Abbi Waxman Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Abbi Waxman
Photo: Leanna Creel

Abbi Waxman

An interview with Abbi Waxman

Abbi Waxman, talks about family, life and her debut novel, The Garden of Small Beginnings

You've said the book is wish fulfillment—both about being a widow and growing tomatoes. Explain.

I started thinking about this book after I'd had one of those stupid arguments where you end up wondering how easy it might be to dispose of your partner. Permanently. It was probably over not putting the milk away, or something equally unimportant, but after a decade or so with someone, the smallest things can trigger irritating meta-arguments very quickly. (Possibly this is just my marriage, but I doubt we're exceptional in any way.) Anyway, as I was pondering my upcoming widowhood, I started thinking more seriously about how that would look, etc., and the story started writing itself. I put the gardening stuff in it because at the time I was still entertaining the notion of becoming a successful gardener, and maybe I thought if I wrote about someone else managing it, I might be able to, also. This self-delusional quality is one of my stand-out characteristics. I can persuade myself of almost anything.

What makes this book so special is your narrator Lili's irreverent and funny voice. Why did you choose gardening as a vehicle for her story?

Because I suck at it, which makes it interesting. I made her better looking than me, too, and her house is cuter. This is what's appealing about being a writer: mind-boggling, all-encompassing power.

How has your relationship with your sister and your children inspired the book?

Well, in several ways. Literally because I stole all their best lines, and metaphorically because my sister, Emily, is the person I write for. I'm thinking of her reading my work while I'm doing it, and if I don't think it's going to amuse her, I cut it out. She's very easy-going, so it's a pretty low bar, but still, one must have some basic standards.

Your mom is a novelist, and writing is sort of a family business. Do the writers in your family take inspiration from each other? Are they competitive with each other?

Yes, it's like hemophilia or abnormally large ear lobes: it runs through the family. Until now, my mother was the only published one though, and she's very pleased for me. She always told me I was a writer, so now she can be smug about being right. She enjoys that. Being right, not being smug.

How do you feel about having your debut published?

It's horrific, a nightmare from which I pray to recover. No, it's flipping awesome, I'm stoked beyond belief, of course. I'm writing the second one now, which has some of the same characters, so it makes me a bit nervous that I won't be able to do as good a job, but what the heck, in for a penny, in for a pound, as we say in England.

What do you hope readers will take away from the book?

That it wasn't overpriced. They're also welcome to tear a few pages out for shopping lists. They paid for it, after all.

Both you and your narrator have a wicked sense of humor. Has it ever gotten you in trouble like it has her?

Not that I am willing to admit in public, let alone in print. Jeez, you people expect a lot of honesty from someone who makes things up for a living.

What books and authors inspire you?

Oh, so many. I like lots and lots of different stuff. When I'm working I tend to read non-fiction, so I'm not tempted to steal other people's ideas. Non-fiction writers like Michael Lewis amaze me because they explain such complicated things with such elegance and humor. Michael Pollan. Anyone called Michael, actually. And I read a lot of crime fiction, which is what my mother wrote, because it all ends up ok in the end. And when I'm really pissed off I re-read Pride and Prejudice, because that's how I roll.

If you had to explain the book using only emojis, what would that sentence look like?

That's easy. A broken heart, the two weird little dancing girls, the little plant one, then a fixed heart.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

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