I read and reviewed Alix Strauss' Based Upon Availability last week. Alix was kind enough to answer some questions I had for her about writing the book - here are her excellent responses. (Don't they make you want to read it?!)
1. Why the Four Seasons, other than that it is a quintessential luxury hotel? Do you have any connection to the Four Seasons? You hit the nail on the head – it is the quintessential luxury hotel. I’ve always been a fan of the properties and have written about many of them in the past, especially when I was just starting out as a travel and trend journalist, so I was very familiar with the brand, and the rhythm of the New York hotel. I knew I needed something people would automatically know and understand. The Four Seasons is also perfectly situated in midtown Manhattan, east 57th Street, and attracts a rather specific, higher-end clientele. There’s also a vastness the hotel exudes because it’s so large – approx. 368 rooms, so there’s a feeling that much is going on behind closed doors that we’re not privy to. And yet, there’s still a feeling of interconnection. I also loved the metaphor of the changing seasons and how these characters, or amazing women, need to change and metamorphose.
2. Before you started writing, did you map out on paper the myriad connections between these characters, or did you come across them organically? I’m a rather organic writer and very often will let my characters lead the way. I always start off with a line of dialogue, or a situation, or an inciting incident. Or a scene will keep playing in my head, and won't stop until I’ve perfected it on paper. I usually have a beginning and ending, and rely on the characters to carry me through the middle. Once several stories are finished, I’m able to create the larger puzzle I’ve been working on by inserting other scenes into a specific story in order to introduce another character.
3. How much research did you do for this book? (OCD, phantom pregnancies, detox). I’m addicted to movies, books and shows about addiction, I find the topic fascinating. I find human behavior fascinating. So I didn’t need to do much research with Unlimited Lou, the drunk and coke-up rock star who’s sent to the hotel by her publicist to dry out. The same rings true for OCD, and then I let Anne’s rituals and fears play themselves out in the most creative way while keeping everything as realistic as possible, which is always one of my goals. But I knew virtually nothing about phantom pregnancies, and called many of my friends who’ve had children and asked them about their pregnancies, and then found a plethora of information on the Internet.
4. Morgan gets a much longer treatment than the other women. Is Morgan someone you would like to develop into a whole novel? And where is she headed at the end? Do you have hope for her future? Morgan feels rather finished to me, actually. And without giving too much away, I think readers will have a very good idea where she’s going at the end of the novel. I have high hopes for all of my characters. I want them to succeed, and yet, I know many of them may not, or their struggle will be really hard, but I’m hopeful they will all get to where they need to be, even after they’ve left the page, or the chapter has ended. I’d love for the characters in The Joy of Funerals, my first novel, and for the ladies in Based Upon Availability to all get together at some kind of literary reunion. They’ve lived inside my head for several years and after a novel is finished, I try to get them out to make room for new ones… but these gals are strong and smart, raw and honest, needy and so very real that many of them like to stay.
5. Do you believe women are fundamentally unhappy? If so, why? I think people are fundamentally unhappy. We live in a world where it can be a struggle just to get through the day. We’re all under so much pressure and have high expectations and desires. We’re filled with so much want and need. I think sometimes those needs and wants become more and more important to us, and perhaps take us over. Or perhaps the realization that we may not get them met or fulfilled is more than we can handle. And I think we have a great need to connect to others. Since we live in an instant gratification nation we may seem more connected, but in actuality, it’s a fake intimacy. I think many of us walk around a little hurt and slightly damaged and are looking for ways to feel better. -- Okay, now I need a drink.
You can learn more about Alix Strauss at her website.