Friday, August 9, 2013

Amy Shearn

Amy Shearn's first novel, How Far Is the Ocean from Here, was published in 2008. Her latest novel is The Mermaid of Brooklyn.

From the author's Q & A at Traveling With T:

Amy, how did the idea of The Mermaid of Brooklyn happen?

I was shopping with my grandmother for shoes to wear at my wedding when she told me the story of how a pair of shoes saved my great-grandmother’s life. My great-grandmother, a tiny, tough woman named Jenny Lipkin, was a virtuosic seamstress, a self-sufficient ball-buster, a strong mother of three girls, and the wife of a really awful man – and yet the tale my grandmother told spoke of such inner turmoil, vulnerability, even a touch of the poetic. This story stuck with me, and somehow combined in my mind with the idea of the rusalka, the malevolent mermaid of Eastern European lore. I was trying to write an essay interweaving the two ideas for the longest time, until one day when I was describing it to a friend in the hopes she could help me untangle it all, and she said, “Um, that’s a novel.” The final piece fell into place when I became a mother. I found myself fascinated by the parenting culture of Park Slope, Brooklyn – half-loving it, half-amused/repelled by it – and that was when I was ready to start writing the book.

Is Jenny Lipkin based on you, Amy? Or any mothers you know? Or is more of a collective idea of mothers everywhere?

I think every character in a novel is a little part of the writer. From the outside, Jenny’s life certainly looks like mine. I live in Brooklyn, I have two kids (although when I was writing the book I only had one), and when I was writing the first draft of this book we lived in a cramped walk-up apartment that was making me crazy. Like Jenny (and like many writers and bookish types, I think) I often find myself feeling like a bit of an outsider, observing everyone else, looking in.

That said, I based her character largely on...[read on]
Visit Amy Shearn's website.

The Page 99 Test: How Far Is the Ocean from Here.

Writers Read: Amy Shearn.

--Marshal Zeringue