Caroline Woods’ Second Novel Published by Doubleday

Former program administrator and alum Caroline Woods (Fiction ’08)’s second novel The Lunar Housewife was released today by Doubleday! In celebration of the book’s release, current program administrator Annaka Saari (Poetry ’21) was able to interview Caroline via email.

Annaka: The Lunar Housewife is your second novel. How was the process of writing this book different, if at all, from the writing of your first novel, Fräulein M.?

Caroline: The process was completely different this time. I began Fräulein M. in Ha Jin’s novella workshop, and then spent the next four to five years turning it into a novel. I had a full-time job the whole time I was working on the book, and I’d write in concentrated bursts–on a given Saturday, I’d try writing 3,000 words or so, and then I’d let it go cold for several days or even a week.

With The Lunar Housewife, I finally followed our teachers’ advice and took to writing every single day. I wrote at night, actually, from 13 April to 4 July, 2020, and cranked out a draft in the evenings as my two kids slept. It sounds like a more difficult writing process, but it wasn’t–I never lost track of the story. I followed Hemingway’s advice to set a max word count for each day and stop when I reached that point, even stopping midsentence. Hemingway said to stop when you knew exactly what would come next, and therefore maintain your momentum. It was the opposite of what I’d done before–I thought I had to finish a scene before I was allowed to get up from my desk–and it worked. (Hem has an extended cameo in The Lunar Housewife, so I was particularly primed to take his advice to heart.) 

A: Could you describe the novel’s main character, Louise, and how you came to establish her voice?

C: Louise is a young aspiring writer and former waitress who’s doing her best to get in good with the publishing in-crowd in 1953 New York. She’s very much inspired by the women who would have been at George Plimpton’s parties in the fifties and sixties, and so I relied on voices like Anne Roiphe, particularly her memoir Art and Madness, to get a feel for what it would have been like to be a woman writer in that scene with all of its debauchery. I also wondered what someone like Roiphe, who had an affair with Doc Humes (one of the Paris Review founders) would have known about the magazine’s connection to the CIA. And it does come out in her memoir–Humes was always ranting about the FBI listening to everyone, though the people around him, including Roiphe herself, tended to dismiss this as paranoia.

A: The book features cameos from some real-life characters, including James Baldwin and Truman Capote. What was it like blending such high-profile characters into a book of fiction?

C: It was intimidating! With characters like Capote, Arthur Miller, and Julie Newmar, they’re essentially in the background, but my fictional Baldwin participates in a long dinner scene, and I really wanted to get his voice right and also kind of let the historical Baldwin speak for himself, if that makes sense. In the scene, Baldwin is describing an essay he has coming in Harper’s in summer 1953, which was “Stranger in the Village.” I decided to have him give the reader a little taste of what the essay is about, in the hope that it’ll lead people to put a bookmark in The Lunar Housewife and go read the actualbrilliant, horrifying essay. The Hemingway cameo was fun to do, since there’s so much material. I could get his voice from his own letters and interviews, and just let this fictional Hem take Louise on a madcap journey around the city.

Those interested can purchase The Lunar Housewife at this link.

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