It’s about the way in which childhood experiences warp the lenses through which we see life and impact our choices in love. It’s about the sanctity and power of women’s friendships, outcasts, shame, and redemption. It’s about the fact that we can choose our reactions to things, that we can choose resilience.
Do you feel as though your writing is inspired by what you experience in everyday life or by what you have read?
My writing is influenced primarily by my life experiences, what I’ve observed, and the puzzles of human behaviour. I’ve entered my seventh decade on this earth – which means I have a good deal of experience upon which to draw.
What advice would you give to fledgling novelists?
Never listen to naysayers; do not permit them to rob you of your enthusiasm, inspiration, and dreams.
Who are some of your biggest literary influences?
Faulkner, Shakespeare, Hardy. On the more risqué, feminist side, Erica Jong.
The Las Vegas showgirl is an iconic figure associated with glamour and sex, but you show that the real women in such roles are more complex and three-dimensional. Do you think such stereotypes are becoming outmoded?
I can only hope that’s the case, in particular with regard to viewing women as a commodity, a package to be sold. But maybe those stereotypes are being replaced by a new version of female caricature: Hollywood’s depiction of a leather-clad, 98-pound woman who can outkick, outpunch, and overpower even gargantuan men. These are not the strong women I want to see depicted, and they are not the enduring, courageous women I have had the privilege of knowing.
While the novel is set in the 1950s and 60s some of the themes around women’s sexuality and the abuse of women is more relevant today than ever. Did you set out to write a novel exploring these themes?
I set out to write about women’s bodies – how they’ve been used, abused, denigrated, glorified and objectified (actually, try to find a verb that has NOT been applied to women’s bodies). I wanted to write honestly about women’s sexuality – not simply to say something like “and then the bedroom door closed” to end a scene or chapter. Many of the battles I thought women had fought and won are currently being re-fought – but this time around, I see confident, phenomenal energy behind women’s outspoken resistance to attempts to shut us down. And, this time, I think we have far more support from the men in our lives, with younger men coming to the fore – and that gives me great hope for the future of women.
Who would play Lily/Ruby in a film adaptation of All the Beautiful Girls?
I can name actors for nearly all the other characters in my novel, but Lily/Ruby stumps me. If you’ll let me dip into the past, though, I’d like to see Rita Hayworth – that glamor, red hair, and striking beauty.
What do you have planned in the future?
I’d like to finish my third novel and be satisfied with it. Then, I’d love to head to Scotland – I think not returning there once more before I die would be my greatest regret at this point.