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Guest post: Jillian Medoff

May 22, 2012

I’m very excited to welcome Jillian Medoff here today since she’ll be in the upstate for a Book Your Lunch event on July 19.  I’ll be there and hope you’ll join me if you’re in the area.  Jillian’s third book, I Couldn’t Love You More was released on May 5 and it’s getting great reviews.  Jillian was kind enough to tell us a little bit about the book’s background.

I Couldn’t Love You More is about a stepmother who is forced to decide which of her children she’ll save in a freak accident. People have been asking what inspired me to write this book, wondering, I guess, how much of my novel is autobiographical. Here is the short answer: none of the events that occur in I Couldn’t Love You More actually happened; however, everything in this story is true. In other words, I personally have never experienced a Sophie’s Choice moment, nor do I know anyone who has. However, if I have done my job correctly, every detail in this novel, including how the characters look, feel, act and react will be consistent; that is, true to the way that I, the writer, envision them and you, the reader, experience them. So if you believe the whole book, then I have in fact written a true story.

Many years ago, in graduate school, I took a master class with Grace Paley who said, “Write what you don’t know about what you know.” It didn’t occur to me until a few years ago that this is exactly what I do. I’ll take moments from my own life, from my family’s life, from strangers’ lives and I’ll look at what would normally happen—what I know—and then I’ll consider everything I don’t know, the big “what if’s.”

Like my other two novels, Hunger Point and Good Girls Gone Bad, I Couldn’t Love You More evolved in this way. Here’s what I knew: I’m a mother and stepmother. I have three children. I love them each equally but all differently. I’ve always been a writer who tackles complex themes and risky subjects—I write about the things that people think but never say aloud. So I was looking for a challenge. If a book has a predictable storyline or familiar situations, there’s little satisfaction in writing it. A woman deciding which man she’ll spend her life with? I’ve read that story a million times, but a stepmother deciding which of her children she’ll save in a freak accident? Now that’s a challenge.

I had no idea how I would react if forced to choose between my daughters, and figuring that out became my obsession for the next decade. In fact, even though the novel is finished and published, I still grapple with the question. I mean, how can any of us know what we would do in that situation?

About the author:

The eldest daughter of a traveling salesman, Jillian moved 17 times by age 17, ultimately ending up in Atlanta, where her new novel is set. She has a BA from Barnard and an MFA from NYU, and is grateful for having studied with such luminary writers as Mona Simpson, Jonathan Dee, Robert Coover, and Alice Walker. She also attended Master Classes with Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, and Grace Paley. Although these authors continue to influence her work in powerful and diverse ways, she suspects few of them, if any, remember her. A former fellow at the MacDowell Colony, Blue Mountain Center, VCCA and Fundacion Valparaiso in Spain, Jillian taught at NYU and the University of Georgia, but for only, like, five minutes. She currently lives in New York with her family, and has no plans to move anytime soon.

Connect with Jillian: Facebook · Twitter · Website

18 Comments leave one →
  1. Veens permalink
    May 22, 2012 6:02 am

    I am sure that it is not an easy decision to choose b/w one’s kids.. Sounds like an interesting book 🙂

  2. Beth F permalink
    May 22, 2012 6:23 am

    The premise of Medoff’s book is so haunting. Really, what would anyone do, but for a mom and stepmom, it would be just that much more awful. The book will stick with you.

  3. zibilee permalink
    May 22, 2012 9:16 am

    This post has forced me to think, and I have to agree with Beth, it’s a haunting scenario, and I don’t know which way I would go either. I must read this book. I really enjoyed getting the chance to hear a bit from the author and reading about her decision to write this one. Great guest post today, Kathy!

  4. May 22, 2012 9:34 am

    Intriguing question although I don’t think any of us knows what we’ll do in a desperate situation unless it happens. Should make for a nail-biting story. Very nice idea for a guest post too, Kathy.

  5. May 22, 2012 10:37 am

    Thank you so much for the opportunity to guest post! I am very excited about my upcoming trips to South Carolina. I’ll be outside Hilton Head in June and in Greenville in July, and would love the chance to meet everyone. In the meantime, I would be thrilled to send personalized book plates to anyone who purchases the book. My email is jillianmedoff@gmail.com, so just send your name and address and to whom you’d like the book addressed. Thank you again–so much! Yours, Jillian

  6. May 22, 2012 11:29 am

    Never heard of this author before, sounds good!

  7. May 22, 2012 12:07 pm

    This book sounds very interesting.

  8. bookingmama permalink
    May 22, 2012 12:44 pm

    I just finished this book a few days ago so I really appreciated the insight into her inspiration for the story!

  9. May 22, 2012 1:12 pm

    Wow! This author does like to be challenged, and to challenge her readers! Thought-provoking guest post. I am sure her work is haunting and intense.

  10. May 22, 2012 2:43 pm

    That is just one of those decisions that is heartbreaking to even think about.

  11. Patty permalink
    May 22, 2012 6:19 pm

    I cannot wait to read this book…

  12. Beth Hoffman permalink
    May 22, 2012 7:36 pm

    I’m excited about this book. I sooooooo wish I could go to the Book Your Lunch event with you, Kathy!

  13. May 22, 2012 8:51 pm

    This sounds like an excellent read. Thank you so much for your guest post.

  14. Staci@LifeintheThumb permalink
    May 22, 2012 9:21 pm

    Sounds like a great read! You always have the most interesting authors!

  15. May 23, 2012 3:01 am

    That would be such an agonizing choice to make! Another book that’s going on my WL thanks to you!!

  16. melaniesmusingsnet permalink
    May 23, 2012 4:09 am

    This sounds haunting. I love the line, “I write about the things that people think but never say aloud.”

  17. May 23, 2012 7:13 am

    That sounds like such a scary choice to make! I’m not sure how I would feel reading that, but the premise has me sold!

  18. May 23, 2012 10:38 pm

    Yikes. That is a tough thing to even think about without freaking out a little. That’s another great reason to only have one munchkin 🙂

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