For those of you who aren't familiar with Lisette, here's her bio:
Lisette was born and raised in Pennsylvania. After high school, she moved to New York City where she attended Pace University and studied drama. After ten years in New York, several of them in the radio industry, she moved to Los Angeles for four years where she held various positions at Paramount Studios in Hollywood and CBS Studio Center in Studio City, CA.
Back on the East Coast, she worked for many years as a freelance writer, specializing in PR and the entertainment industry. In 2010, she returned permanently to the Los Angeles area.
She's the author of seven novels that encompass General/Literary Fiction, Coming-of-Age/Literary Fiction, Women's Fiction/Chick-Lit, and YA Paranormal. She's also penned two short stories that are published in an anthology.
Lisette also edited and published a book of her mother's poetry, which was written 50 years earlier.
Her eighth book, due in 2018, will be a collection of short stories in the literary fiction genre.
Now that we know a little bit about Lisette, let's get to the interview:
The Algonquin Hotel sounds luxurious, rich in architecture and history. You came up with the concept for Barrie Hill Reunion when your grandmother took you to the hotel for brunch when you were eighteen. She told you about the Algonquin Round Table, a group of literary New Yorkers who met for lunch every day. The tale and the place made an impact on you. The setting for your story takes place in a hotel based on the Algonquin. Can you give us a feel for it?
* The Algonquin most certainly is rich in history and architecture. However, as my visit was so long ago, I cannot remember any details, only the impact that the visit had on me. But what I can share is a tiny snippet from my novel that captures what I initially felt. Luckily, some descriptions survived from my original writing:
Fatigued from suppressing her anticipation, Clare took a deep breath and turned to look around the room at the tired yet grand decor. Behind her, the massive velveteen drapes, adorned by gold tassels, had dulled over the long years, perhaps from the invasion of sunlight or possibly as a protest from the years of gossip that danced merrily and unmercifully upon their exquisite fabric.
You originally started Barrie Hill Reunion as a short story, then a one-act play, then a two-act play, but eventually it morphed into a novel. Was there a certain amount of difficulty or ease to add to/and convert it from one form of entertainment to the other?
When I went to write the novel, that's when things changed somewhat. As in all of my novels, I like to write multiple story arcs that intersect with one another as I suppose that is how I see the make-up of the world around me. The creation of additional stories, however, was a natural extension of some of the stories only hinted at in the play. But most importantly, while I still retained the soul of the characters, I made some fundamental changes in their lives, outlook, history, and basic nature. My purpose by this time was to write a great book, not to merely turn a play into a novel. I did follow some of the play in the beginning, and throughout, there is still some original dialogue. But for the most part, I just let the characters guide me as I wrote their stories.
It was a different experience to write a novel with characters that I'd known my entire adult life ... a most interesting one.
In the story, the characters had gone to college together in the 1960's and meet again twenty years later after graduation, in 1986. To do them justice, you had to 'know' them as they were in the 60's, then had to bring them up to the 80's. What kind of things did you have to pay attention to since you were actually dealing with three time-frames? (The 60's, 80's, and as the writer in 2017)
* Great question, Jan. First, I think that if I had created this story in 2017, it would have been more difficult. But as I had always known the characters to live in a world without the technology we know today, it was much easier not to rely on its existence and the subsequent changes in our society. As a matter of fact, the story relied very much on technology not existing.
I wasn't yet of college age in the 60's, but I chose that decade for the characters to have attended college because it was a colorful time, rich in history. Also, had I chosen to place them in the 70's, I couldn't fast-forward twenty years without too much technology creeping into the story, and I didn't want that.
What I believe most important about the characters in the 60's were the prevalent attitudes about free love, protest, the Vietnam War, and much more. That said, these attitudes don't define the characters, but are a part of their coming-of-age into adulthood.
I spent a good deal of time researching 60's fashion, too. There were some wild, colorful, wacky designs from that era, and I wanted to make sure to include them in the characters' memories.
Aside from all of that, I had to do a good deal of research in the 80's to remind myself what was happening and what was not. It's so easy for decades to merge into one another and not become the separate and distinct periods in time that they were.
Like most of us, we're very different from how we were twenty years ago. I'm sure your characters changed along the way too. Can you tell us a little bit about which characters grew better/worse/or didn't change one bit? Or is this something we as readers need to determine?
* I think most of the characters evolved, though there is one who clearly devolved. I can't really answer this question without revealing too much about the story, but I can tell you that the evolution of character is definitely a part of this novel.
There are eight characters. How was it to work with this cast? Did you find any of the characters troublesome?
* It's not easy to have eight people having one conversation. But because I knew the characters well, things happened pretty naturally. I did create a graphic of where everyone was seated in a room so that all of my physical descriptions would match and make sense. I taped this graphic (and another of the meal seating) to my wall and referred often to them as I wrote.
That said, there are many scenes where there are only two or three characters. It was important for me to break it up so that the book had a good and natural balance.
A special nuance to your story about how this one-act play (and now a full-length novel) finally came about is that for a while it resided with a good friend who was supposed to 'Xerox' copy it and return it to you. The friend got busy and it was forgotten. Tucked away for years, she finally found it and put it back in your hands. Your book had basically been put on hold. Everything happens for a reason. Do you suppose it was so you could grow as a writer to do the story justice?
* I'd like to say yes, but remember, once I got the story back, I then turned it into a play and then waited years to write the novel. I do think the passage of time between completing the different versions of the play and now, definitely gave me the time to write the book as it was meant to be.
Because there are eight characters, will there be some spin-off stories? Perhaps a series as their lives progress?
* Well, interesting you should ask. There are two characters in particular that have won my heart in a huge way. In my head, I've already written a long spin-off story for them. It's actually quite detailed. And I have ideas for the others as well. But I don't see myself writing a spin-off novel at this time. That could change. I'm sure you've noticed that life has a way of taking us places we never thought we would go.
There are many matters of ethics in Barrie Hill Reunion that could prompt a lot of great discussion. What are your thoughts on a book club for the book?
* I had two editors work with me on this book. I finished the edits from the first editor, made a lot of changes, then gave it to another editor. (Yeah, I really wanted to get this right!) What surprised me was that the second editor had a very surprising view about one character. At that moment, I was reminded just how differently we all view people, matters of ethics, and just how much gray area really exists in so much of our lives.
The characters are struggling with many different personal situations, and yes, I think a reader discussion about them could make for a very lively conversation.
Last question, I promise. Have you been back to The Algonquin Hotel since you had brunch with your grandmother?
* No, sadly, I haven't. But the next time I go back to New York City (my favorite city), I absolutely will do so.
Thanks for having me on your blog again, Jan. Always an honor and pleasure.
It's been a joy having you, Lisette. Come back anytime.
If you would like to read this amazing novel you can find it here --
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