Q&A: Luanne Rice
The best-selling author discusses her 29th novel, "The Silver Boat"—and prepares for an April 8 appearance at Madison bookstore R. J. Julia.
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I wanted to ask you about In Mother Words, actually. Your first theater piece?
It is. It’s so exciting to me, because the project was conceived by Susan Rose and Joan Stein. Joan and I go so far back—she produced Crazy in Love, the first film based on one of my books, for TNT. That book was very emotional and very much about three sisters, and Joan is one of three sisters, too. We've just stayed connected and tried other projects as well. She and I came very close to doing a project based on a Connecticut murder case, the Ellen Sherman. I became involved in that case and wrote about it for a magazine. Anyway, the film project ended up not happening. But when she thought up this play, she asked me to write a monologue. Thanks to Brendan, having a life around the theater became very important to me. I have a lot of friends who are in plays or have written plays. So it's thrilling to be able to do this.
The title at one time was Mothering Out Loud. It ran at Hartford Stage and my piece was read by Amy Irving.
It's moving to off-Broadway's Primary Stages in the fall, correct?
Yes. I don't know the exact date, however.
Several of your books have been adapted to film or TV. Do you have a favorite?
I guess Crazy in Love, because of the amazing cast—Holly Hunter, Bill Pullman, Frances McDormand, Gena Rowlands and Julian Sands. Although it was set in Connecticut, it was filmed on Bainbridge Island and in Seattle. Even though it wasn't filmed in Connecticut, the soul of the story remained intact. Back then, as a young writer, I'd based it on something that really happened to me and wrote it the next day. So it hit particularly close to home. When I watched a scene on set, it was like watching a scene from my own life.
I've also perused your blog [luannerice.net/], and you've posted some pieces there about the seasons. In the latest piece I read you talk about your love of winter. But I wanted to ask you how you felt about this past winter, because it was such a mess.
I know. I really do love winter, and I was in New York for the first really bad blizzard, the one that dumped three feet of snow. And I loved it. My apartment is on a wide street right next to the Hudson River. I just love watching the extreme weather and then going out in it. Then, my work took me to California—I gave a talk to the American Library Association in San Diego—and I eneded up staying on the beach in L.A. to finish a novel and to work on In Mother Words—so I missed everything else! People tell me, "You're lucky you weren't there," but I don't feel that way. I just love extreme weather. I know Connecticut was hit so hard, roofs caved in; there was a lot of hardship and I don't feel good about that. But it's part of the atmosphere of winter I enjoy.
In the Northeast, there's this phenomenon we all know well—it's exciting to see the first snowfall, the snow-covered countryside, the icicles and all that. But by February, everyone is longing for sun. It reminds me of something I read, that in paris, everybody looks for the first sunny day in February because that's when the cafés out there sidewalk tables out for the first time. Even though it's still cold, the sun doesn't set as early and there's a chance for a blast of actual warmth even on a winter day. When you have a winter you're tired of, spring is all the more incredible.
You’ll also be getting an honorary degree from Saint Joseph College in West Hartford in May—your mother’s alma mater.
And it’s the alma mater of the most influential teacher I had in my life, Miss Laurette Laramie, who taught me history at St. Thomas Aquinas High School. I absolutely know that she’s the person behind my receiving this honor. She was the most compassionate and socially conscious teacher I ever knew; she really influenced me in that regard and we’ve stayed close. Aside from my mother she's the greatest teacher who ever lived; Connecticut is lucky to have her.
What did she teach you that meant the most?
She opened my eyes to other people's suffering and experiences. I remember she would have us read The New York Times every day; around Christmas it would publish "The Neediest Cases." I would read those stories and feel I had entered these worlds, that I really knew what these people were going through. I felt she taught us responsibility and how to make a difference in the world. She also recognized that I was a sensitive girl and needed someone to talk to in high school. I just credit with so much of how my life has gone. There's something about really being seen and heard as an adolescent, not just as one of many students, and she did that for me.