Happy Monday!!! Hopefully you made it through April Fool’s Day unscathed! If you celebrate with Easter or Passover, I hope that your celebrations were filled with love and joy.
In February, we read Red Clocks on Instagram for our #awesomeAFbuddyreads 📖 The author, Leni Zumas, joined us for many of these discussions, which prompted me to ask if she would be willing to do an interview! Check out the discussions, linked below, and give these lovely ladies a follow as well!
JennsBookVibes – Discussion One
JenaBrownWrites – Discussion Two
HollysLittleBookReviews – Final Discussion
Many of the questions in this interview were sparked from these discussions and I am so happy Leni was willing to take the time to answer!
CAUTION!!! SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
What character did you find you identified with the most?
I feel connected to all five of the main characters, but if pressed, I’d have to say the Biographer! Although our life stories aren’t identical, many of her adventures on the quest to become a mother are based on my own experiences. And her sense of humor is pretty similar to mine.
Which was your favorite to write? Why?
The Mender was perhaps the most fascinating to write, because she knows about things I don’t know about–wild plants, poisonous herbs, the healing arts. I enjoyed the research I needed to do in order to imagine her.
Anger is a characteristic that comes through in each woman, though in very different ways. History has been known to try and ensure that women repress their anger. How intentional was it to show how anger drives each woman and their subsequent choices?
When I sit down to write, I’m not usually aware of an agenda or intention — I’m more just trying to get from one word to the next, one sentence to the next. Not to make writing sound mystical, or completely unguided by intention (it’s neither of those things, at least for me) but when it comes to the anger these characters feel, I wasn’t aware of heading in a particular direction. A couple of months ago, I did a reading at Powell’s Books in Portland, and the first question from the audience was: “Why aren’t these women angrier?” I’d read a few sections from the beginning of the novel, and the audience member (who happened to be a man) observed that the Biographer and the Polar Explorer were dealing with circumstances that must have made them furious, yet they weren’t showing any anger. “Don’t worry,” I told him, “later in the book, the Biographer is so furious she starts hurling food at the kitchen wall and out the window!”
The Wife was a character I struggled with. I loved that she was fighting against being the typical women envisioned by the laws enacted, however, she also came across as unstable. She felt frantic, and potentially delusional. In the light that she wanted to pursue her own individual identity, why did you choose to portray her as erratic?
There are numerous references to politics today sprinkled throughout the book. Yet they are all vague enough to not feel dated, or require extensive knowledge of which political discussion you’re referencing. How difficult was it to ensure that the tone was relevant without crossing into being too specific?
I made a conscious effort to steer away from the specifics of reproductive-rights legislation and instead immerse the reader in the characters’ experience of the everyday world created by that legislation. Even though I was basing the Personhood Amendment and its auxiliary laws on actual proposals by American lawmakers (see Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, and others), it was easy enough to keep the politics “offstage” and focus on the characters.
I have a theory that The Biographers story of Eivor ended up being more of her own story, written to fit the facts of the explorer. Part journal for her, part fact. But the more important message was to show how far women have come, yet how much things are still the same, especially with the new laws in effect. Am I close? If not, what is the message from that storyline?
Your theory is correct! The Biographer has very little actual evidence to work with, so she has to imagine the majority of Eivor’s life. The book she’s writing does end up echoing many of her own questions, hopes, fears, etc. I didn’t intend for the Polar Explorer’s story to have a clear or unified message; rather, I saw it as a tonal counterpoint to the fuller, more linear narratives of the four contemporary women. Eivor’s presence in the book is ghostly. Her sections have a lot of white space, a lot of gaps, a lot that’s missing — much like the stories of so many women and people of color throughout history. The Biographer wants to rescue narratives that have been lost, hidden, distorted, or simply ignored. Her book on Eivor is one attempt.
Even though they are all empowered, the ending leaves each woman’s future very open. What made you decide on ending where you did?
I didn’t want to wrap everything up at the end, or to suggest a triumphant resolution for each woman. As a reader, I tend to resist narratives that finish with a neat little flourish; so it was instinctive for me to leave things open-ended for my characters. Their struggles are ongoing — they reach past the last page.
If you had one thing that you wanted all readers to take from your novel, what would it be?
I wouldn’t be able to pick just one! I see Red Clocks as a book that offers more questions than conclusions, and I hope that every reader feels free to engage with its questions as he or she chooses.
Have you read this amazing book??? What would you want to ask the author? If for some reason you haven’t gotten your hands on Red Clocks, I’ve included the Goodreads link below, which has the links to all your favorite retailers!
Once again, thank you Leni for taking the time to answer all my questions with very thoughtful answers!
2 thoughts on “Let’s get feminist – an interview with Leni Zumas”
So interesting – thank you! I can’t wait to read this book!