How do you know if the book you’re writing is going to fly or flop? Try writing the first 80 pages without worrying about the outcome as Meg Wolitzer does. “Eighty pages is enough pages for a writer to feel she’s accomplished something, but it’s not so many pages that, if she decides to put aside the book, she’ll feel as if she’s wasted her life,” she told the Daily Beast for its “How I Write” series. It must work because we loved The Interestings.
We all doodle, but Meg Wolitzer gets inspired by it. When she was writing The Interestings, she frequently drew her way into her characters. “I sometimes drew crude, Harvey- and Archie-inspired images of my characters, in keeping with the spirit of Ethan Figman and Figland,” she wrote in The New Yorker.
Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings has been a Millions favorite, so we’re excited to hear about her next book, Belzhar, a young adult novel inspired by Sylvia Plath. The book comes out on September 30 and follows a 16-year-old grieving at a boarding school for fragile teenagers, where she and her classmates discover an alternate world. Wolitzer spoke to NPR about why she was drawn to YA. “Much of what adolescents feel seems set in relief, and much of what they experience is happening to them for the first time.”
I’d say Wolitzer has written ‘a novel of ideas’ if said novel weren’t so engaging. (In my household, the phrase, “a novel of ideas,” is followed by an eye-roll. Such books are made for humorless people who don’t like television, candy, and/or dancing.) I read the book in four days, hushing anyone who tried to speak to me as I finished a paragraph or chapter, and laughing aloud at various cafes (yeah, I became that person).
"As I read its final lines, declarative and profound and true, I felt mournful. The book — this book! — was over. I closed the novel and wondered if I could write a book this big, this ballsy. I imagined Ms. Wolitzer behind an imposing mahogany desk, quill in hand. ‘Why not?’ she said to me, and smiled. Yes, why not?"
Sing It, Sister! On Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings by Edan Lepucki
I know I would sound a bit like Ferran Adria, the chef of El Bulli, instructing diners exactly how to drink some fantastical duet of elixirs that perhaps rely on nitrous oxide and animal testicle passed through a sieve.