Before turning to writing, Laurie Gelman spent 25 years working in broadcasting in Canada and the United States, including a stint with Good Morning America. Her debut novel, Class Mom, a satire about kindergarten politics, was just published by Henry Holt and Co. Born and raised in Canada, she currently lives in New York.
Why did you write your new book?
Like so many others, I had always wanted to write a book. It is a daunting task, but I knew I had a story in me. I just wasn't sure what that story was. I wrote a children's book that was inspired by my daughter's anxiety issues. It was called Two Weeks 'Til My Birthday and it was about a little girl who gets way too excited about her birthday and can't settle down. I thought it was a work of genius but, sadly, 37 publishing companies felt otherwise! As my agent, Paul Fedorko, was giving me the bad news over lunch, I started telling him about my trials and tribulations volunteering at my daughters' school. I had him laughing so hard at all the crazy parents I was dealing with that he suggested I write it all down. I don't think it would have ever occurred to me to do that, but I did and the result is Class Mom. I would say the book became a kind of post-traumatic stress therapy session after spending five years volunteering at my daughters' school. I had such a wealth of material rolling around in my head and once that can of worms opened up, it was very cathartic to write it all down.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
My dear friend and great Canadian director, Ron Oliver, told me that if I ever wanted to get my book finished, I needed to treat writing less like a hobby and more like a daily appointment I absolutely can't miss. And so I did. And he was right. I have always wondered who those people were, sitting in Starbucks at one in the afternoon on their computers, until I actually became one of them. Starbucks was my writing room for two years and I even give them a shoutout in the book. But a noisy café doesn't work for everyone. I was able to block out the chatter because I worked in a newsroom for so many years. Some people need a quiet place to write. To them, I suggest the library. And for goodness sake, don't log on to the WiFi!
Would you rather have the ability to be invisible or time-travel?
My grandmother always said that eavesdroppers never hear good of themselves so I think I'll stick with time travel – maybe go back to my 20s and fix some of those mistakes I made in the romance department.
What's your favourite word to use in a sentence?
I like to slip amalgamate into a sentence if I can. There are so many synonyms for it that I rarely see the actual word used. Sadly, I didn't have a chance to use it in Class Mom – there was no perfect place for it. Maybe in the sequel!
Which book do you think is underappreciated?
The Bible. I'm kidding. There is a book called The House On The Strand by Daphne du Maurier and I could be wrong, but I have never felt it got the due it deserves. I'm not a huge fan of time travel, but she weaves a story of past blending into present that is ridiculously compelling. Her narration is vivid and a pleasure to read. It's something to aspire to as a writer.
Which books have you reread most in your life?
The Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery. I find something new to love and appreciate every time I do. As a child, I found Anne's plights and scrapes so worrisome, but as an adult I laugh out loud at her overdramatization of everything. In a world where everything is electronic and immediate, it's always a pleasure to go back to the time of taffy pulls and one-room schoolhouses. I have tried to get my daughters to read it, but I'm sad to say they have not caught the Avonlea bug yet. In the meantime, I will continue to devour Lucy Maud's prose like comfort food.
What's the best death scene in literature?
Without a doubt, Sydney Carton's death in Dickens's A Tale Of Two Cities is one of the best death scenes in literature. Selfless and surprising. 'It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.' Sigh … perfection.
What's more important: the beginning of a book or the end?
The end is more important to me than the beginning. I can suffer through a slow start to a book, but an unsatisfactory ending just leaves me feeling like I wasted my time. I can still remember the first time I felt completely satisfied reading the end of a book. It was The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I was only 13, but the pure perfection of the author starting and ending the book with the same sentence gave me goosebumps.