Thank you for Visiting

This book club provided an opportunity to discuss books with authors from 2009 - 2013. I like to think we were a group of daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, well... women finding time to meet while juggling daily life.

I hope you enjoy exploring The Manic Mommies Book Club Archives. We read 46 books over the years, with audio or written author discussions for each book read documented on this blog.

~ with kindness & gratitude, Mari

Jill Bialosky answers our questions

Thank you Jill for answering our questions!Our discussion begins Weds under the Big Tent – I will post questions for us to discuss Wednesday morning. In talking with many of you offline, I expect we will have a lot to share/discuss.Check back Wednesday!

I would like to know how the author came up with the storyline. Did she start with Eleanor as a character and the book evolved from there or did she want to write about art/Anna K/lectures (given her writing background) and the character developed along the way? The idea for the novel grew out of my character, Eleanor Cahn. I wanted to explore the nature of our erotic selves. Are they a compilation of the various intimate relationships we have been involved in? Does one relationship inform or predict the next? How do our past relationships inform our present relationships? And I also wanted to explore the idea of passion and responsibility. Are they mutually exclusive? Once I settled on my character and her vocation as an academic, I decided she would be writing a paper on Anna Karenina, and wrestling with some of the themes in that great Russian novel.

Where did the idea for the "life room" come from? The “life room” is a room where a painter paints from a live model. Once I began working on Eleanor’s relationship with Adam and the scenes where Adam paints her, the idea of the “life room”— an intimate room sealed off from the rest of reality—became more interesting for me. It is a very intimate space—and so is the relationship between artist and model. As I began to explore that conceit further, I found that the “life room” also served as a kind of metaphor for Eleanor and her exploration of her many selves, as mother, wife, academic, thinker, and lover.

Eleanor seems very confused in her head and with her life path, was it challenging writing her as a character? I see her as being more complicated than confused. It was challenging in a good way to write her into being. I grew to like her enormously and it was hard, by the end of the book, to finally let her go. She’s struggling with important questions and concerns and at the heart she is struggling to be a good person in the best sense—to know and accept herself.

Did the author have to research a lot to write this book? The paintings, art references, writing etc… how did she decide upon the paintings to include in the book? I did some research for the book. I read a lot about art and about the artistic process. As part of the research, I sat for an artist while he drew me. Some of the paintings in the book were paintings that have moved me over the years.

What was the connection to Stephen’s obsession with fire? Did Stephen start the fire at the house in Colorado and the club in New York? When I was working on Stephen as a character, I wanted to find some kind of exterior action that would convey his internal self. He’s a deeply conflicted character, like Eleanor in some ways, at war with his many selves. And he’s also angry. Starting fires is his attempt to control his inner chaos. His fatal flaw is his narcissism—his inability to see how his own actions impact others. I’m not sure he knows it, but he’s dangerous to others because he’s dangerous to himself. In that way, I think he differs from Eleanor. She is certainly self-involved in her quest to understand herself—yet she is aware, perhaps all too aware, of how her actions will impact others, including her family.

Steven, William and Michael are so different from each other. Was it fun writing these characters? Are they completely fictional or did you draw on past relationships/friendships to help create them? Was this challenging? Yes, they are different. They are completely fictional, but they have aspects I see in people—including myself—from all walks of life. Steven, William, and Adam are all artists of one type or another to a certain degree. And Michael, a doctor, represents the rational, scientific being. Creating character is complicated and eerie; the way a character suddenly comes to life and announces his or her self. Actions inform who characters are. Otherwise they are inert.

All of the men are so different. Was there a conscious decision to make each of Eleanor's loves so different or did that just evolve organically? To some degree, they evolved organically, though I had some ideas of who I wanted them to be.

How did the author's own romantic relationships impact Eleanor's relationships or the inherent struggles b/w the roles many of us juggle (wife, mother, employee) and our "true" selves? The book is a fiction, as are the characters. Of course, many of the concerns of the book are concerns many women have about the demands of being a wife, mother, and having a career or vocation, and also being a passionate person. When I was young many of the heroines I loved in literature ended up killing themselves when passion was at stake. That was a head-scratcher. I thought, let’s see what happens when a thoughtful woman considers saving herself.

Near the end of the book, I found myself really frustrated with the dance between Eleanor and Stephen. I wanted her to either do it (cheat) to end the curiosity or find the resolve to stay faithful to her family. Did you intend to have the reader feel that way in the end to get a sense of what Eleanor must have been feeling? I did want to create tension. The tension is whether Eleanor will transgress or not. I wasn’t quite sure all the way through the writing what she would do. I suppose that kept me interested in her and her plight. One of the early readers of the book said she got tired of Stephen. I thought to myself, well I suppose Eleanor is tired of him too! And yet, we all have had people in our lives we can’t shake for one reason or another. Why would Eleanor be any different?

Does Eleanor come to some peace when Steven leaves the city, after they sleep together? Given her character, I half expect her to have a breakdown. She doesn’t sleep with him! Only a kiss. I find her to be a strong character, though everyone I suppose is capable of breaking down. It’s what makes us human. I think Eleanor finds a certain amount of peace, but as she says, she doesn’t want the quest to ever end, and I suppose part of the quest is to remain vulnerable to a certain degree, otherwise we are dead inside, incapable of evolving.

Whose voice was "talking" to Eleanor in the restroom at then end, God's, or her own, which she has been seeking to nurture throughout the novel, or someone else? I wouldn’t touch that one with a ten foot pole. I like your many interpretations!

Do you see Eleanor and Michael staying together after the book ends? I think that is for the reader to decide.

Did you know how the story was going to end when you started? Did you ever think that Eleanor might end up with Stephen? As I said earlier, I did not know what was going to happen to Eleanor and Stephen. It was the not knowing that kept the book alive for me. I hoped only to capture the struggle.


  1. I think the answers opened a whole bunch more questions for me! I'm anxious to see what everyone else thinks. Great questions!

  2. Great interview. I enjoyed it.
    Now if I may, I'd like to take a moment to shamelessly promote my new book, "Beth:Love Along The B.G.Sanford," and just released by Eloquent Books. It's a beautiful romance, a love affair of a life time, presenting its self to Beth during some of the darkest times of her life. She struggles with what to do and yet knowing what would be morally right. Because of the very substance of this book, it certainly can't be considered "lightweight" by any stretch of the imagination. I hope you get the opportunity to read my book, it's a story you won't soon forget.
    All my best,