Author talk with Allison Larkin
Allison: The People We Keep is my favorite so far. April Sawicki showed up in my thoughts while I was writing my first novel, Stay. I spent almost fifteen years writing her and searching for the right people to represent and publish the book. She’s been a constant in my life and also a path to finding the most amazing creative partners. Still, when my mind wanders, I often catch myself imagining April night-swimming in the dark, cold waters of Lake Cayuga. Even though she’s a somewhat fraught character, her mind is still my happy place. And Ithaca is too.
Allison: I grew up in circumstances that were quite different from April’s origins, but I always felt like an oddball growing up, so her outsider status is familiar to me. When I was nineteen, I was diagnosed with ADHD, which sent me into a tailspin. I’d spent my whole life desperately trying to fit in a box that wasn’t built for me and suddenly realized I didn’t know myself on the most basic levels. I dropped out of college, went to bartending school, and worked at a biker bar for a while. Sometimes I played guitar at open mics. I lived in four or five different places in three states in the span of about two years. While I always had more of a safety net than April, I had a few tumultuous housing and relationship situations that sent me into the kinds of survival calculations you see her processing in the book. Even when I was able to bail myself out of a tough spot, I could clearly imagine what would happen if I couldn’t, and it was all imprinting on me. I was also living such a different life from my friends who were still in school. I felt like a person without a place.
Allison: I recently finished Small Joys by Elvin James Mensah. I’ll never stop thinking about his characters. It’s out on April 11th and is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read (which isn’t an overstatement).CALS: Some authors will put their pets into books, has Roxy or another pet ever made a guest appearance?
My first novel, Stay, was inspired by our dog, Argo (although, unlike the dog in Stay, Argo was not an accidental internet purchase). He was even the cover model for the original hardcover! Our dear dog, Stella, had anxiety issues that forced me to take a good hard look at my own, which was a huge part of my inspiration for Swimming for Sunlight. There aren’t any dogs in The People We Keep or Home of the American Circus, but our buddy Roxy may make it into some future work. She’s the weirdest, most delightful little dog I’ve ever met.
Allison: As a young child, I loved Pippi Longstocking dearly. In high school, I read Song of the Lark by Willa Cather for the first time and fell in love with it completely. THE PEOPLE WE KEEP is, in some ways, an homage to that book. And, now that I think of it, maybe April has some essence of Pippi Longstocking too.
CALS: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Allison: I think The People We Keep is my greatest achievement, not just because it’s a book I’m intensely proud of, but because in the long journey from start to finish, I learned vital lessons about art and creativity, trusting my gut and believing in my work.