On August 5th, the day after the release of her début novel, The Summertime Girls, author Laura Hankin tweeted that she was too busy crying and drinking wine at Barnes and Noble to offer thanks for support.
Rewind a few years before that to her most “transformative” year, 2nd grade, when the neophyte sang her first-ever solo at a holiday assembly for her school, and wrote a story about her family that she shared in front of all the parents, where she revealed embarrassing family secrets to everyone. Ever since then, Laura has been “trying to get back to that glory.”
Fast forward to the present, the novelist Laura Hankin shares her thoughts, and inspirations behind The Summertime Girls with some good old fashion Q&A.
What got you into writing?
I was living in New York, trying to be an actor. So I’d wait for hours at these auditions, do my thing for thirty seconds, and then go babysit. I realized I needed to find some sort of creative outlet, or I’d go insane. I’d always been an obsessive reader and spent lots of time making up stories in my head, but somehow it never occurred to me that I could try writing a book until I got that desperate.
Who are the inspirations to your writing?
I love Dodie Smith’s I Capture The Castle for many things, including its charming but realistic protagonist and its level of detail. Stephen King’s On Writing has been very helpful to me recently. And I love authors like Jeffrey Eugenides, Meg Wolitzer and Jennifer Weiner.
The Summertime Girls is about Ally and Beth, childhood best friends in their early twenties. Since graduating college, Ally has been trying (and failing) to be a singer-songwriter. Beth has been saving the world in Haiti. They haven’t spoken in months because of normal estrangement and also because of SECRETS, and they’re forced back together again for one last summer in small-town Maine after a family emergency.
Did you draw from your own experiences to write the book? What were they?
My own experiences were a jumping-off point. I certainly felt creatively frustrated, like one of the main characters, and I’d had some tension with childhood friends, but the actual events in the book are very different from anything that’s ever happened to me! (So please don’t assume I’ve done everything the characters do… There’s a scene in the first chapter that has already prompted people to express their concern for my well-being.)
How long did it take you to write the book? What were your favorite parts of the writing process?
It took me a little over a year to write a draft I could actually show to people, then a few months of shopping it around, and then it came out about a year and a half after I got my book deal. In terms of favorite parts of the writing process, at the time that I was writing it, I lived up in Inwood, the northern part of Manhattan, and there was this beautiful park called Fort Tryon near my apartment. I would go for long walks through the park, plotting out certain scenes in my head, and if I was really lucky, I would feel like I could actually hear the different characters and would know what they were going to say.
Now that the book is finished, and available for everyone, does that make you more scared or excited? Why?
Excited! Of course I’m nervous that people will hate it, and I realize that you can’t please everyone, and I’m trying not to let any negative reactions I might get spoil the whole thing. But overall, it’s incredible to know that a story I made up is providing entertainment to other people, and hopefully making them think and laugh and cry, and all that good stuff.