I’m delighted to kick off a new 1st Books feature–3 Minute Interviews–with the amazing Caroline Leavitt, whose new novel, Cruel Beautiful World, is just out. Lucky me, I got to read this one prepublication, so I can tell you personally that it is TERRIFIC. It’s an October IndieNext pick–the choice of booksellers all over the country–and Christina Baker Kline calls it “a riveting, fluid and compelling novel about love and loss, secrets and lies.” Caroline is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more novels than anyone ought to be able to write in one lifetime, including Is This Tomorrow, Pictures of You, Girls In Trouble, and Coming Back To Me. – Meg
A Bit about Cruel Beautiful World:
It’s 1969, and sixteen-year-old Lucy is about to run away to live off the grid in rural Pennsylvania, a rash act that will have vicious repercussions for both her and her older sister, Charlotte. As Lucy’s default caretaker for most of their lives, Charlotte’s youth has been marked by the burden of responsibility, but never more so than when Lucy’s dream of a rural paradise turns into a nightmare.
Cruel Beautiful World examines the intricate, infinitesimal distance between seduction and love, loyalty and duty, and explores what happens when you’re responsible for things you cannot fix.
3-Minute Interview with Cruel Beautiful World Author Caroline Leavitt
Why this story now?
I’ve been wanting to write this since I was 17, but I didn’t understand how. Back then, a friend of mine was engaged for 5 years to a much older, controlling guy, who ended up stabbing her. I was haunted by that. But I didn’t understand how she could have stayed with him. Not until ten years later, when I somehow got into a controlling relationship myself–one I couldn’t leave because I began to believe all the things this guy was telling me–that I was fat, that my friends were crazy and all I needed was him. But even after I left him, I still couldn’t write it until four years ago, when I was looking at click bait–ten celebrities who really are not very nice!–and I noticed a posting from my high school friend’s sister. She was still haunted by what had happened and felt culpable somehow. That unlocked the novel for me. I wanted to set it at the weird time when the naive freedom of the 60s morphed into the terrifying realism of the 70s!
What is your favorite bit of writing advice?
NEVER EVER GIVE UP. No matter how many rejections you get, keep writing from your heart and soul. I had 8 failed novels before I found success. Listen to your inner voice.
If you could sit next to any writer on the train tomorrow, who would it be? And do you think they (or their ghost) would chat with you?
Oh, I love this question. I want to sit next to the very tortured Edgar Allen Poe. I lived on his stories when I was in middle school, and I still love them. I think he’d be suspicious of me, but then he might chat. He also might get obsessive, too, but that would be okay.
Caroline has been a guest twice before on 1st Books, with her post, “The Story of My Start,” as well as a prior, longer interview.