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Rebecca Land Soodak is a woman of many roles. In this portion of her interview, she reveals to readers what the next step is for her debut novel, Henny on the Couch, and how it feels to be a published writer.
Toonari Post (TP): How does it feel to see your work in print or in the hands of expectant readers?
Rebecca Land Sodak: (RLS): The short answer is—terrific. I’m proud and pleased and grateful. The long answer is more tentative. On every shelf, be it virtual or concrete, there are dozens of fantastic new titles (and other content) competing for readers’ attention. I’m thrilled I’ve made it this far.
I’m excited by the response Henny on the Couch has already received. My gratitude is vast, but like many debut novelists, I hope and pray my book has a shelf-life longer than bodega yogurt.
TP: Who or what are your inspirations? Any authors or books in particular that you adore?
RLS: I’m pretty good at finding novels I’ll enjoy which leads me to frequently falling hard and fast. I love Amy Bloom’s imperfect characters. I gravitate toward edgy, honest heroines with a strong voice. Some recent standouts include: Ayelet Waldman, Amy Bender, Meg Wolitzer, Mona Simpson, Jillian Lauren, Joyce Maynard, and Alison Espach.
TP: In your book Kara found Virginia Woolf’s novels to be particularly tough to decipher. Are there any books that you feel the same way about?
RLS: Kara had trouble with Woolf’s essay, A Room of One’s Own and yes, I have had similar struggles particularly prior to my ADHD diagnosis (in adulthood) and subsequent medication treatment. That scene illustrates my concern about the decisions we make about our capabilities when we grapple with a text. I think an unfortunate byproduct of academia is that the illusion for understanding is better received than honest admissions of confusion or struggle.
TP: Henny on the Couch addresses numerous issues, learning disabilities and motherhood, in particular. Why did you decide to write about this subjects?
RLS: I like coming-of-age quests—so that’s what I wrote. I considered telling the story of a rookie ballplayer who embarks on a multi-continental sea voyage, who through a series of events is forced to slay a ferocious tiger (which may or may not be a metaphor for unresolved father-issues), but I was concerned I’d come across as frivolous and self-indulgent.
TP: Art, whether it be painting or writing, seems one of the keys to your book. Does it have any particularly sentimental meaning to you?
RLS: In addition to writing, I’m also a painter. I’m represented by Gallery 71 in New York City where I had a solo show in 2008.
TP: What is like to be a novelist and nurture the your relationship with your husband and four kids?
RLS: I was a wife and mother before I started writing fiction, and though I’ve been on this path since late 2008, I’m still making sense of how to merge these roles. In the beginning, it was difficult to feel like I was working but have no evidence that my efforts would amount to public recognition.
Once I secured an agent and sold my book to a publisher, I felt entitled to do what I’d been doing for a year—shutting my door to write. However, in addition to actually putting words on the page, a large part of the creative process (at least for me) involves undisturbed, alone time that can appear leisure-like. On the one hand, I reject the untethered, reclusive artist archetype which I think does a particular disservice to mother-artists.
On the other hand, writing requires a psychic separation which can cause a subtle (and not subtle) tension in love relationships. It is still a truth that women are expected to tend to the ‘other’ in most heterosexual relationships and more so than fathers when parenting.
When creative pursuits are not relied upon for a family’s financial survival, (similar to other types of work, but also unique, I think…) both arenas—the love/family realm and the work/art sphere will at times suffer. Owning this truth does not erase the benefits a family enjoys by having an artist/writer member. Still, as with most worthwhile pursuits, intrinsic to success is loss. Regardless—it’s a price I’m willing to pay.
TP: Do you plan on writing more novels? If so, what sorts of experiences would you like to address?
RLS: Right now I’m working on the screenplay adaptation of Henny on the Couch. There is also a novel brewing, but it’s too early to talk specifics.
Image Courtesy of rebeccalandsoodak