How did you come up with the title? Love and Other Subjects was originally called Opposite of That. The original title sort of sums up everything Carolyn learns about herself and her world at the time—but my publicist really thought it didn’t offer enough context for potential buyers. We brainstormed a hundred titles and settled on Love and Other Subjects because it lets the readers know teaching is part of the book, but that it is fun and about love as well.
How did you develop your plot and characters? The plot was simple—there were two problems that needed to be solved and it was easily fitted into a neat school year. That helped me contain the plot, to not let it wander and stretch on. The characters are inspired by, but not the group of women I worked with. I actually combined a bunch of them to create the characters. And when it came to Carolyn and her roommates, even if there’s a seed of resemblance to someone, it’s exaggerated and stretched and shaped to work in a novel and in the end it’s purely coincidental if someone actually sees them selves in a character. I’m hoping every new teacher in the country sees herself in the characters in some way.
Who designed the cover? Julie Metz
Who is your publisher? Oakglen Press
What was the hardest part about writing this book? The hardest part was developing characters and a plot that grew from real experiences and people, but that would work in a fictionalized story. I suppose I could have written non-fiction and included all the ladies I worked with as “characters,” but none of us is that interesting in real life. Same with the kids. I didn’t want anyone to read the book and feel like I exaggerated something, something that was hurtful. I really needed to take the essence of us, of any women just out of college, women new at their jobs, and women figuring out their love lives and friendships and distill them into wholly fictional people. I drew more “true” information from my work in education than I did for the personal plots and characters. Again, it’s wrapped up neater than it would be in real life so it works for fiction, but I needed the realism of classroom issues to be authentic. But while many of the problems at the school are playing out in schools every day, I needed added drama like Klein’s secret and other things like that to raise the stakes. At this point I’d have to draw a map to sort out the kernels of fact that are wrapped in an entire fictionalized experience. That was hard to do…
Will you write others in this same genre? Yes, I have others written…they need to be published (and subjected to all that means!)…
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? Just that life is more complicated than we want it to be. We think solving educational problems is a matter of some money and a plan, but when you dig into people’s lives, their limitations, you find that blanket solutions don’t work. It’s not just that some schools and districts need more money they need a complete transformation in the way kids are engaged in the learning process. When I think of what I do to lay the groundwork for my kids to go to school, to be ready to learn, when I consider how exhausting that is, how some nights I let things slide because I am too tired to press one more thing…and I have no monetary worries, no wondering if I can pay for health care, no roadblocks to providing what my kids need to be able to eventually function in the world, and yet some nights I don’t feel like reading with my kids…how can we look parents who are working two jobs each, struggling to eat and buy clothes, to provide a safe home, and ask them why the hell they didn’t read for an hour with their kid last night…Of course in a perfect world, that’s a perfect question…that’s the point I guess. Nothing works like it should.
How much of the book is realistic? I think I brought the essence of what makes young adulthood, urban education, love and friendship realistic, but it’s not non-fiction by any stretch.
How important do you think villains are in a story? Very, very important… The principal, Klein, and the boyfriend’s sisters are central to developing Carolyn’s character arc. They are there to push her to define herself, to discern what is important to her in life.
Genre – Women’s Fiction
Rating – PG15