Saturday, May 15, 2021

Lynn Painter

Lynn Painter lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband and pack of wild children. She’s a biweekly contributor to the Omaha World-Herald’s parenting section, even though she is the polar-opposite of a Pinterest mom. When she isn’t chasing kids, she can be found reading, writing, and shot-gunning Red Bulls.

Painter's new novel is Better Than the Movies.

My Q&A with the author:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title of my book – Better Than The Movies – is, in a sense, the final answer to the main character’s misguided quest. Liz Buxbaum is obsessed with rom-com movies and is convinced that her life should follow the plot of a romantic film. She is a lady-in-waiting for big Hollywood love, the kind of running-through-the-train-station drama she has always adored. But life isn’t a movie, and nothing goes as she’d have planned. But sometimes real life and its messiness ends up being – wait for it – better than the movies.

The book’s working title was All Is Fair In Love And Parking, and I’m very grateful for agents and editors with better ideas than mine.

What's in a name?

In this instance, with this book, I was a lazy name selector. As I started drafting, I randomly selected two names out of thin air – Liz and Wes. For last names, I glanced over at my bookshelves and let my eyes peruse the spines. Buxbaum and Bennett are both last names of authors I enjoy, so why not?

It seems fated, however, because I later realized that if Liz and Wes were ever to marry, she would become Elizabeth Bennett. And what better name could there possibly be for a hopeless romantic?

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

Not at all. I write contemporary YA, and my teenage reader self was a contemporary young adult. Many of Liz’s experiences were colored by my own high school experiences, so my teenage reader self would probably be bored with my book.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I find it much harder to write endings than beginnings. When I start a novel, I know who the characters are; the beginnings are all about showing them to the reader. But more often than not, the characters take on a life of their own during the book. The ending I might have outlined at one time rarely works by the time I get there.

For example, I knew when I started writing Better Than The Movies that Liz would realize she was wrong about Wes all along. When drafting the story, I thought their happy ending would be together at the prom in a dramatic Hollywood rom-com type of moment.

But by the time I neared the finish, the story had changed. Wes and Liz’s dynamic was looped together with their childhood memories of her late mother and her inability to move on with her life. So instead of them kissing at the prom at the end of the book, they ended up visiting her mother at the cemetery.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I don’t know if I see myself in my characters as much as I see traits and experiences. For example, Liz is romantic and hyper-organized. I am definitely not those things. But when she flashes back to ridiculous things she did as a silly child, more often than not they’re things I did – or my sister did – as a silly child.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Movies and music had a huge influence on this book. Better Than The Movies is kind of an homage to the classic Hollywood rom-coms that I grew up watching. And with any movie, there needs to be a soundtrack, right? Liz, the main character, curates the soundtrack throughout the course of the book.
Visit Lynn Painter's website.

--Marshal Zeringue