Joining us today at Writer Unboxed is Randy Susan Meyers, whose acclaimed debut novel The Murderer’s Daughters was released in paperback earlier this month and was just named a Target Bookclub Pick. A quick summary: “A beautifully written, compulsively readable debut that deals with the aftermath of a shocking act of violence that leaves two young sisters with nothing but each other—in the tradition of White Oleander, this haunting novel is a testament to the power of family and the ties that bind us together, even as they threaten to tear us apart.” Randy is a wonderful writer, a warm and generous member of the writing community, and we’re thrilled to have her back on the site to share her insights on writing from the “what if”, book tours, and advice for first-time novelists. Thanks, Randy!
Q: The Murderer’s Daughters was inspired by a real event in your life. Can you talk a little about that? Did reality give you a blueprint for the book, or more of a jumping-off point to start the story?
RSM: When my sister was eight, my mother warned her against letting my father into our Brooklyn apartment. He managed to get in and tried to kill her—luckily, my sister was able to get the neighbors. My sister swears I was there (where else would I be at that age?) but I didn’t remember any of it. As the years went by, and my sister fed me more details, the scene rooted in my mind and became my memory also.
Years later, I worked with violent men for many years, men ordered by the courts to the Boston-based Batterer Intervention Program where I ran groups. My clients climbed all over the continuum of ferocity toward women. They bullied, hit, smacked, punched, and broke bones; some had murdered. When asked where their children were during these incidents, almost all answered the same way: they were sleeping.
When talking with batterers and speaking with their victims, I thought of my mother and father. I couldn’t ask my father what happened—he died when I was nine. My mother never liked visiting the past under any circumstances: she hated how my sister and I examined it from every angle, rolling her eyes when we did our usual and made troubles into humorous anecdotes. We didn’t dare ask about the time our father threatened to murder her.
However, I kept asking myself. What if? What if my sister hadn’t been brave enough to get the neighbors? What if the neighbors hadn’t pounded upstairs? What if the police hadn’t come in time?
What if my mother had died? Writing is like that for me, a series of “what if” after “what if.” The Murderer’s Daughters captured the “what if” of my childhood with the knowledge I had of domestic homicide. What was missing, I always thought, was the story of the children left behind. What happens to them? How do they grow up? That’s how my book ended up covering over thirty years of my two narrators’ (sisters) lives.
Q: The book has gotten really tremendous reviews — the L.A. Times called it “all too believable and heartbreaking”, the Boston Globe said “a gripping tale” and “impressively executed”… it must be wonderful to see your work so well received. How do you approach your reviews? Do you read all of them, or have someone filter them for you? And has that changed over the past year since the book’s initial hardcover release? [Read more…]