A Conversation with Lisa Tucker
Song reading is such an unusual idea. Can you tell us how you came up with it?
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 family.
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.
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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