I’m thrilled to post this interview with Elizabeth LaBan, whose new novel Not Perfect releases today from Lake Union Publishing. Elizabeth and I are represented by the same literary agency, TriadaUS, and I’ve been a fan of hers ever since I read her YA novel The Tragedy Paper. I’ve been looking forward to reading Not Perfect because it’s a domestic mystery, my favorite kind of contemporary fiction, and it does not disappoint!
When I asked Elizabeth to describe Not Perfect, she said, “Tabitha Brewer wakes up one morning in her fancy apartment to find her husband gone and a note he left that says ‘I’ll tell them what you did.’ That scares her enough to pretend all is well, even though she has no money and can barely feed and take care of her two kids. Throughout the book the reader learns what she did, if she did it, and why her husband left. Along the way Tabitha is surprised by the extreme kindness of a stranger and the possibility of new love.”
One of my favorite things about Not Perfect is the way I came to care about and sympathize with Tabitha, despite her privileged life and sometimes puzzling choices. She’s a three-dimensional character readers can relate to, and by the end of the novel she felt like a friend. I asked Elizabeth which character in the novel is her favorite, and she said, “I think it is Rabbi Rosen – even though of course I love Tabitha. The reason I pick him, though, is because he is so calming and seems to magically make everything better just by being there. Who wouldn’t love a character like that? Tabitha thinks that whenever he is around, and I felt it when I was writing the scenes with him in it.”
The whole cast of characters in Not Perfect is memorable: I was moved by the scenes with Rabbi Rosen and Tabitha’s children, fascinated by the expertly-planted clues regarding Tabitha’s husband’s disappearance, and howling with laughter during a hilarious Chinese restaurant scene!
Elizabeth and I also talked about her writing process. When I asked what her favorite part of the process is, she said, “Digging in to the second draft after the world has been created and the characters feel like real people.” And the most challenging part of the process? “The beginning – creating the basic world and story – it is my least favorite part. I find it to be lonely before I really know the characters.”
I agree completely. I recently told someone that writing the first draft of a novel feels like I’m at a party where I don’t know anybody and I have to prove I’m good enough to be friends with these people so they’ll tell me their stories! The second or third draft, after I’ve gained their trust and know them better, is much more fun.
Elizabeth and I also have similar approaches to writer’s block. She told me, “I once heard another author say that he didn’t really believe in writer’s block, but that it is possible you took a wrong turn in the book and need to back up a little and then go another way to move forward. Maybe the plot choice you just made leads you to a dead end – what a pain to erase it! But if you go back a little, just retrace your steps down that hall and make another choice, it might help move forward. Also, I have a lot of plot and character breakthroughs while I am taking walks.” This is great advice for any writer who feels stuck.
You can buy a copy of Not Perfect here:
You can also connect with Elizabeth online:
If you’d like to meet Elizabeth in person, she’ll be speaking at Upper Dublin Library in Pennsylvania this evening. She’ll also be appearing with me and Amanda Stauffer on February 20 at Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn. If you’re in the area, please drop by and say hello!