|You've been happily married to your
husband, Jim Lehrer, since the two of you were in your twenties. So
readers may be surprised that you are writing about a female bigamist
in your new novel. What inspired you to tell the story of Michelle
Banyon, a successful career woman who has two husbands?
That's the question my family-most particularly my
husband-is also asking! There's no simple answer. I just liked the
idea of a woman going against the norm-in the extreme. What if a
woman-an otherwise normal American woman-happened to have two husbands
at the same time?! Could she really pull it off? From there I began
telling myself the story of what happens to such a woman. I suppose
I also wanted to stir some small pot of mischief.
|Your heroine is torn between her two
husbands, but would like to keep them both. Are you saying that bigamy
is okay for some women?
|No. And yes. Plus maybe. Seriously, if
I'm advocating anything, it's a rich fantasy life for women-and men.
Fantasies are a wonderful outlet for our frustrations and disappointments.
Most people I know couldn't so without their secret interior lives
as a way of escaping the daily humdrum. They're always exploring alternative
possibilities within themselves. Michelle, my fictional protagonist,
merely plays out a fantasy, one that I believe is shared by many real
|Perhaps the most famous female bigamist
was Anais Nin. Were you familiar with her experiences? What is your
opinion of her adventure into bigamy?
|I was very familiar with her life, but
wrote the entire first draft without thinking of her at all. The tricks
our memories play! Of course, once I realized her influence, I went
back and tipped my hat to her. I owed her a lot. As for her adventure
into bigamy, it seemed to work pretty well for her. Having two husbands,
however, wasn't even half of her strange and complex life.
You often write in your novels about strong women
who push the boundaries of society. Surely this heroine, Michelle
Banyon, is going further than any of your other characters. Why
do strong, rebellious women appeal to you and what do you want your
readers to learn from them?
|I grew up around strong, rebellious women,
including my mother, and spent my youth reading those 19th century
novels filled with willful women. I could lose my own nice, polite
self in their exploits, but I don't think learning something was the
issue. For a while, the reader is inside another life and another
sliver of humanity is revealed. A strong character in life or in literature
is to be experienced, and we take away from the experience whatever
we need, whatever shores us up.
|Your novel raises provocative questions
about the state of marriage in the 21st century. Is marriage all it's
cracked up to be?
|It cracks different ways for different
couples, obviously. It's a terrific way to live a life for some, a
way of misery for others. If it weren't for that insidious notion
of "happily ever after," many people would skip marriage
altogether and those who chose it might have a better chance of succeeding.
|Your novel also calls in question the
notion that today's career woman can have it all and can also be in
control of her life. As a matter of fact, Michelle's career is as
an "efficiency consultant," an ironic job for someone whose
life seems to spin out of control. What are you saying about today's
high-powered career woman?
|The same thing I'm saying about all women
of today. Women have always been pulled in so many different directions-work,
family, friends, communities-and never more so than now. We're bombarded
by conflicting choices, conflicting information, conflicting needs,
and conflicting demands on our time. The irony in this case is a direct
result of our sense of freedom from old strictures.
|We have to ask - what are the secrets
to your long and happy marriage, especially as a dual career couple
in a city like Washington, D.C.?
|We may drive each other nuts at times
but we don't bore each other. And we have a knack for making the other
laugh. We really like each other. We're given to fussing, too, which
keeps us on our toes. A lot of this is the luck of the draw, but we've
also worked very, very hard to hold onto our luck.
|You did not begin your writing career
until after your three daughters were grown. Now you have four acclaimed
novels to your name. Did you always know you'd be a writer? Tell us
how you got started.
Always I knew I wanted to write. I came from a story-telling
culture. I read stories and told stories and wrote stories. Growing
up, I liked stories better than just about anything; still do. After
my children were in school and I finally came up for air, I wrote
a children's novel and then an adult one, neither published. Editors
were enthusiastic about my writing but not about the books themselves.
Next, I submitted the first draft of a new novel to an editor who
didn't buy it but worked with me for two years while I honed my
craft. Only then did he publish it. At the time, I didn't think
so, but being a late bloomer has served me well.