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Next to Love
"A lustrous evocation of a stormy period in our past; highly recommended for...
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Ellen Feldman answers questions about Next To Love

Created: 05/17/12

Replies: 15

Posted May. 17, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 386

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Ellen Feldman answers questions about Next To Love

Ellen Feldman will be joining us for the next few days to answer questions about "Next To Love". So, if you have a question for her please post it below...


Posted May. 18, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
lisag

Join Date: 01/12/12

Posts: 298

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Were you intentionally setting up situations to highlight how different our contemporary world is from this post-war time?

Hello, Ellen! It's a great honor to "meet" you. I have a question about the contrast between the period the novel's set in and the contemporary world. Were you intentionally setting up situations to highlight how different our contemporary world is from this post-war time? Or do you think it is actually very different?


Posted May. 18, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
ediem

Join Date: 03/14/12

Posts: 5

Did you consciously choose not to explore Claude & Babe's feelings about not being able to have a child of their own?

Hello Ellen,
Babe would have made a great mother, I found it interesting that you didn't explore Claude & Babe's feelings about not being able to have a child of their own. Do you think that would have taken away from the story in general?


Posted May. 18, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
phyllisrelyea

Join Date: 04/13/12

Posts: 3

Any bids from film studios? What is happening with Scottsboro?

Ellen, I think it would make a terrific TV movie...any bids??
What is happening with Scottsboro? You do such a good job with character delineation! Phyllis


Posted May. 18, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
EllenFeldman

Join Date: 05/12/12

Posts: 9

RE: Ellen Feldman answers questions about Next To Love

Nice to hear from you lisag. I wasn't actually choosing incidents to illustrate the differences between that world and our contemporary scene, but as I tried to portray the forties and fifites accurately, I found the contrasts were making themselves obvious. I was also interested in how our world grew out of the post World War II era. I knew when I began the research that war always changes the society that wages it, but until I got deeply into this, I wasn't aware how completely WWII transformed America.


Posted May. 18, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
EllenFeldman

Join Date: 05/12/12

Posts: 9

RE: Ellen Feldman answers questions about Next To Love

Perhaps the writer fallen down on the job, ediem. I strive for spare writing and try not to belabor points, but I thought I did explore their feelings. Claude does not want a child because he fears his own mental state and tendency to violence, as when he’s holding the baby at the picnic. Babe goes along with his decision, because her first concern is helping him to recover from the war, but later, when she’s at the pond with Amy, she does think about how her relationship with Amy is somehow easier than motherhood.


Posted May. 18, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
EllenFeldman

Join Date: 05/12/12

Posts: 9

RE: Ellen Feldman answers questions about Next To Love

Thanks, Phyllis, I agree. I think it would make a great movie, but perhaps that's just because it's so vivid in my mind. We've had interest, but no definite offer yet. Scottsboro is still selling well. There probably will not be a movie of that, because of various commercial interests in Hollywood. The topic is not, as you know, cheerful. However, it was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, and I'm still over the moon about that.


Posted May. 21, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
lisag

Join Date: 01/12/12

Posts: 298

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RE: Ellen Feldman answers questions about Next To Love

Ellen, shame on me for not doing my research but I didn't realize how many other books you've written! 'Lucy' is one I tried so hard to fit into my reading schedule but never did. Now 'Scottsboro' and 'Orange Prize' were mentioned in the same sentence so I'm pretty well sold on that. I'm native to the South and find anything set in this region - and period - of great interest. Onto my reading list it goes!


Posted May. 21, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
lisag

Join Date: 01/12/12

Posts: 298

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RE: Ellen Feldman answers questions about Next To Love

FYI for other discussion members, there's a great interview with Ellen on her website: http://www.ellenfeldman.com/?page_id=29


Posted May. 21, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
EllenFeldman

Join Date: 05/12/12

Posts: 9

RE: Ellen Feldman answers questions about Next To Love

No shame at all, lisag. I'm always behind in my reading. I don't have a favorite book. It would be like having a favorite child. But I'm glad you're going to try Scottsboro. If you're from the South, I think you'll find it especially relevant. And thanks for calling attention to the interview on my web site. It's passionate readers like you whom we writers live for.


Posted May. 22, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
malindan

Join Date: 05/10/12

Posts: 34

RE: Ellen Feldman answers questions about Next To Love

Hi Ellen,
I am now really excited to read Scottsboro as well as your other works. I really enjoyed Next To Love and wondered whether you had a favorite character or whether you related to some better than others....I know that I did!


Posted May. 22, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
EllenFeldman

Join Date: 05/12/12

Posts: 9

RE: Ellen Feldman answers questions about Next To Love

I'm really interested in who your favorite character is, malindan. I'd love to hear others' favorites too. Babe was closest to my heart. The funny thing is that Millie and Grace were based on real women, one I knew growing up, the other I only heard about, though of course once I started writing about them, they became my own fictional characters. But I have no idea where Babe came from. She simply showed up at my elbow one day while I was writing, said, let me deliver the telegrams, and refused to go away. That is one of the joys of writing fiction.

I hope you like the other books too.


Posted May. 22, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
lisag

Join Date: 01/12/12

Posts: 298

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RE: Ellen Feldman answers questions about Next To Love

Ellen, I asked this of another writer, one who took a full year to research and live the nonfiction book he wrote. Do you think about how much of your time, your heart and soul went into the writing of this book and feel any bit of frustration how quickly readers are able to read it? I equate it with all the preparation I do for Christmas Day dinner, that I spend all afternoon in the kitchen, then the kids run in and eat quickly so they can get back to whatever they were having fun with before! Then again, they remember the dinners, the special foods we only eat at the holidays. So maybe it's not all for naught.

But all that research. It must be incredibly time-consuming. Then readers get through your book in a few days and are off to another. And, of course, the nature of the publishing game is such that books are remaindered in such a short period of time, pushed aside by the next big thing. This is turning into a really big question, actually! But do you have any thoughts on the issue of time and how quickly books are turned over? Does that cross your mind?


Posted May. 22, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
malindan

Join Date: 05/10/12

Posts: 34

RE: Ellen Feldman answers questions about Next To Love

Hi Ellen,
While I think most people are most fond of Babe as a character I think I have to say that my real favorite was Millie. Being a mother of two teenage boys and a five year old child I felt drawn to her determined although flawed attempts at creating a "normal" family. Millie seemed to truely want to create a normal childhood for her son and she chose a wonderful man to marry in order to ensure his "happy ever after". Al is nothing but kind and supportive to Jack and loves him as his own and Millie really believes this is enough. I think I felt for Millie in how much she was judged for her decisions and her desire to create a wonderful life. She wasn't a bad mother.....just a flawed one in that she wasn't able to understand that her decisions might not really be the best for her child. While I liked Babe as a character I felt that it was easier to admire her than it was Millie although, in my mind, Millie had to make harder choices. I really felt for Millie when Jack chose to find his own determined path. I understood his need but I felt her pain as a mom who just wanted to make it "all good".


Posted May. 23, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
EllenFeldman

Join Date: 05/12/12

Posts: 9

RE: Ellen Feldman answers questions about Next To Love

Lisag, I never really thought about how much time I spend on a book and how rapidly readers can whip through it, for two reasons. I absolutely love both the research and the writing, which is not to say the writing isn't often agonizing. When it's going well, it's one of the best feelings in the world; when it isn't, the universe turns black. But for the most part, I love what I do, so the amout of time it takes doesn't trouble me. In fact, I am so grateful to have work I love. I know many people are not that fortunate.

The second reason has to do with your apt analogy to those Christmas dinners. I like to think that at least some aspects of my books stay with readers after they've moved on. Years ago, I had a wonderful experience when a friend told me she was thinking of introducing another friend to a man she knew -- until she realized the man she thought she knew existed only in a book I'd written. I don't think that kind of vividness fades quickly. At least I hope it doesn't.


Posted May. 23, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
EllenFeldman

Join Date: 05/12/12

Posts: 9

RE: Ellen Feldman answers questions about Next To Love

Malindin, I'm so glad you felt so close to Millie. I agree that she wasn't a bad mother at all. She just made some unfortunate choices, which, given the times, made sense. I saw her as a fierce survivor. She had known tragedy as a small child and then again as a young woman, but she was determined to forge a life for herself and her children. And you're right, she made a smart choice in Al, one that took courage, given the religious prejudice of the time. Thanks so much for asking about her. You reminded me how much I do like her.


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