floral blouses. But like Donna, I’m stomping around (in a red leather jacket half the time) listening to 80’s music and New Wave, appalled that I’m actually aging. I honestly thought I’d be exempt! It’s puberty in reserve, as Donna says.

As an American living in Europe at the moment, I’ve had “front row seats” to the refugee crisis there. It’s felt a lot like the USA did right after Hurricane Katrina: you see families drowning and no one coming to help, so you instinctively think “What can I do?” I’ve been doing some volunteer work at a camp in downtown Athens, Greece. That inspired part of the novel – and some of what I observed colored Donna’s own, very different trajectory.

But beyond that, hell, I grew up in New York City. I can barely drive. Donna’s a solid Midwesterner with two teenagers…Our similarities begin and end with mood swings and music.

If Donna Has Left the Building were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
The beauty about Donna is that she can be played by actresses who are adept at both comedy and drama, like Sandra Bullock, Reese Witherspoon, Frances McDormand...Melissa McCarthy would be a fabulously inspired choice.

For Donna’s dentist husband, I could see Kevin James. For her former best friend, Tracee Ellis Ross. For Zack, Bradley Cooper.

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
A couple of weeks ago, I’m riding the NYC subway, and I’m sitting beside a mother whose 4-year-old son is spinning around like a gyroscope. When the train stops abruptly between stations, he jumps up and down excitedly.

“Mommy, Mommy, Mommy! The train stopped! The train stopped! Why did the train stop? Why did the train stop, Mommy?”

She gives him a drowning look, and I realize he’s been asking her questions all morning and she is just SPENT.

I say to the little boy gently, “The train stopped because there’s traffic in the tunnel. So the train has to wait on the tracks for the red light to change.”

The boy regards me curiously. “But why are there tracks?”

“For the wheels to run on,” I say.

“But why are there wheels?”

“When wheels spin around, they can propel things forward,” I say, “like a train, or a car, or a bicycle.”

Quickly a game develops: Curiosity Tennis, with him serving up questions, and me answering them back.

“Why is the train moving now? Why is it going outside? Why are there houses? Why do houses have walls?”

His mother looks me apologetically. “You don’t have to do this,” she whispers.

“Would you believe I actually like it?” I say.

I explain to the boy why there are houses— and walls—and trees.

Finally, he asks:
“Why do you know everything?”

“Because, I always listen to my mother,” I say.

At this, the whole train cracks up.

Across the aisle, a woman with a baby carriage grins: “In four years, can I hire you to come back to talk to my kid?”

Exiting the subway, I walk out onto the sun-filled street—feeling infused with goodwill—and almost get hit by a bicycle.

What is your theme song?
I am generally a big-hearted mush-ball – and I absolutely hate when women call ourselves “bitches” -- but I do love The Rolling Stones’ song “Bitch.” First, I’m a huge Rolling Stones fan, and second, that song more than any other can still get me going in the morning. So: “Bitch.” (For the record, when my sweet husband was picking out a song to be his specific ringtone for me, he chose Aretha’s “RESPECT.” But I will not claim that one for myself EVER.)

What is the last book you read that you would recommend?
I’m halfway through Polly Rosenwaike’s short story collection, Look How Happy I’m Making You, which I’m really liking. But the last novel I just finished that I can rave about is Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk. And for nonfiction? For the past five years, I cannot shut up about Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns. Genius.

Thanks to Susan for visiting with us and to Grand Central Publishing for sharing her book with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

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Giveaway ends July 2nd at midnight EST.


LoriF said...

Fabulous interview and the book sounds like a reflection of where I am in my life right now, kibda like you snuck in and wrote about my impending mid life crisis!

traveler said...

A road trip which was fascinating and captivating was through areas in NM. and Colorado. Historic and very interesting.

Michelle L said...

My favorite road trippin' was with my daughters, in Maine, driving all over "down east".

Kelley B said...

I discussed an issue at work that I thought I was prepared for but quickly found out I wasn't.

diannekc said...

One of the best road trips I've been on was a trip that we took to Charleston SC and visited the Antebellum homes and plantations.

Peggy Russo said...

When my husband and I moved to Texas from New Jersey 10 years ago we had our possessions moved down once we closed on our house. We followed a few weeks later and drove. We took our time and meandered a bit in order to see some sights. It was fun and a bit exciting since neither of us had ever lived outside of the New Jersey county we grew up in.

Kelly Rodriguez said...

One road trip we took was to Virginia Beac.

Mary Preston said...

I'm not impulsive by nature, but I have quit a job without much thought. Best decision ever.

bn100 said...

road trip to beach

Nancy P said...

Went to Bike Week with a bunch of guy friends at the last minute. lol

Kimberly S said...

I was taking my at the time teenage son to get a tattoo and ended up getting my very first tattoo.