Q&A with Lori Lansens discussion

The Inspiration for THE WIFE'S TALE

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message 1: by Lori (new)

Lori Lansens | 26 comments Mod
I have been writing about this overweight female character in some form or other since I started writing. It was only a matter of time before Mary Gooch stepped out from behind the curtain to insist that her story be told. Sometime during the completion of THE GIRLS I started to hear Mary's voice and could see her in my fictional Leaford waving from the window of her rural farmhouse. She revealed herself nearly formed and was exactly my age, which is to say 'middle'. It's a time of life when one is standing at a precipice looking back over the first act, and contemplating the second, when one feels optimistic that it's not too late to make changes. But I knew as I began to write that although it was important to approach the character and situation honestly I wanted to avoid the cliché, which is that typically when we read something about weight the emphasis is on losing it. I wanted whatever loss Mary Gooch experienced to be incidental and for the focus to be on her changing habits and goals and her sense of enlightenment as she gets to know herself for the first time as someone other than Mrs. Gooch. The character that I plugged into did not hate her body and "could see the beauty in the poetry of her contours." What Mary hated was the thing that restricted her life and stopped her from living to the fullest - the 'obeast' that she has surrendered to. That was something I understood. That was something I felt could be understood universally.

Kathy (Bermudaonion) (bermudaonion) | 1 comments I am in awe of your writing after reading The Wife's Tale - I just loved it. Are you working on anything new now?

message 3: by Victoria (new)

Victoria | 1 comments I haven't read this book yet (it's on my list to read though!), but I loved The Girls. I read it for a book club and I don't know if I would have picked it up otherwise...so glad I did...what a great book! I'm looking forward to reading your others.

I have a question about the cover for The Wife's Tale. I know I haven't read it yet, so my question might be off-base, but the model on the front is thin and isn't the protagonist large? Why was that particular cover chosen? I'm assuming the publisher didn't think a book with a "larger" leg would sell as well? But if that's the case, then why not just choose a cover w/o a person depicted?


message 4: by Laura (new)

Laura (laurakal) | 1 comments I was so excited to see that you had written a new book. I haven't read it yet, but I LOVED The Girls. There are certain authors that I enjoy so much that I watch out for their next books! You are one of them! Thank you, and I look forward to reading The Wife's Tale.

message 5: by Adele (new)

Adele Stratton Hello Lori, what a treat to "meet" you!

I too loved THE GIRLS, and have you on my watch-for-more-by-this-author list. Coincidentally, I am currently reading both RUSH HOME ROAD and THE WIFE'S TALE. I'm listening to THE WIFE'S TALE on CD.

I've barely begun RUSH HOME ROAD, and I've put it on hold while I listen to THE WIFE'S TALE because that one's from the library and it's only a 14-day loan. So far, I like THE WIFE'S TALE a lot. However, I do NOT like the reader of the audio-version. It's not that she's a poor reader, she's excellent. But, to my mind at least, her polished and erudite voice just does not match Mary's. Her accent is anything BUT Canadian.

I'm ignoring this irritation because I want to hear Mary's story. And I'm looking forward to discussing it here when I'm done in a day or two.

message 6: by RNOCEAN (new)

RNOCEAN | 3 comments Lori, I read this book in one sitting! I absolutely fell in love with the character on page one. I hope you have plans to write another story with Mary moving forward with her life. I will miss her if I don't find out what she does with the rest of her life. You incorporated so many women in her character that could identify with her. I also loved The Girls!

message 7: by Shurouq (new)

Shurouq  | 1 comments Hello Lori

I loved The GIRL very much and enjoyed reading indescribable

I look forward to reading The Wife's Tale

Thank you for your production prestigious literary.

message 8: by Lori (new)

Lori Lansens | 26 comments Mod
When I opened up this page this morning my seven-year-old daughter was sitting on my lap. She read all of your comments out loud in her enthusiastic second-grade reading voice and finished with a sigh, saying, "People are so nice."
Thank you all for your comments. Having them read to me by 'Tashi' made them even sweeter and became a teachable moment for both of us. I explained to her (and reminded myself) that readers had to take time out of their day to send along a note and that their thoughtfulness and generosity meant quite a lot to me. My little daughter and I agreed that telling someone a kind thing puts out the kind of positive energy that comes back to you in a variety of ways. She reminded me that she recently told a waitress that she was the 'best ever' and saw how good that had made her feel which made Tashi feel good too. I reminded myself that I'd been meaning to write a note to a company whose customer service was outstanding.
Well, readers, it's so interesting to have this kind of dialogue with you. I haven't listened to the books on tape version of The Wife's Tale but now I must check it out, Adele! All three books at the same time - I like to know that you are spending so much time in my world. And I loved to hear that you read the book in one sitting, Rnocean. I miss having the time to 'gulp' books like that. Sadeem, Kathy, and Laura, I feel honored to be an author whose stories you await - I rely on those sorts of comments when I sit down to write.
Victoria, interesting question about the cover and not off base at all! I've had this question posed to me through the comments section of my website and it has not always been phrased as well or with the lovely comment about The Girls to precface. The cover art for all three of my books has been somewhat challenging for publishers and art departments - you can see a variety of images for all of the books on my website www.lorilansens.com and will find it interesting to see how foreign publishers have presented my work. With The Girls no publisher wanted to put an image of conjoined twins on the cover because they thought it would be off-putting to readers. (I am naive in that it never occurred to me while writing The Girls that people might be put off by the subject matter and I was shocked when most journalists and readers began stories or reviews with, "This is not a book I would have ever have picked up." or some variation of that theme). Regarding The Wife's Tale you're right - those are not the legs of an obese woman. Publishers make decisions about cover art based on what they think will attract their market. The UK and Australian versions of The Wife's Tale chose to put an image of an overweight woman on the cover - one eating a cupcake! The image on the Canadian version is a box of chocolates. The thing about America is that weight is so topical and even controversial that we didn't want the book to be misunderstood as a cliche since it seems that most discussions about weight revolve around the 'losing of it.' The Wife's Tale isn't about weight loss. The weight that Mary loses in the story - whose time line is only roughly eight weeks - is really incidental and not a central focus of the book. The focus is on Mary's appreciation of her body's accomplishments and the shifting of her perspective. What she's really shedding is her identity as the unhappy overweight wife. So the cover art is representational and I think captures the spirit of the book - a confident and balanced woman poised to take a leap. I would liken book cover art to album cover art which I think is also meant to be taken figuratively and not literally. Hope that makes sense.

message 9: by Rachel (Sfogs) (last edited Apr 07, 2010 04:07PM) (new)

Rachel (Sfogs) I first heard about your books because of an article in the bookcrossing regular email. It was talking about your new book 'The Wife's Tale' (which I have just read) and how bookcrossing was mentioned. I really loved the whole story and how Mary found she could enjoy life, reaching small goals one at a time.

message 10: by Mary (new)

Mary (maryornelas) | 1 comments It took me two days to read The Wife's Tale. I found myself up at 2am reading this book. I have come across only four books that have caused me to stay up really late and read. This is the first book of yours that I have read and I truly enjoyed it. I keep wondering what would have happened if Gooch showed up? Thanks for a "Good Read"!

message 11: by Dawn (new)

Dawn I have to admit that I read your book The Wife's Tale and had a very different response to it than what's being said here. I reviewed it for the Internet Review of Books http://internetreviewofbooks.com/feb1... in case you're interested.

message 12: by Lori (new)

Lori Lansens | 26 comments Mod
Rachel I loved the idea of bookcrossing when I first heard about it and thought it was a wonderful discovery for Mary. As per the text - there is so much communicated in the exchange of a book. (That's why I love all of your blog reviews but more on that later.)
Mary and all of the other readers who have written to my website or wondered about a sequel to Mary Gooch's story (you may find it interesting that people asked the same about Rush Home Road)I just don't like to talk about future works or work in progress because it seems to get in the way of the organic growth of character and situation but I will say your comments have struck a chord and sparked a heated debate with my author self.
The Wife's Tale has been launched in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, Canada and the US and will next launch in Italy and Brazil followed by other foreign territories including Turkey. I often wonder how my stories translate to other languages given their North American sensibilities and was fortunate to have a direct dialogue about that with my Norwegian publisher when he came recently to shoot a commercial spot about The Girls for his market. He'll launch The Wife's Tale some time next year and expressed that it's an emotional connection to the characters that he was attracted to as a reader and buyer.
There's the old adage about artists needing the soul of a poet and the hide of a turtle to weather critical storms but I'm sure the rest of you writers out there (and I know there are hundreds of you) would agree with me that we are, as my husband says, "fragile as tissue paper." I've been fortunate that the reviews for this book have been, with few and curious exceptions, overwhelmingly positive and my favorite are the blog reviews - writers whose only agenda is to share books they love with fellow readers (like bookcrossing!). The New York Times runs their review of The Wife's Tale this weekend. I enjoy their critic's insightful and thoughtful approach to books and look forward to that one.

message 13: by Mary (new)

Mary | 1 comments Lori, I absolutely love The Girls (you had me at that magical first paragraph!) and have recommended it to many friends. I am so looking forward to reading The Wife's Tale and I wish you all the best.

message 14: by Dawn (new)

Dawn Can you post a url to the New York Times review? thank you

message 15: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  (readr4ever) | 9 comments Lori, the bookcrossing was a great addition to Mary's discoveries. Also, one of Mary's thoughts in the beginning of the "California Dreamin'" chapter was so profound, yet so simply stated -- "There was comfort in currency." I enjoyed the alliteration in it, too. You do have a way with words, Ms. Lansens. Another great pearl of wisdom is when Frankie tells Mary, "If you don't like something about yourself, change it. If you're okay with it, you gotta own it. There's nothing in between." I didn't mark those excerpts as spoilers because they don't really give anything away about the plot, but I can imagine that readers will mark those places with little post-it flags as I did.

message 16: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  (readr4ever) | 9 comments I finished The Wife's Tale last night, and it is absolutely another "job well done," Lori. My review is as follows:

"Even after reading and loving The Girls, one of my favorite novels in which I learned that conjoined twins were indeed relevant to my life, I admit I wondered at the relevance of a 300 pound woman. Well, shame on me for ever doubting that Mary Gooch in The Wife's Tale: A Novel would have a story with which I could connect. Lori Lansens is a master at taking what appears to be a somewhat extreme character(s) and proving just how much we all have in common, that the boundaries we may envision in our mind just do not exist. This novel did feel a bit unfinished at the end, as in there must be a sequel, please, but it can certainly stand on its own, too. I can't wait to see what Lansens creates next."

message 17: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (thebookishdame) | 8 comments Lori wrote: "I have been writing about this overweight female character in some form or other since I started writing. It was only a matter of time before Mary Gooch stepped out from behind the curtain to insis..."
Dear Lori, I will never forget "The Girls" and want you to know how it has changed my perspective on conjoined twins. I simply loved your book in so many ways. If you've written another book, I know it's full of wisdom and mind altering truths. So, I'm going to purchase and read your "Wife's Tale" asap!

message 18: by RNOCEAN (new)

RNOCEAN | 3 comments Dawn wrote: "I have to admit that I read your book The Wife's Tale and had a very different response to it than what's being said here. I reviewed it for the Internet Review of Books http://internetreviewofbook..."

Dawn, I for one didn't think your review of The Wife's Tale captured the true spirit of the book. It is not a book about obesity, but a book about someone finding themselves, a transformation of the soul if you will. You are entitled to your opinion, but I sure don't agree with it. I also feel that you were overly harsh in your review.

message 19: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (thebookishdame) | 8 comments Dawn, your review left me wondering if you had a chip on your shoulder about weight. I logged on to your personal blog to get more insight into you, and may have found my answer. I'm surprised that you didn't see more to Lori L.'s book than a "fat girl's" outer shell.

message 20: by Lori (new)

Lori Lansens | 26 comments Mod
It's true, Rnocean that The Wife's Tale isn't a book about obesity and although I haven't read Dawn's review, I thank you very much, Deborah and Rnocean, for your input and insight. It's unseemly for authors to defend their material against unkind reviews, personal attacks or incorrect information but I appreciate other authors (as many of you are) helping to set the record straight. By the way, the review in the New York Times on the weekend was a rave - my husband read it out to me and it was a lovely way to end a challenging weekend. I don't have the url handy but I'm sure you can find it online!

message 21: by Christine (new)

Christine | 3 comments Lori,
From my (very positive!) goodreads review:

My question to you isn't why you wrote about someone who is physically quite different from you - authors write all the time with great imagination and articulation about things they may not have experienced, as you did in this book, but more, why did you include this thought for Mary? I wondered if it was to get readers thinking about this concept of writing beyond personal experience, or if it was just somethng Mary thought (and was, perhaps, wrong about)?
Not sure why this nags me, but it seems to have piqued my curiosity!

message 22: by Lori (new)

Lori Lansens | 26 comments Mod
Christine - I'm pleased that you noticed and thanks for the question. (I love that it nags at you!) There are several reasons that I included the passage in The Wife's Tale describing Mary's antipathy for the skinny blond author addressing obesity. It's meant to provoke thought on a number of levels. First, I wanted to take the curse off of the notion that something has to be directly experienced to be written about effectively (we would need to obliterate half of our classics library!) and I wanted to challenge the reader to consider Mary's bias. Mary has an immediate and strong rejection to the 'skinny bitch' based simply on a photo. She even imagines the author's smile as smug. She makes judgments about the author based on her physical body. Hmm. Basically, you're right in your musing:)

message 23: by Carissa (new)

Carissa Rose | 1 comments I just finished reading "The Wife's Tale" (literally, 5 minutes ago) and walked directly to the den and logged onto my computer to do a google search for "The Wife's Tale sequel," which led me to this page. Lori, this is a marvelous book. I devoured it. I'm a stay-at-home mom to a 16 month old little lady, and I don't have as much time for reading (and knitting... and baking... and showering (ha)...) as I'd like - I read this in three days. That's a miracle. :) Thank you so much, and I am definitely going to be checking out your other books from my cozy little library. You're magnificent!

message 24: by Lori (new)

Lori Lansens | 26 comments Mod
Oh Carissa, thanks for that. I remember those days with my wee babes - no time for a shower - I never understood the 'time suck' until I was living it. I can't believe you read a book in 3 days! So glad that you enjoyed it. You might appreciate The Girls, my second novel, written during and because of those years with my small children while I was preoccupied with the nature of connectedness and identity and consumed by transcendent love. Thanks for your generosity and Happy Reading!

message 25: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wendyblue1) | 7 comments Without reading the above, and almost 100 pages into A Wife's Tale, Lori this book has sucked me right in. I just don't want to put it down.

message 26: by Lori (new)

Lori Lansens | 26 comments Mod
I'm so glad you've been sucked in Wendy! Hope you enjoy the rest!

message 27: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wendyblue1) | 7 comments Lori what can I say? Bravo doesn't seem to be quite enough.
Once again another 5 star book for me along with Rush Home Road and The Girls.
Lori your books touch me to the very core.
While reading about Mary's struggles I felt like her shadow. I was right there with her through the entire book.

Please don't make us wait very long for your next novel :)

message 28: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (thebookishdame) | 8 comments Lori wrote: "I'm so glad you've been sucked in Wendy! Hope you enjoy the rest!"

Hi, Lori! I've just given 2 of your book "heads up" reviews on my blog www.boundtobebookish.wordpress.com

Everything you write is touching, Lori. You're speaking to your readers, and we're trying to help you along so more of us can benefit from what you have to share. Hugs, Deb/The Bookish Dame

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