A Conversation with Lisa Tucker
Song reading is such an unusual idea. Can you tell us how you came up
Like most writers, I've always been fascinated with words, but growing
up, we didn't have many books. We didn't even have magazines, but we always
had a record player. My earliest relationship with words was through songs,
and I've found that's true for a surprising number of people. The specific
idea of song reading came to me about ten years ago, when I became very
interested in psychology, especially how memory works. When it hit me that the
songs people remember may say something about them, I decided to test the
theory on my family and friends, just like Mary Beth does in the novel.
You've done song reading yourself then?
Yes, but I've never made any money for it, or even received afghans and
cakes like she does! Some of the charts in the book were developed from my
experiences; most are invented. Of course now that I've written this novel,
I'm always being asked questions about songs and I love that. When people tell
me about their musicfavorite songs, favorite bands, the songs they can't
forgetI feel very honored. I know they are entrusting me with a little
piece of their heart.
Why did you decide to write about two sisters? Do you have a sister? Is
the novel in any sense autobiographical?
I decided to write about two sisters because that's what the narrator,
Leeann, was interested in talking about. It sounds odd, but the voice really
does control a lot more of the story than I understood before I became a
writer. Once I heard Leeann speaking to me, I had to follow her around, see
what she would show me next. That said, I've always been interested in
sisters, because I think it's such a complicated bond. The novel isn't
autobiographical except to the extent that I adore my own sister and am
grateful to her for believing in me and helping me understand the meaning of
The Song Reader is very lyrical, but it also has been called a
page-turner. Was having a strong story line important to you as a writer?
Yes, definitely, because the novels I love the most work on many levels;
they have beautiful language and memorable characters, but they also have a
great plot. In graduate school I studied nineteenth-century American writers
like Hawthorne and Melville and those writers told stories! Moby Dick
isn't just a treatise on language; it's an adventure story about a whale hunt.
The Scarlet Letter isn't only about American history; it's also a
beautiful tale of forbidden love. Some writers claim the traditional story
form is dead, but I couldn't disagree more. I think we will always need new
stories; they give shape and meaning to our lives.