In honor of the release of her latest novel, We Three: One and One and One Makes Three, we chatted with Lara Zielinsky about the book, writing, and life in general.
Is there a character in your work you feel especially connected to? Why?
My girlfriend Lisa (yes the same one I co-dedicated the story to) asked me this same question when I sent her the submission draft of We Three for her opinion before I submitted to publishers. Because of the situation, a married couple hooking up with a single woman, it would be easy to say I’m Elena, the married woman, my spouse John is Eric, and Lisa is Jess. But actually there is more of my personality in Jess. I’m an introvert, same as Jess and we both are bewildered when people like us.
If you could take a time machine back 10 years, what would you tell your past self?
10 years ago I had published my first novel, my second was not yet released, and I had been starting story idea after story idea and going nowhere. I thought “is two books all I’ve got in me?” I’d been wanting to be a published writer since I was a teen, and discouraged by people close to me all through high school and college. When I fought back to my “writer” identity after my son was born, I wrote like my pen was on fire -- fast and prolific. But then, I entered what I now know to just be a “dry spell.” I’d go back to myself 10 years ago and tell her, “Write what you really feel to write” because then We Three might have been completed 5 or 6 years ago. I also might have stepped onto a different path as a result in work and life, and avoided some pretty hellish stuff I’ve been through the last six years.
How do you choose names for your characters?
I choose names through a combination of heritage searches and initial connection. There’s often a person or character who sparked my interest in trying to tell a particular story, and I’ll use initials during the drafting stage. If racial makeup or heritage is key to their personality, I’ll begin to research full names through sites like “Irish names and their meanings.” If there is a parent involved, I work forward from them, and name children from the typical ways that a parent might: family connection, linguistic significance, etc. If a character has a nickname or diminutive that isn’t readily connected to their name, I determine what the personal history moment was that led to the nickname. Elena Suarez Tanner, Hispanic-American familial heritage and her married name. Eric Tanner, typical Midwest American boy. I also liked the symmetry of making the married couple’s initials match.
Jessica “Jess” Davies had a lot of names through the drafting process, but she is, after all, a young woman searching for a place to belong and a person or persons to “belong to,” so I can’t say if Jess is her birth name. Well, not “can’t say” as in I don’t know, rather “can’t say” because, well, her name comes up as a future plot point.
Plotter or pantser?
I’ve never been able to finish anything I’ve “pantsed” so I always spend a little time plotting major points in a story to know that it will reach a meaningful conclusion.
Reusable or disposable grocery bags?
I’m very eco-friendly, recycling and reusing many thing, and I own many, MANY cloth bags that I take everywhere.
What’s the best vacation spot?
Living in Central Florida, I’m an hour from both coasts so my favorite vacation spots are beaches.
What’s a charity/cause you support?
Boston Bisexual Women’s Network, bostonbiwomen.org, run by Robyn Ochs.