I had the pleasure of chatting with the amazingly talented Allie Larkin, author of Stay.
It's rocking a average 4.5/5 stars on Goodreads and, well, it's awesome! Van's journey and struggle are entirely relatable. She's trying to figure out what's next for her, where her life is going, and how to be what she's supposed to be (a good friend, a good bridesmaid) while also being true to herself. She's rebuilding after the love of her life has married her best friend and she's lost her mother to cancer. Amidst the serious themes is constant comedic balance that will have you flipping through until the end.
Publishers Weekly said, "...Van's conflicts feel authentic, and her emotional frankness is refreshing" while New York Times bestselling author Beth Harbison wrote, ""I cannot wait to read more from Allie Larkin-an effervescent new voice in fiction. Witty, sweet, and strikingly real, Stay is for any woman who has ever experienced heartbreak or loss and needed a friend to lean on. I loved every word!"
And now what you're really waiting for, the interview with Allie herself...
• What inspired Stay?
Stay started as a writing exercise in my advanced fiction class in college. Later in the semester, I turned the exercise into a short story about two women, Van and Janie, sitting in Starbucks talking about Van’s failed love life. Years later, I went back to the story and started asking myself more questions about Van and Janie, and Stay started to take shape.
• Can you give us the “elevator speech” of what Stay is all about?
Stay is about a woman who has to serve as maid of honor while her best friend marries the man she’s been in love with since college. After the wedding, she does what any girl would do – gets drunk on grape Kool-Aid and vodka, watches a Rin Tin Tin marathon, and accidentally orders a 100 lb German Shepherd from Slovakia off the Internet.
• Did you know right from the beginning that you wanted there to be a dog or did that happen organically when you were conceiving Savannah “Van” Leone’s journey?
The dog really did happen organically. I wrote the wedding scene and got Van back to her condo in Rochester. She was drunk and depressed and had no one to talk to, and that’s as much as I knew. I had no idea what was going to happen. I was outside raking leaves one morning with my German Shepherd, Argo (who is the cover model for Stay). I starting thinking about the ways Argo changed my life. I knew Van needed a change, and a dog would certainly shake her life up. The how of Van getting Joe just kind of happened when I sat down to write again.
• If the marketing department at Penguin, your publisher, sat you down and said you had to choose between a great book cover or a fabulous title, which would you pick?
I don’t know, really! I mean, I’m certainly thankful to Argo for being such a great cover model. I know I can’t say no to that face. I also know that word of mouth is very important to book sales, so having a title people want to talk about is very helpful too. But, I suppose, covers can change with reprints, but titles rarely do, so I guess if I absolutely had to pick, I’d say title.
• If they made Stay into a movie, who would you cast as Van, Peter, Janie, Alex, and Diane?
You know, I really don’t like to say, because I want people to bring their own ideas of who the characters should be to the book. I did let it slip on Facebook the other day when I was watching Parenthood that I thought maybe Dax Shepard would be a good vet. But I wasn’t talking about Stay, or anything, of course. I was just talking about vets in general.
• Van is very much going through a quarter-life crisis. Why should readers well out of their 20s also run to the local bookstore (or online) and pick this up?
Van is someone who is desperately trying to figure out where she fits in and what she wants out of life. I think that’s an evolving process for most people and isn’t necessarily age specific. We’ve all had less-than graceful times in our lives, and found comfort in friendship – furry or otherwise. So, I think, at any age, there’s something to relate to – either from an I’ve been there or I feel like that now point of view.
• Now that it’s autumn and book club season is in full swing I wanted to ask, if Stay was selected as a book club read, what questions or themes do you hope readers discuss/debate?
I’m actually going to my first Stay book club discussion next month and I’m so excited! I hope they want to talk about Diane and Van’s relationship a little bit. Of all the characters in the book, Diane evolved the most in the writing process. She was so interesting to write, because she kept surprising me.
• There are so many people you thank in the acknowledgments section of your book for helping encourage your writing. What sage advice from them, or from your own experience, would you like to pass along to other writers hoping to break into publishing?
I’m so lucky to have had so many people support me in this, and I think that support is so important. My writing group, especially, is such a huge part of my support system. They are brilliant writers and amazing readers.
It’s hard to write completely alone in a bubble, so I think the best advice I can give is to find a writing group or a writing partner. It’s so important to get constructive criticism, and the constructive part of that is just as important as the criticism. Look for a writing group that inspires you and challenges you. You don’t want to go to group just to get a pat on the back, but you should never feel attacked either. I’m a better writer for all the times someone in group said, “this part isn’t really working for me,” and I kept writing because I had a group of people who believed in me and believed in my characters.
• Do you have a writing regimen and if so what is it?
I don’t stare at a blank page. It’s not productive and I end up getting frustrated with myself. If I’m stuck, I stop writing, and try to accomplish something else. I seem to have the most success getting unstuck when I’m doing something physical that allows me to daydream. Hiking, biking, and gardening are favorites. But I have to keep pushing myself to make sure I sit down to write once I work out the ideas. It’s not enough just to think them. I’m pretty disciplined about getting my butt in the chair and getting the work done once I figure out what’s next for my story, but I don’t write at set times or to hit a certain word count. If I don’t have the ideas in place, I won’t get anywhere, no matter how many words I say I need to write.
• What can we expect to see from you next?
My essay about adopting our younger dog, Stella, will be in an anthology called I’m Not The Biggest Bitch in This Relationship, that Wade Rouse is editing. And I’m working on a new book, with brand new characters, although I hope to check back with Van someday too.
• How can readers follow you online?
I’m all over the place! I tweet @alliesanswers (twitter.com/alliesanswers), I have a website and personal blog at AllieLarkinWrites.com, and I blog at TheGreenists.com. I also have a Facebook page.
• And I have to ask, are you closet Boston music fan?
No, I openly and unabashedly love Boston.
In conjunction with the interview I'm also hosting a contest to win a hardcopy of Stay!!! Contest rules are as follows:
1. Be a follower of the blog
2. In no more than a tweet (aka 140 characters) tell me your funniest pet story, extra points if it you use Boston music references.
3. Enter the contest by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org (subject line "Stay book contest")
4. In homage to Van's pumpkin-inspired bridesmaid dress the contest closes on Halloween.
5. Note: This particular contest is U.S. only. (Sorry but the hardcover book is too heavy to mail internationally!)
To bide you over till then, here's the really fun book trailer for Stay.