Have you gotten your copy of Stay yet? No??? Here's the Amazon link. I'll STAY here and wait until you take care of that.
Now that you've taken care of that, Allie did me the huge favor of answering some of the questions I had about Stay, and I hope you'll enjoy her answers as much as I did:
MG: While reading, I noticed several Allieisms in Stay: Van and her mother's love of Boston and an exchange where Van and Agnes call each other 'Lady.' How much of your own personality did you put into Stay, and are there other big examples of yourself within the book?
AL: I think it has kind of become one of those life imitating art imitating life things. A friend of mine in college had a Boston CD, and played it all the time. When I left college and was feeling nostalgic, I got my own copy. I liked Boston, but it was more about the nostalgia than the music. But the CD turned into a joke between J and I.
In an early draft, I was trying to figure out what CDs Norman would have in his car, and which one Van would actually like, and it occurred to me that Van would like Boston, and that it would be a closet obsession. But then, in the process of writing Van and listening to the Boston laden playlist I made for her, I started loving Boston on a level that goes way beyond nostalgia. And there is no better way to get myself in the right mindset to write Van than to listen to More Than A Feeling.
Another big “Allieism” are the locations in the book. I moved up to Rochester in 2000. I grew up in Westchester, about 30 minutes north of Chappaqua. And I used a lot of real locations or elements of life in Westchester. My friends used to go bridge jumping. I still dream of Bueti’s sandwiches, and when I was a nanny, I used to take my youngest charge to Gedney Park to run around.
But all of these things are very much seen through Van’s lens, not mine. It’s sometimes a very subtle difference, but it is a difference. And I swear to you that I am not in love with any of my friends’ husbands, nor have ever bought a dog off the internet.
MG: Joe seems like such a great dog! Is he modeled after any dogs you know? And is it really possible to order a German Shepherd online? Should I warn the Modern Love Machine about potential drunken dog ordering?
AL: Argo was absolutely the inspiration for Joe. But Argo is an incredibly easy-going dog. He’s really amazing, and I wish we could take credit for that, but he just showed up that way – open and loving and happy to meet anyone who comes his way. He is quite eager to please, so he responds very quickly if he knows he’s done something wrong. Using Argo almost verbatim as the model for Joe, didn’t really ring true. In earlier drafts, Joe was too perfect, and it didn’t serve the story as well. Luckily, Stella became a member of our family, and brought with her several months of floor pooping, crate chewing chaos. Joe’s incidents are not Stella’s, but she certainly gave me lots of inspiring material before she calmed down and stopped making me want to run away from home.
Yes, you can actually import a dog from Slovakia. One of my friends posted the book trailer on his Facebook wall, and his friend commented that she got her dog from Slovakia and had him flown over. That said, getting a dog from your local German Shepherd Rescue organization is a wonderful way to go.
MG: Since we're on the topic of characters ... you've mentioned before on your own blog and Twitter that you really got to know your characters and you missed them when Stay was finished. How did you make them so realistic? I feel like I've known them my whole life!
AL: Thank you so much! I am thrilled to hear that you related to the characters in STAY so well. I feel like I’ve known them my whole life too.
I originally went to school for theatre, and I think taking acting classes has been a hugely positive influence on my writing. We really learned how to dissect characters. When we studied a scene or a monologue, what wasn’t on the page was just as important as what was.
At one point, I worked on a student directed scene from a play called Betrayal, by Harold Pinter. I played a wife who is confessing to her husband that she’s had an affair with his friend. The scene is incredibly tense and loaded, but, because it’s Pinter, there are very few words. What isn’t said is just as important as what is. The student directing the scene knew that it was important for my scene partner and me to have a strong sense of context. Before we even got to the script, he had us spend a week or so improvising scenes from the life of a couple becoming a couple and then starting to fall apart: our first date, the marriage proposal, a typical night in our home, when the fighting started, the concealing of the affair. When we finally got to the scene we performed, there was a sense of loss. There was a context for the argument that went far beyond words.
I learned SO much in that process. I don’t hang out in my office acting out background scenes for my characters, but I do make sure I give them that kind of context. I spend a lot of time thinking about the things that don’t happen in the story, and I allow myself to write scenes I need to work through, even when I know they won’t end up in the final draft.
MG: And lastly, when should we be expecting your next novel? Do you have any ideas what it might be about?
AL: I’m not quite ready to talk about my next novel in any kind of specific terms, but I can tell you that there will be no mention of grape Kool-Aid anywhere in it! Writing those scenes where Van drinks way too much of it created a pretty bad aversion to all things fake grape flavored.
Pennypup reads Stay aloud to Lucydog, who really is interested despite appearances
For more by Allie, check out her short story Bathtub Mary and her personal blog Incidents and Accidents.