What did you do when your life unraveled?
~ from The Comfort of Lies
Some reviewers of Randy Susan Meyer’s new novel, The Comfort of Lies, have given the book fewer than five stars, saying they didn’t like the characters. It’s true that the three women brought together in this book (about adoption, marriage, and motherhood) behave in ways that make them unlikeable. Also true is the fact that each of these women, Tia and Juliette and Caroline, are, in one way or another, quite relatable: their thoughts and decisions, fears and obsessions, have brushed the minds of most readers. And, no one likes the ugly truth.
Perhaps that’s what drew me to The Comfort of Lies, as it exposes reasons why a person would lie, times when the truth may be more painful, and repercussions of deception.
The book jacket says it best:
Riveting and arresting, The Comfort of Lies explores the collateral damage of infidelity and the dark, private struggles many of us experience but rarely reveal.
I’m honored to host Randy Susan Meyers; I’m offering a book giveaway as well. Just leave your name in the comments for a chance to win a copy of The Comfort of Lies. Random.org will choose the lucky reader on Tuesday, April 16th.
Now, welcome Randy!
CC: The effects of infidelity, motherhood, and adoption set the lives of three women on a path of painful awarenesses and acceptance, their feelings so understandably natural (and all-too-relatable at times). I wonder, as a reader and a writer, what was the seed for this novel? How did you decide to write on this particular topic?
RSM: I didn’t give up a baby for adoption nor adopt a child, but with every pregnancy scare I had, I wondered about the choices I might make. Infidelity? I struggled with the issue in ways that allowed The Comfort of Lies to come frighteningly alive in my mind (and hopefully on paper.) I haven’t suffered through all of my characters’ crises but I’ve been close enough to imagine them all far too well.
Writing The Comfort of Lies drew me to dark places and gloomy themes (falling hard for a man who isn’t yours; learning your husband has cheated; an unplanned pregnancy; thinking that you’re not cut out for motherhood; giving up a child for adoption; wrestling with the pull towards work and the demands of motherhood; failing at work.) Blowing up emotional truths into a “what-if” novel forced me to visit past sins of my own, sins that were visited upon me, and sins that had always terrified me as my future possibilities. People disappearing, or not being what or whom one thought—these themes are at the core of my writing and my life. The Comfort of Lies is not an autobiographical novel—but I drew on bad times in my life and exploded those stretches into “could be far worse” and “what if.” I very much examined that thin line teetering between morality and forgiveness.
CC: The majority of this story is told from the perspective of the three women, Tia, Juliette, and Caroline. It isn’t until we near the end that we experience what’s happening from Nathan’s point of view (a pleasant surprise, by the way, I love those chapters). Did the decision to include his POV happen early in the writing process or come about in later drafts?
RSM: The decision to include Nathan’s POV, and to hold it back until the middle of the novel, was a decision made about halfway through my first draft. I very much wanted to know his belief system, to find out what story he told himself to allow his actions before and after his infidelity. Everyone is the star of their own show, and I wanted to know his ‘show.’ On the other hand, I didn’t want him to be a ‘star’ of the book, but a supporting player to the women—thus was made my decision to bring him in later in the book, and only for a limited appearance.
CC: In your blog post, “The Reader-Writer Covenant,” on your blog, you talk about giving the reader the kind of story you, yourself, want to read. Often, that means digging deep into a character’s psyche, writing stories “gritty enough to have emotional truth.” THE COMFORT OF LIES is full of difficult truths about relationships. And, it’s inevitable: stories we read (and write) affect us in visceral ways. As a writer, how do you walk away from difficult moments you’ve just transferred onto the page?
RSM: I have worked hard on formulating a ‘disconnect.’ Wanting to both write dense emotional novels, and also have a calm life, means I use the following ‘life rules:”
- Follow the advice of Gustave Flaubert: “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
- I write about things that contain intense emotional resonance, but only when those events and triggers are deep in the past. I will not write about topics which are freshly wounds, or from which I have not recovered enough to have a cold grasp on it. For instance, I was able to write about sisters who witnessed their father murder their mother, using my family history of my father attempting to kill my mother as a trigger for my fiction—but only because it was so far in my past that I could explore the ‘what it’ (what if he’d succeeded, which he didn’t) without either falling apart or spilling my own story onto the novel. The same goes for my explorations of infidelity. Any experience I had which informed The Comfort of Lies was from long, long ago.
- I shake it off. When I feel myself flooded by emotion, I force myself to stand up, and then I remind myself that was ‘one the page’ and will stay ‘on the page.’ I have an ability to be quite divisive—using emotional horror and then leaving it on the page. I get up and make supper. Plus, no drinking or any other behavior that would allow me to get sloppy on myself or on the page is ever allowed.
CC: What are you reading these days?
RSM: I just finished Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason (a debut literary thriller, which I loved,) You Are The Love of My Life by Susan Richards Shreve (I was on a panel with her and bought the book and found it entrancing,) and am now immersed in May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes (I love everything she’s ever written.)
CC: The process of writing, publication, and release of a novel all present several challenges (one of which you embraced so well with the release of The Comfort of Lies). Is there one word or phrase that keeps you moving forward on days when frustrations threaten to squelch a writer’s inspiration and determination?
RSM: My mantra: This too shall pass.
The drama of Randy Susan Meyers’ novels is informed by her years spent bartending, her work with violent offenders, and too many years being enamored by bad boys. Raised in Brooklyn New York, Randy now lives in Boston with her husband and is the mother of two grown daughters. She teaches writing seminars at Boston’s Grub Street Writers’ Center.
Read more about Randy Susan Meyers’ acclaimed debut novel, The Murderer’s Daughters, and her newly released novel, The Comfort of Lies on her website. Then, follow her on Twitter or like her author page on Facebook.
And, don’t forget to leave a quick comment for a chance to win a copy of The Comfort of Lies.