Leslie Daniels- www.lesliedaniels.com – first novel is released tomorrow and we’ll have a book review for you. Before you read all about the book, first read Daniels interview.
1. Cleaning Nabokov’s House is obviously inspired by Nabokov’s work and that you actually do live in his former home. What other authors do you find inspirational?
Like a lot of readers, I am dazzled by originality, the feeling of WOW; I have never seen this before! Among contemporary writers there are some whose work has offered a lot of freedom to me as a writer. Lorrie Moore, Mary Robison, Mary Gaitskill, Julie Hecht, were all revelatory experiences when I first read them. They each use intimacy in a bold and provocative way that fascinated me. For wild ideas and humor, I like Chuck Palahniuk, Pete Dexter. For blending humor and character, Nora Ephron is amazing. I am always interested in what goes on between human beings. James Salter does it really well. So does Jennifer Cruisie at her finest. And there are people I simply bow before, like Cynthia Ozick.
2. This is your first novel, but you have plenty of experience in the literary world as an agent, editor and writer of published essays and short stories. How is the experience of first time novelist different?
I have more control! If you’ve ever had a dinner party and you’ve made your favorite foods and invited your favorite people, put your favorite music on, and the doorbell starts to ring…that feels like this moment before the book is in readers hands. I am excited, and I have done what I can for their enjoyment.
I also know more than most first time authors about the collaborative work that goes on to make a book successful. Having been in on the launching of many fine books, I know how very hard people in publishing work. I am grateful for the group of people that are working on my book. They bring remarkable and diverse skills, and a great deal of heart. They have treated the book from the beginning as something exciting and special and fine, and I couldn’t be happier about that.
3. The early buzz for Cleaning Nabokov’s House has been excellent, indicating the humor and depth of your writing. In 250 words or less, how would you describe the novel?
We have all been at the end of our rope, and the central character Barb Barrett is there when the book opens: she’s lost custody of her beloved children, left her home and work behind for a town where she feels alien. At those moments you are thrown on your most elemental resources. Barb crafts a new life for herself, using everything she’s got.
4. Who, past or present, would you like to represent as a literary agent? What about Nabokov?
I can just see myself trying to pitch Lolita. “Yes, I know there is inappropriate sexual feeling, er, lust for children in the book, but it has great literary merit!” And hearing the phone lines go dead.
Patti Smith’s book Just Friends is wonderful. It would have been exciting to work with her on conceiving and shaping that project. I love the idea of a memoir that is a portrait of a relationship; it is such a generous take on life. And she writes with great precision and simplicity.
As for classics, I would have liked to represent Gone With the Wind. With the commissions from that I could feed every hungry kid in the state. Or set up a world class literacy program, endow the libraries!
5. What is your next project? Can we expect a second novel soon?
I’d love to say that in 4 months I will have a new draft with a great “hook,” but the truth is I start writing without a big idea, just small fascinations and build a story from that. I am antsy to be deep into a big project again.
6. What are you reading now?
The stack beside my bed is a big slide-y pile of great work:
Mark Childress’ Georgia Bottoms is hilarious. The central character is so funny and so naughty-bad, you just have to love her.
Afterlife by Rhian Ellis (I am rereading this because it is so excellent) Again the central character is someone who is certainly not good in the strict moral sense, and she’s fascinating.
Collum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin is the next book I want to sit down with. I want to sit down with it in a house by the sea that has no telephone or internet. This may not happen.
My friend Ellen Hartman’s newest romance novel is there too: I’ve already read it, but I like having it nearby because it has very sweet and real relationship stuff in it. I admire that. I read it and think about all the things I don’t understand about love.