Q and A with Shari Goldhagen, IN SOME OTHER WORLD, MAYBE
Tell us a little about your new novel.
In December 1992, three groups of teenagers head to the theater to see the movie version of the famed Eons & Empires comic books. For Adam it's a last ditch effort to connect with something (actually, someone, the girl he's had a crush on for years) in his sleepy Florida town before he leaves for good. Passionate fan Sharon skips school in Cincinnati so she can fully appreciate the flick without interruption from her vapid almost-friends—a seemingly silly indiscretion with shocking consequences. And in suburban Chicago, Phoebe and Ollie simply want to have a nice first date and maybe fool around in the dark, if everyone they know could just stop getting in the way.
The book follows these characters over the next twenty years as their lives criss-cross and intersect.
How did you settle on the timeline that you've chosen, which spans quite a few years of the main characters' lives?
I’ve always been really interested in how events from youth impact the rest of our lives. So I wanted to follow the characters until the events of the movie had a sort of logical conclusion. The re-release of the movie twenty years later, ends up connecting some of these characters in different ways, so it seemed like a logical place to end things.
It’s not a tied-with-a-bow ending for some of the characters, and personally at least, I’m really interested in finding out what happens to some of them afterward. But it seems like the place where Eons & Empires is done for these characters.
What were some of the books that influenced you while you were writing In Some Other World, Maybe?
I really like non-linear stories. I was nearly done with the ISOWM when I finally read A Visit from the Goon Squad—which became my new favorite book. Since I was almost done, I’m not sure it was an influence as much as a validation that a story can work even if you have different characters and a lot of time. During the time I also read Atonement, The Lovely Bones, and The Sweet Hereafter—all of which I think might have worked their way in.
I’d already sold the novel when I found Little Known Facts, which of course I fell in love with! I’m actually glad I read it after I was done writing. Because they are similar in structure and even in content, I think it would have frightened me a little if I’d encountered it while I was still writing.
Part of this novel is set in Evanston, IL - what are your ties to it and to the Chicago area?
I went to Northwestern and then I lived in the Edgewater area for a year after graduation. Maybe it’s because I was young and it was the first time I was living on my own, but I feel like some of my most intense memories are associated with the area. With the feel of the wind from the lake in winter, the pizza that no one else understands.
I’m from Cincinnati, and I used to drive to and from school all the time and it’s a pretty miserable, boring drive through flat nothingness. And then you go through Gary, which just looks so desolate from the Skyway, especially in winter, and then pop, the city appears. It used to bring tears to my eyes. I made the drive again for a reading last month and felt the exact same way.
How did you begin? With the idea for a character or an important scene?
Way back in college, I actually started a story about a guy from the Evanston area whose father was a pilot and that kind of messed him up. It was the first short story I ever published and I thought that was it. But I always sort of wondered what happened to him and especially to his high school girlfriend who wanted to move to LA to become an actress.
So I started playing around with that, and I got this very clear image of her living in this really cruddy apartment in Studio City with an actor who she was kind of dating and kind of not. The world just sort of started to fill itself in from there.
That original short story is still in the book, though I don’t think there is a single line that is the same.
An inevitable question - who would you cast for the main roles in the film version of In Some Other World, Maybe?
For Adam, I’d love to see someone like Ryan Gosling, or Ben McKenzie from Gotham would be great and, you know, his show is essentially the show that Adam ends up staring in, which is a nice irony.
For Phoebe, maybe Gemma Arterton or Natalie Portman. Sharon is a little harder because she’s cute, but not necessarily the first person you’d notice when you walk into a room, maybe someone like Thora Birch or Jenna Malone. And Eddie Redmayne would be a great as Oliver.
If you don't mind telling us, what are you working on now?
In between ISOWM and my first book, I wrote like 80,000 words of another project that I was really into. But there was this one plot problem I just couldn’t seem to work out. So I put it aside and got invested in this book. I think that I may have figured out a fix for the plot issue (sometimes just not dealing with a problem can magically make it better), so I’d really like to return to that. It’s also told from four different perspectives, but it’s centered around a single event and takes place over a few days, so the plotting is a little tighter.
And I’m also working on a YA project. There are always a lot of files open on my computer screen.