Susie Orman Schnall's debut novel, "On Grace," was released in April and tells the story of a Grace May, a woman on the cusp of turning 40 when her life begins to unravel. With her marriage, closest friendship, and career at stake, Grace must come to a reckoning about who she is and who she wants to be.
Schnall has enjoyed a lifelong love of words and currently is at work on a second novel. Her writing credos include "Write what you know" and "The proper subject of the novel is universal human experience grounded in the minutiae of ordinary life."
So what about her literary inspirations? Read on!
What is the first book you remember loving?
I remember carrying Shel Silverstein's books of poetry around with me. I loved how silly they were, and I guess I must have been delighted by how creative he was with words although I probably couldn't have articulated that then.
What is a book that inspired you to be a writer?
Nora Ephron's books and Kelly Corrigan's "The Middle Place" are written in voices that I could really identify with. Although my voice is different than theirs (oh, to write like Nora!), reading those made me believe that I could do this. And then there have to be hundreds, if not thousands, of books that I've read over the years that have inspired me in smaller ways and made me fall in love with the written word.
What was the first thing you remember writing?
Poems and stories when I was little. I still have a lot of the ones I wrote when I was a teenager. I have one particular story that I have definitely thought about turning into a YA novel. I submitted it to a magazine when I was a teenager, and it got rejected. My first rejection! I think I still have the letter. Now I have a whole collection!
What book have you read in school that you did not fully appreciate but plan to reread?
"The Catcher in the Rye" by J. D. Salinger.
What book would you make required reading in school?
"Wonder" by R. J. Palacio for everyone and "This Beautiful Life" by Helen Schulman for middle- and high-school kids.
What's the last great book you read?
The most recent books that I read that really made an impact on me were "The Dovekeepers" by Alice Hoffman, "The Language of Flowers" by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, "Heft" by Liz Moore, and "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed. The last book I read was "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" by Maria Semple - I loved it! It is so creative.
What would you call a "great American novel"?
One of my all-time favorite books is "Roots" by Alex Haley and that would definitely qualify. And, now that I think about it, "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett, which I absolutely loved, would too.