Sunday, July 21, 2013

Karen E. Bender

Karen E. Bender is the author of the novel Like Normal People, which was a Los Angeles Times bestseller, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.

A Town of Empty Rooms, her second novel, was published earlier this year.

From the author's Q & A with David Ulin for the Los Angeles Times:

“A Town of Empty Rooms” takes place in 2002, a heightened moment in America. Why did you set it then?

2002 was a time when it felt to me like the nation was spinning out of control. The nation was in an intense state of paranoia and fear after Sept. 11, and with Bush, with the Patriot Act, with the decision to invade Iraq despite numerous protests around the globe, it felt like the government was engaged in miscommunication, or the desire not to listen, on a massive scale.

I was interested in how communication had fallen apart because I was seeing it in a more micro level in my daily life. It also seemed a good time to set the novel because of Serena’s father’s paranoia as a Jew who had left Germany right before the Holocaust. He was very distrustful of government, the ways in which it could spiral out of control, and I imagined he’d have strong reactions to the Bush administration.

The book begins in New York but quickly shifts to North Carolina. You, too, moved to North Carolina around that time.

We ended up in North Carolina in 2002, when my husband Robert and I got teaching jobs at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. The jobs and writing community were great, but as the rest of our families were in New York and Los Angeles, we had a feeling of exile here at first. Wilmington is an odd place. It had Old South elements that we found totally perplexing (the Azalea festival, where teenage girls dressed up as antebellum belles and stood, twirling parasols, in front of houses that hosted garden tours), but the city has grown exponentially in the last 20 years, so there are a fair amount of “immigrants” from the Northeast, California, etc. drawn to the low-cost housing and easier life. We don’t feel like outsiders the way Serena and Dan do, but...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Karen Bender's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Town of Empty Rooms.

The Page 69 Test: A Town of Empty Rooms.

--Marshal Zeringue