by Eliza Kennedy
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A conversation with Eliza Kennedy, author of I TAKE YOU: A Novel
(Crown, May 5, 2015)
Q) I read I TAKE YOU in one sitting on my way to Las Vegas (how appropriate) and wished I’d had a drink in hand to wash down this delicious debut! When were you first inspired to write this hilarious novel?
A) I was at the gym, in a very bad mood. (Hate the gym.) My mind, in its gym-induced agony and boredom, cast back to an effort I’d made years ago to write a novel about a wedding. I was thinking about why that book had failed when a question popped into my head: What if the bride didn’t want to get married? It was followed by another question: Why would a bride not want to get married? And finally, the answer: Because she loves to sleep around. I was electrified! I raced home and wrote the first chapter that afternoon. Ten months later, the book was finished. This is the only good thing that has ever happened to me at a gym. Ever.
Q) Describe your heroine, Lily Wilder.
A) Lily is maybe best described as a great lover of life. She loves good conversation. She loves her high-powered job, her complicated family. She loves New York City, her adopted home. She loves to go out with her friends. She loves to drink. A lot. And above all, she loves men. There are so many men in the world! Hot, witty, fascinating men. Lily loves to meet these men, to banter and flirt with them, and, of course, to sleep with them. Whenever she pleases, as often as she pleases, in as many different ways as she pleases. But she’s getting married in a week. So this is a problem.
Q) You attended Harvard Law School, were an editor of the Harvard Law Review, practiced litigation at a prestigious Manhattan law firm, then, with no formal training, wrote one of the sexiest, laugh-out-loud funny novels I’ve ever read. Where on earth did Lily’s voice come from?
A) I honestly have no clue where she came from—the deepest, darkest recesses of my warped subconscious? She seeks maximal pleasure, all the time. She says and does exactly what she wants, regardless of the consequences. Now that we’ve found each other, I sometimes entertain myself in dull situations by imagining what Lily would do. This is not without its dangers.
Q) You and Lily both live in New York and worked as big-firm lawyers. Any other similarities?
A) Alas, no. If I were Lily, I wouldn’t have written a book. I’d be too busy getting lit and sleeping around. However, I do think that if the world were a little bit different—if girls weren’t bombarded with mixed messages about assertiveness and femininity, if our culture weren’t so schizophrenic about sexuality, if women weren’t subtly and not-so-subtly encouraged to be the objects of other people’s lust rather than the subjects of their own—I might be more like Lily. Lots of women might be more like her, in the ways that count: confident, unashamed and unapologetic in fulfilling their desires.
Q) Readers of books like Where’d You Go, Bernadette; The Engagements; Bridget Jones; and Something Borrowed are going to eat this up. What was your grand plan when you first set out to write this novel? Did you have any sense of where it might take you?
A) My goal from the outset was to write a fun, entertaining book about a free-spirited woman who has no business getting married. But when I was about two-thirds of the way through, I realized I could add a little substance to the froth—that I could use Lily to talk about bigger issues, such as monogamy and female sexuality, friendship and marriage and family. That layer of the book came fairly late.
Q) You and your husband, Josh, who is also a writer, married in Key West in 2005. Much like the nuptials in I TAKE YOU, your own wedding was a bit of a near disaster. Do tell!
A) Our disasters were more practical than existential, fortunately. A planning visit was cut short when the state ordered a mandatory evacuation in the face of a looming hurricane. On the day itself, my maid of honor missed her plane and arrived only moments before the ceremony. My hair was styled into a freakishly hard helmet that would have deflected rocks. (Seriously. I have photos.) One of our readers suffered chest pains and spent the ceremony in the hospital. Best of all? A drunk family member had to be physically restrained from assaulting the DJ. She is now an ex-family member. But everybody has stories like these, right? After all, a wedding is simply a foretaste of marriage itself: beautiful, infuriating, and subject to forces well beyond our control.
Q) The peripheral characters in this book are equally charming and entertaining—Lily’s fiancé, Will; her best friend, Freddy; and her gran. You must have had so much fun creating all of these wild personas. Tell us a bit about each.
A) I just had to imagine the kind of people Lily would have come from and the kind she would surround herself with. So she has a bevy of strong female relatives, such as her outspoken, irascible grandmother and a hard-charging politician stepmother. She also has (surprise, surprise) a gregarious libertine of a father. Lily’s best friend, Freddy, is both a willing accomplice in some of her more questionable escapades, and a gentle scold who does her best to help Lily avert total disaster. Will is the one character who doesn’t quite fit: he’s so kind and polite and upstanding and good. Is he what Lily aspires to? Is he the type of man she secretly wants, or the one she thinks she should want? Or is he, perhaps, not all that he seems . . . ?
Q) While I TAKE YOU is wickedly entertaining, it is more than just a fun beach read. Lily’s experiences touch on larger issues, such as the nature of choice, the implications of desire, cultural expectations of monogamy, and the pursuit of pure fun! What’s your take on some of these issues?
A) The questions a novelist raises are just that: questions. My goal was to use Lily and her predicament to raise them, but not necessarily to answer them. Humans are an inherently promiscuous species trapped in a culture that worships monogamy. But instead of thinking hard about how to reconcile those warring impulses before we join souls in blessed communion with one person, forever, we obsess about the dress and the venue and the band and the guest list. This is understandable, but completely insane. Lily does a lot of things wrong (a lot of things), but at least she’s stepping back from the wedding madness to question who she is and what she wants before she walks down the aisle.
Q) Any thoughts about who should play Lily in a movie version?
A) To hell with the Deep Thoughts—bring on Hollywood! This is a topic of heated debate in my household. I can think of a dozen actresses with great comic timing who could capture Lily’s signature blend of sexy chaos, poised professionalism, and genuine heart. I don’t think conventional attractiveness is a requirement—I’ve always envisioned her as having more charisma than flat-out beauty. But Alec Baldwin has to play her boss, Philip. Otherwise, I can’t see any point.
Q) Now for the most important question: What’s your favorite cocktail?
A) The Gershwin at the Raines Law Room on West 17th Street: 2 oz. gin, 3/4 oz. lemon juice, 1/2 oz. ginger syrup, 1/2 oz. simple syrup, shaken with ice and poured into a champagne coupe, then spritzed with rosewater. Drink two and call me in the morning. Actually, drink two and call me right away. I’ll be there in ten minutes. And I’ll bring Lily.
Guest post created by Eliza Kennedy, author of I Take You
© 2015. All rights reserved.
About the author:
ELIZA KENNEDY attended the University of Iowa and Harvard Law School, where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. After graduation she served as a law clerk for a federal judge, then practiced litigation for several years at a prestigious Manhattan law firm. She lives in New York with her husband and son.
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by Eliza Kennedy
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I Take You
by Eliza Kennedy
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Meet Lily Wilder: New Yorker, lawyer extraordinaire, blushing bride. And totally incapable of being faithful to one man.
Lily’s fiancé Will is a brilliant, handsome archaeologist. Lily is sassy, impulsive, fond of a good drink (or five) and has no business getting married. Lily likes Will, but does she love him? Will loves Lily, but does he know her? As the wedding approaches, Lily’s nights—and mornings, and afternoons—of booze, laughter and questionable decisions become a growing reminder that the happiest day of her life might turn out to be her worst mistake yet.
Unapologetically sexy with the ribald humor of Bridesmaids, this joyously provocative debut introduces a self-assured protagonist you won’t soon forget.
* guest post courtesy of Blogging for Books