Lisa Zeidner, author of Love Bomb, is my colleague at Rutgers University, Camden. She is the author of five novels and two books of poetry. Struck by Love Bomb’s humor, and relishing the fact that the book features a female character over 50, I decided to interview my colleague for Women’s Voices readers. (See today’s Women’s Voices post, “The Terrorist and the Batty Bride,” for Roz Warren’s Love Bomb review.)

 

 

Janet: Where did you get the idea for this book?

Lisa: I’ve known a lot of lovelorn women, and really wanted to explore how nuttily obsessed with a guy such a woman could get, and what extremes she could be pushed to.  I had some personal models in my own life—not to mention people in the news like Lorena Bobbitt and Lisa Nowak—the astronaut whom everyone thinks of as “the astronaut in the diaper,” even though she denied vehemently, at trial, that this detail was true. But I wanted to contrast this out-there, on-the-edge woman with the sanest possible woman, and I had a model for that too: a friend who’s a psychologist, now in her late 70s.  I did speak to her about how she’d react to being a character like my “terrorist of love.”

Janet: Is this the first time you’ve written a book with so many characters over 50?

Lisa: Actually, yes! A lot of writers have a period that they mine over and over in their work—they’re interested in childhood, or adolescence.  In my case, my characters have tended to age as I have. The heroine of my last novel, Layover, was in her 40s. This one is—well, older.  On the simplest level I was also interested in whether a character over 50 could be a romantic lead of sorts—without its [having] a kind of fey “twilight of love” tone.

Janet: One of the things I most enjoyed in Love Bomb was the way you got into the language and thinking of individuals in the mental health business.  How did you do the research for this?

Lisa: I interviewed a number of psychologists and psychiatrists, with an eye to figuring out how they’d think about my hostage-taker.  I did a lot of reading, too.  In fact, there’s a bibliography on my website, because a lot of the strange-but-true stuff is actually true.  I also spent time with hostage negotiators, whose approach to these situations is related, but very specific.

Janet: I note that you acknowledge a lot of police officials for their help.  Can you tell me more about your approach to researching this portion of the book?

Lisa: I teach in an MFA program in creative writing, and, luckily, one of my students is a retired police chief.  He got me in contact with a psychiatrist who deals with police matters and also with a SWAT team, with which I trained.  He also got me some gun training.  I must confess, I wasn’t very talented with a weapon—had never held one before!  All of this research felt essential to me in order to make my situation realistic, and also a lot of fun.  (A long interview I did with my student appears on my publisher’s website).

Janet: So much of the book is laugh-out-loud funny even though much of the action is not entirely humorous.  Were those parts particularly hard to write?

Lisa: One thing I’ve always done in my work is to try to bring humor to bear on subjects that are usually straight-faced and earnest.  I did that with my first novel, which was about a homeless person, and my second, which was about date rape, and have just kept it going, because I truly believe that there’s truth in irony, in complexity of tone.  When I started this novel, terrorism was definitely not something that people were allowed to joke about.  One early reader suggested that I just take the word “terrorism” out altogether, because it made people nervous.  But tragicomedy is what interests me, so I stuck to my—well, guns.

Janet: Your book seems very cinematic, and I know you’ve written screenplays.  Were you thinking about it as a possible future film when you wrote it?

Lisa: Writing screenplays has made me much more focused on plot and narrative thrust.  I would love to see this as a movie—or, maybe, an HBO series (where some of the wedding guests could get their own episodes).  It’s actually hard to get ensemble movies of this sort made (except for the Apatow boys, those teen-buddy comedies), but fingers crossed.

Janet: Your book takes place at a wedding, and I’m wondering if any particular wedding inspired you or if you have any experience planning a family wedding?

Lisa: My son is 21, so I’m not there yet (fingers crossed).  But the wedding setting is a much-honored tradition for fiction. The joke here, of course, is how incidental the bride and groom are to the action (which has enraged some readers, I’m sure).  And I’m a huge Austen fan—so in a way this is my tribute to her novel of finding love, except in Austen, no character as old as 50 could ever do so!

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