A few weeks ago, I had the honour and privilege of interviewing the inimitable Claire Lombardo, author of The Most Fun We Ever Had. We conducted the interview Q&A style, covering everything from her favourite character in Most Fun, a peek into her writing routine, and her go-to Starbucks order. I should also mention that in the midst of conducting this interview, Claire announced the exciting news that a television adaptation of her book is currently underway with HBO! With Amy Adams, Laura Dern, and Claire herself on board as a writer and executive producer, this is sure to be epic and I can’t wait to see the Sorensons in a whole new light.
Who and what inspired you to write your debut novel, The Most Fun We Ever Had?
This novel was born mostly from my lifelong obsession with/amateur study of family dynamics–I really wanted to create a family on the page who you wouldn’t be surprised to run into out in the world, a big, messy, complicated family bound at its center by love.
Who is your favourite character in the book and why?
This answer changes every time I give it—my loyalties shift wildly between the characters on any given day! But I’ll say that Wendy, the eldest daughter, was far and away the most fun to write—she’s the one who gets the best comebacks and the most acerbic one-liners, and she’s the most honest character in a lot of ways. I knew that when I was spending time with her on the page, I’d enjoy it.
How long did it take you to come up with the book’s title? What were some other options you had in mind?
This book actually had a different title—The Year We Were Born—for a long time, but we decided to change it for a variety of reasons, and once we made that decision, my editor and I went back and forth and back and forth and back and forth with about a trillion ideas before finally landing on The Most Fun We Ever Had, which is not only an iteration of a line from the book but a tongue-in-cheek one at that, one that strikes a balance between levity and gravitas (a balance I’m constantly trying to strike in my writing).
Give us a little glimpse into your writing routine. How many hours a day do you write? What is your writing space like?
I’m a pretty disorganized writer at present, as I’ve just moved to a new city and have been on a bunch of book-related travels—I try to sneak in writing whenever I can, and some days are more prolific than others! Lately, I go to a coffee shop to write for a couple of hours in the afternoons and leave around the time people are commuting home from work, which makes my days feel a bit less amorphous. I’m just about finished setting up my writing space in my new apartment—my desk is an old picnic table that used to belong to my grandparents (currently painted red), and the walls of my office are covered with sheets of extruded polystyrene (a purple-y foam core) that I use when I’m storyboarding.
Name one book you think everyone should read.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I used to read it once a year, from the time I was about 16 or 17. It’s one of the most propulsive, empathetic, brilliantly constructed novels I’ve ever read. I’ve all but had it written into law that you can’t be my friend unless you’ve read it.
In one of your Instagram posts, you showed Most Fun’s journey to publication from a series of post-it notes, to your master’s thesis, to its final published form. Can you tell us more about this journey? Is there anything you had to edit out that you wish was still in the final version?
The path to publication was one of the longest and most exhilarating journeys I’ve taken! I started writing this book about 6 years ago, not really aware that I was writing a novel, and for the next few years I kept at it whilst holding a variety of other jobs—I was a nanny, a paralegal, a temp, a grad student in social work—and whilst going through a variety of dark times—losing my father, losing my grip on my future plans, dropping out of grad school. Then I got into grad school for creative writing and was lucky enough to find a mentor (the novelist Ethan Canin) who helped me whip the book into shape. From there I found my magical agents, and they helped me to get the book into the hands of editors, and it found its home with my wonderful editor at Doubleday, and since then it’s been an utter delight—the Rubik’s cube that was figuring out the best structure for the novel, the joy of selecting cover and design elements, and, ultimately, the thrill of seeing it go out into the world and find its readers.
As for things I was sad to cut—Grace used to have a vaguely scandalous friendship with an elderly dimestore philosopher named Leo who I had to end up cutting. Getting rid of that arc was 1,000% the right choice for the book, but I do miss Leo sometimes…
Do you see a sequel in the Sorensons’ future or is theirs a stand-alone story?
I’ll never say never, but at this point I have no plans for a sequel. I am, however, working on writing the adaptation of the novel for HBO, which has been a really fun way to spend more time with these characters and begin to think about different shapes their stories could take.
Tell us one thing you think your fans and readers of Most Fun would be surprised to learn about you.
I’m a lefty? I love the Bee Gees? I’ve never dyed my hair? I’m a very unsurprising person, as it were!
Book of 2019 (so far)
Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing and Shaun Hamill’s A Cosmology of Monsters.
Book from your childhood
How to choose?! I’ll go knee-jerk—I was obsessed with this very weird and super-sinister 80s YA novel about clones called Anna to the Infinite Power.
Genre to read
Fiction. Anything that draws me in and won’t let me go!
Place to write
The little sectional L-seat on my couch.
This changes constantly. Right now? “Scourge.”
Bingeable TV show/series
Season/month to write in
Fall or winter—the cold keeps me indoors and gives me fewer opportunities to go out and procrastinate…
Dry cappuccino or black cold brew.
This or That?
Night owl or early riser?
Rainy day or sunshine?
Oceanside or mountain view?
Adventurer or homebody?
Homebody (with an affinity for good adventurous stories!).
Tea or coffee?
Hardcover or paperback?
I’ll take either!
While writing: silence or background music?
Pen + paper or laptop?
iPhone or Android?
Thank you so much, Claire!
You can learn more about Claire by following her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/claire_lombardo/