Caroline Leavitt & her New Book, Pictures of You (Interview and Giveaway)

Caroline Leavitt is a bestselling, eight-time novelist. She’s also a mom, a vegetarian with vegan aspirations, an unabashed chocolate lover, and a wonderfully warm and generous being.

She’s also brave; compassionately taking on subject matter that fascinates us all, but can be intense. For instance, in her latest book, Pictures of You, she follows the story of two women who collide (literally, in their cars) one dark night. Only one walks away with her life, but it is a life forever marked by this chance tragedy. She also becomes involved with the husband and young son of the woman who died in the crash. Although we all hope this becomes a seamlessly happy ending, it’s more like the sloppy, messy, human, frustrating, yet transcendent thing we generally call life.

I was fortunate enough to land an interview with Leavitt. I hope you enjoy it (and her delicious dinner ideas, too). And guess what? You can win a copy of Leavitt’s book by leaving a comment below (hopefully with a tidbit of your own of advice on how to preserve creative time as a mama). Feel free to check out her blog, Caroline Leavittville.

1. What inspired you to write this book?

Pathology. I’m phobic about driving, and even though I have my license and I renew it, I have not driven since I was 16 for fear of causing a crash and killing someone. I wanted to write about it to see if I could heal it–so I became fixated on a car crash and how it effects the people involved. (It didn’t cure me of my phobia, but I did get a novel out of it!)

I also was really interested in the whole idea of how well we really know the ones we love, and how we choose to see what is going on in our lives.

2. You’re a mother. Did being a mother help you when you were depicting the relationship between Sam and his mother?

Absolutely. I came late to motherhood and it’s been the most profound thing in my life. If I had know it would be this amazing, I would have had children earlier–and more than one! I wanted to think about the different ways we parent our kids. Both April and Charlie and Isabelle all present different ways of parenting for Sam to respond to–and I loved Sam. He wasn’t really like my son at that age, but it still felt comforting to be writing about a young boy.

3. The plot hangs on a very striking occurrence; I often find that truth is stranger than fiction, but sometimes when I’m writing, I feel worried about launching a story based on an instance that seems improbable–and yet life constantly shocks me with its amazing, wild plot twists. How do you navigate that as a novelist?

Oh, what a great question. I think it has to do with the character’s realizing that it’s a coincidence and that it’s weird or strange. That keeps the reader in the reality. If the character doesn’t acknowledge or comment on it, the reader then thinks, “Ah, it’s the writer showing off!”

4. Where do your characters come from? Are they inspired by people you meet, or in other ways?

I wish I knew. They just seem to arrive with an image and they the more I write them, the more alive they become. I try to never base them on real people, though a lot of Sam’s asthmatic childhood and his feelings are mine. I guess it’s like Flaubert, who used to say Madame Bovary was him. Although I have not been in the situations my characters have been in, I know the feelings.

5. You’re such a dedicated, prolific writer. Were you always that way, or did you build up your discipline over time? We’d love some tips.

I was not always that way. I started out writing only when inspiration hit, then when I hit my twenties, I got panicked that I wasn’t working hard enough. I’ve now reached the point where I know I have to sit down and work 4 or 5 hours a day in order to keep the subconscious sort of primed. I know, too, that it isn’t always easy, and like my favorite John Irving quote, that I am almost always feeling that I am losing control of the material, that I am writing way over my own head, and that I am totally lost. But soon, the rubble clears, and things begin to make sense!

Tips? Sit at the chair and write. Don’t despair. If you feel blocked, rewrite a page you love, or even put it in a different font so the material will look differently to you!

6. You’re a vegetarian leaning toward vegan. What are some of your favorite home-cooked vegan meals? What does your son like?

My son, alas, is a vegetarian who does not like vegetables. We’ve told him he can eat meat or fish but he does’t like that either. He eats carrots, arugula and he loves the fake veggie meats! He is ridiculously healthy though, and has not missed a day of school–not since preschool! I try to puree veggies in the tomato sauce for pasta and in black bean soup!

He does, however, adore Ethiopian food, which has been impossible for me to recreate at home. I love to make soups–I puree everything into black bean soup–butternut squash, tomatoes, lots of garlic, hot peppers.

7. What advice would you give to mothers who want to get back into writing, or write more regularly?

When Max was born, I had his bassinet by my desk. I’d write two hours and then he’d wake and I’d play with him for a few hours, then he’d go back to sleep and I’d write again. You can find the time–even an hour. Even a half hour every day. Motherhood to me, made me more creative. (I was worried it would make me less.) I honestly think because of being a mother, my work has taken on a new dimension (or maybe that is wishful thinking!).

This entry was posted
on Tuesday, January 11th, 2011 at 1:33 pm and is filed under Giveaways!.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

Both comments and pings are currently closed.



20 thoughts on “Caroline Leavitt & her New Book, Pictures of You (Interview and Giveaway)”

  1. Keeping our creativity alive as mothers can be an inspiration for our little ones. We must strive to lead by example and help them find mediums that can help them grow.

  2. I think motherhood shows us more of who we really are, and also challenges us to be more of our best selves. (I guess that sounded a little Oprah-ish, but it is true!) This book is the next one on my list!
    .-= Teresa K´s last blog ..Belated New Years Resolution =-.

  3. This IS a great book and Caroline is an amazing writer and an amazing person! I just finished reading it. it is important to read with your kids but it is also important for your kids to see you enjoy reading on your own. 😉

  4. I keep my creative time by letting myself have a break while my mother watches annabella, as a single mama its hard to stay creative but its important to get back to myself and be creative!
    .-= mallory´s last blog ..We Have a Winner!! =-.

  5. Sounds like a very interesting book. I am adding this to my list of books to read in the new year. I also loved the interview. Thanks Mothering for sharing!

  6. This sounds like a wonderful book; Candace you find amazing things to share with those of us who eagerly anticipate your next discovery. Of course finding this book means my writing time turns, yet again, to reading time. Thank you!

  7. This sounds like a wonderful book and one that I would LOVE to read. As far as finding creative time – well, as a mom…I have to be creative. For me it’s after the little one goes to bed (she’s 1), but I’m hoping as she gets older that we will have more creative time together.

  8. Thank you all for the wonderful responses! I hope you all like the book, and feel free to email me, especially about vegan/vegetarian recipes my son might eat!!!

    Warmly, Caroline

  9. Sounds like a great book. I try to slip away for an hour or two on the weekends when Daddy is home. I go out to lunch by myself, read, and write in my journal.

  10. Sounds good. I think it is critical to make time for yourself and your creative processes. This may mean speaking up and asking your partner or other trusted individual to take care of the kids so you can have those few blissful minutes.

  11. Liana and Sarah, I agree. You have to make time, even if it’s ten minutes you grab here and there. Even when I had to go back to a job/job after Max was born for a while, I would use part of my lunch hour to write. Everything makes a difference!


  12. Learning to work in tiny slivers of time has been the most helpful for me. Also, being able to stay up after they go to sleep.

  13. Caroline,

    I am about 2/3 through this book (Pictures of You) and it is just fabulous! The characters are so warmly developed, I wish I could’ve called off work today and just sat at home curled up with this book and a coffee. This one will be passed to my mom and sister, as I know they will enjoy it as much as I do.


  14. When my kids were little, I used to set scenes with their toys to activate their imaginations. It always thrilled me to see their reactions.

    But yes, some alone time is good too. 🙂

  15. Caroline is a great writer and I can’t wait to read her latest book. I’ve started putting the kids to bed earlier to give me a chance to write, but now I’ve got to find a hobby for my husband b/c he’s started complaining that I’m not watching TV/hanging out with him anymore!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *