Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The English American by Alison Larkin

I loved this book from page one and zipped right through it. I know you are going to enjoy it too. The English American is perfect mix of excellent writing, a fun story line, and a dose of humor. And it's sweet too, with characters that are flawed yet likeable, you know- like real life. Alison Larkin's writing style reminds me a little bit of Sophie Kinsella, the popular author of the Shopaholic books.

When British reared Pippa finds out her birth mother is from the southern region of the United States, she feels a pull towards discovering the woman who gave her up twenty eight years earlier. This tale follows Pippa to the south where she develops a relationship with Billie, a creative and flaky soul who gave Pippa up for adoption and her father, a business man in Washington DC. Imagine you are born and raised in England with your very proper parents who enjoy Scottish dancing and gardening when suddenly you are in Georgia, coming face to face with the woman who gave you up for adoption, a woman who is crazy and undependable and artistic. Yes, this makes for a culture clash!

You can read more about author Alison Larkin on her website. Alison has worked on television, in theater, she's done comedy shows and a variety of voices for animation. How cool is she? I want to meet this lady!

I have to ask about the hyper-focus, self sabotage and messy characteristics of someone like Billie. Did you research the tendencies of highly creative people because I identify with all of it!

I didn't need to do any research, because, like you, Billie and my heroine Pippa Dunn, I identify personally with all of that too.

I loved your book, I thought it was wonderful. How long did it take you to write?

I'm thrilled you loved my book. It took me about a year writing four hours a day, five days a week to actually write and re-write it before it was ready to send out to publishers.

How much of the book is based on your own experiences?

Although The English American is definitely fiction, my heroine Pippa's emotional journey mirrors my own. Like Pippa, I was adopted at birth into a very happy English family, who were as neat and practical as I am untidy and impulsive. Like Pippa at the beginning of the book, in my early - mid twenties, I was afraid every time I fell in love that 'he' would leave me, and everything became about trying to make sure that didn't happen. It was not wanting to live – or love – like this for the rest of my life that spurred me to seek out my own birth mother. As Pippa says in the book "Maybe if I found out that my mother gave me up for adoption because she had to, and not because she took one look at me and went 'yuck' – I'd no longer have a fear of rejection. And then I might finally be able to fall in love totally. Absolutely. Maybe even honestly. Like normal people."

Like Pippa, when I found my birth parents, it answered key questions about my identity – both personal and cultural - and ultimately brought me even closer to my adoptive family. Like Pippa, I am eternally amused by the very real differences between England and America, which I write about throughout the novel and which are embodied in the differences between Pippa's English and American parents.

However, unlike Pippa, I am definitely not a cabaret singer, my birth mother doesn't run a company called "Art Buddies", she doesn't live in Georgia and my birth father isn't a neo-conservative, enigmatic, politically involved businessman. The mysterious Nick who seduces Pippa by email didn't exist in my life, although he may have existed in my dreams. My Dad isn't Scottish, my Mum isn't blonde. I don't have a non-adopted sister, a dog called Boris or a penchant for fig newtons. Sure, we both prefer overalls to any other kind of clothing, and spill things on a daily basis, but Pippa has long red hair and is achingly beautifull while I have blonde hair and can look quite cute on a good day. The list goes on and on. In other words, it's fiction.

What is the major difference between English women and American women?

American women will tell you they hate at least one thing about the way they look. English woman will feel just as insecure about it, but won't admit it to anyone. You have to go to India or China to find a woman who is genuinely content with the way she looks – perhaps because she lives in a culture that values the wisdom that comes with age far more than weight gain or wrinkles.

What do you watch on tv?

Not much, because I get up really early in the morning, so I go to bed early. Occasionally I'll watch Bill Maher or Chris Matthews .

I had a British friend growing up. We would head to Ridgewood (small town in New Jersey) to visit Best of the British where we'd buy Turkish Delight and Weetabix. What are your favorite British foods?

My husband's the owner of http://www.britishgiftbaskets.com/, thus we have all the great British delicacies in our basement (and, alas, my tummy.) Maltesers, marmite., marmalade, Horlicks, Reddy Brek, McVities Chocolate Digestives, and - tell your Ridgewood pal - Weetabix and Turkish Delight,

What would I find you doing on a Friday night?

Hanging out at home playing with my husband and kids..

Your idea of a good time is...

Camping, roasting marshmallows over an outdoor fire, swimming across a lake or a river, singing songs from musicals around the piano with friends, writing, hiking, skiing, and, of course, eating chocolate.

What's next for you?

In March, April and May I'm continuing the book tour I've just started, speaking and reading in Portland Oregon, San Francisco, LA, Denver, New Jersey, Cambridge Mass, Connecticut and New York. (For details go to the appearances page at http://www.alisonlarkin.com/.) After that I'm hoping to sit down at my laptop and find out what happens to Pippa next! I feel a sequel coming on.

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