Q&A with Patricia Averbach

Patricia Averbach talks to Deana Luchia about writing her second novel, New Moon Rising. 
Q: How would you describe New Moon Rising? And how does it compare to your first novel? 

A: It’s what I’ve learned to call upmarket women’s fiction with book club potential. Basically, that means it’s a literary novel with strong, well developed female characters that addresses issues that would make for a good discussion.

My first novel, “Painting Bridges,” belongs to the same genre although the protagonists are quite different.

Both books share an interest in redefining home and family although from the perspective of different points in time and space.

Painting Bridges is set in rural Western New York circa 1976 and describes a young woman’s recovery from grief through her involvement with a deaf child who has no language. The book touches on historical issues in deaf education and the ways that even traditional rural America was touched by the turbulent changes that took place in the ’70s.

New Moon Rising is the contemporary story of a middle class, professional woman who has to lose everything before she can find herself. After growing up on the chaotic New Moon Commune outside of Santa Fe, all Deena, my protagonist, wants is a normal life and she’s willing to pay any price to get it – even sitting Shiva for her mother and pretending that she’s dead.
No one, not even her husband and children, know about New Moon and the family she left behind. She may have made a deal with the devil, but she thinks she got the best of the bargain until a disastrous real estate investment, a rare book heist and an ill advised affair rip her world apart. Unmoored from her home and family, Deena loses one thing after another until her life becomes anything but normal and she finds herself homeless on the streets of Sarasota. Out of desperation she accepts a job with an octogenarian who believes crows are the reincarnated souls of Jews lost in the holocaust. When Deena’s daughter unexpectedly returns trailing trouble she finds herself in a borrowed car full of desperate women racing toward New Moon, the place she’s spent her whole life trying to escape.

This new book, like Painting Bridges, is concerned with redefining home and family, but it addresses more contemporary issues along the way.

Q: What have you learnt as a writer between your first and second novels? Was it easier? Were there things you were definitely going to do differently with the second? 

A: I began the second novel with the confidence that I could actually write a novel and see the project to completion. My process didn’t change much between the two books, but I was willing to take risks with the second that I didn’t with the first. I think the second book is more free and honest in many ways. I’m hoping the third will continue the trajectory. I’d like to imagine that my writing will improve with time and experience.

Q: What kinds of characters inspire you as a writer? Do you create your characters from scratch or are they an amalgamation of people you meet or know? 

My characters are all amalgams of people I’ve met. Is it possible to create any other kind? I mean, even if you write fantasy or science fiction about  lumpy green three-headed creatures who live in a parallel universe, they’re still going to be based on people you know. (Sorry, Aunt Bessie, nothing personal.)

Q: Can you describe your planning process when deciding to write a new novel? Are you a planner or do you just start writing and see where it goes? 

A: I am not an outliner and I don’t know what’s going to happen to my characters when I start a novel. What I have at the beginning is a character with a problem, and a setting. It’s like starting a journey. You know where you want to go, but you don’t know what obstacles or adventures you’ll find along the way.

Q: Do you write poetry at the same time as you write fiction or do you focus on one or the other? Could you tell us about your poetry writing at the moment? 

I used to write poetry almost exclusively and I’m glad for all those years spent struggling to be a poet. Nothing teaches word choice or how to trim the fat from a line like trying to write a poem. However, ever since I started long prose projects, I’ve written very little poetry. I’ve deliberately taken a couple poetry workshops to keep myself from going completely stale, but my heart is currently with my stories and that’s where I spend my time.

Q: Who are your favourite authors? 

I have a lot of favorite authors and most of them, though not all, are women:  Margaret Atwood, Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, Ann Patchett, Annie Proulx, Nicole Krauss, Jonathan Safran Foer, Wally Lamb and Richard Russo. Richard Russo is a particular favorite because I love the way his books create entire communities of interconnected characters.

Q: How important for you is setting in a novel? Is it ever as important as character? 

Setting is paramount. Settings have histories, attitudes, political orientations and physical attributes the same as any other character and they influence, enhance or limit the choices of the people who engage with them

 

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One thought on “Q&A with Patricia Averbach

  1. Patricia, this was great insight into your process. Since we are writing partners, here in Florida, I know you well but I learned a lot from this Q&A and agree with so much of what you said: about writing being a journey, not knowing how it will turn out but having faith that you’ll get there, to trust in the process. You also reminded me to read more poetry and even try writing poetry as a writing exercise. I did that once and it did conjure up more lyricism, and expressive writing in my own work; wordplay is always good–and fun. Who are your favorite poets and any in particular beneficial to your own writing process? For that freeing aspect I describe above.

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