Today I welcome Robert N. Chan to Promote Me Please to talk about his new novel, girl.
Q.1. Tell us a bit about your main character. Throughout the book she is known by different names, but how does she think of herself?
A. girl covers twenty-five years of her life, from when she is raped at fifteen until she finally recovers and finds her true calling at forty. During that period her self-image changes, as reflected in the names she chooses for herself. At the start she is Hannah the pious girl who dreams of marrying a great rabbi and using her position of respect in her ultra-orthodox community to heal the world. After her rape and abandonment, she is girl a person of so little importance that she deserves a generic name without even a capitalized first letter. When she becomes a devoted mother, she changes her name to Mom, and that is primarily how she sees herself. Witness Protection changes her name to Anna, and she struggles to become that person. Finally she reconnects with her roots and becomes Hannah again.
Q.2. Describe the main character of “girl” in three words.
A. resilient, brilliant, insightful
Q.3. Give us the logline (or high concept) of your book: the 25 word pitch.
A. Raped, abandoned, and armed only with an indomitable spirit, quirky sense of humor, and unyielding intolerance for hypocrisy and injustice a woman finds her true calling and triumphs.
Q.4. Many books have an identifiable genesis. What thought, memory, sight, happening inspired you to write “girl”?
A. Many people told me that the mother in my novel to Gain the Whole World was a terrific character and that they regretted that I’d killed her. So I decided to write the same story from her point of view. That didn’t work but ultimately girl arose from the ashes.
Q.5. Though many of the events in “girl” are grim, there’s a streak of humour running through the style. Did you make a conscious decision to use this style for this book, or is this your usual tone?
A. The last conscious decision I made was when I decided to allow myself to be potty trained.