Friday, September 14, 2012

An afternoon with Laura Harrington

Last Sunday afternoon my book group met to discuss our most recent read, Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington. Joining our discussion was the author herself. 

Find my review of Alice Bliss: HERE.

Although I was excited to talk about the book with Ms. Harrington - how often do you get the opportunity to have an author at your book group? - I was slightly nervous about how openly we would be able to speak. Thankfully, Ms. Harrington was a fantastic addition to our meeting. She was honest and engaging and truly made our experience with her novel richer. We are so thankful that she came!

Here is our book group, and Laura Harrington in white in the center of us. We've been reading and discussing books for five years now. Also of note, I'm just realizing that I am the only blonde (yes, I know that makes me sound even more blonde).

We had a lively general discussion with Ms. Harrington, and talked candidly about a variety of bookish and non-bookish subjects, including book covers, social media, and the role silence does (and doesn't) play in our lives.
Of course we also talked in depth about Alice Bliss, including our very emotional responses to the story. Below is some of the great insight we gained about the novel from the author herself. 
  1.  Laura Harrington was a playwright before she was a novelist, and she wrote Alice Bliss as if she were a theatre director and the story her stage - directing the reader to where the action is. I could definitely sense the cinematic quality of her writing as I read the book. 
  2. A number of her plays and stories, including Alice Bliss, have characters in them who have been confronted by war. When asked why that theme interests her, Ms. Harrington explained that war is something that she still doesn't understand. In writing about it she seeks to "express something about my disquiet about it that would be interesting to my general audience." We all thought she succeeded there.
  3. She purposely set the story in 2006, which was before members of the military had unlimited access to email. Alice's family also doesn't have cell phones or a computer at home. All of that affected the communication between Matt Bliss and his family. 
  4. Ms. Harrington did not give a lot of description about Alice's appearance, so that the reader could "understand who Alice is through her thoughts and actions, not through her looks."
  5. Alice Bliss is based on Laura Harrington's 30 minute one-woman musical called Alice Unwrapped, which is set in New York City. And she is currently writing Alice Bliss the musical.
  6. We all wanted to know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. She's open to writing a sequel, but not planning one currently. Until that happens she's not sure where the characters will go. (Then we offered suggestions, which she listened to graciously.)
THANK YOU, Laura Harrington for a fantastic book and engaging conversation. 


  1. Wow, numbers 2 and 3 and 4 are so interesting. It's so awesome that she wrote this particular story and that you guys got the chance to talk to her. Particularly if she doesn't have a tie to the war? Do I understand that correctly? Wow.

    1. Yes we had more extended discussions about all of those points, but it's hard to articulate that in a post.

      2) If I'm remembering correctly, the author does not have any family members who are currently fighting. But she definitely has had personal experience in other wars. Both with people not returning, and with them returning differently. It has had a profound affect on her. I think her next novel is about it as well. And she's even written about historical war figures like Joan of Arc. So her interest in the human side of war is very far reaching. I think she's also talked a lot to people affected by this war.

      3) This was really interesting. Having limited communication definitely affected how Alice and her family were able to contact their father and letter writing became so important. Now soldiers have unlimited access to email and Skype, which is fantastic. BUT there are other psychological aspects of this to deal with - for instance a soldier could have just been on patrol where he saw someone die or had to shoot someone and then within the hour could be talking to his children online. So then there's less mental separation from the violence to your home. I'd never even considered something like that.

      4) This was more about wanting the inner strength of Alice to shine through without being clouded by how she looks. We do get some sense of her appearance, but it isn't important to the story. I liked that the author made a conscious choice to write her this way.

    2. I'm still amazed by the communication thing, which is something I just had never thought about before until I read this. And now reading about the mental separation from the violence to "our" homes. Wow. I really do want to read this book in the not-too-far-off future. It sounds so interesting to me. Especially after seeing this blog post about your interaction with the author.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...