(c) Anita Licis-Ribak
Amity Gaige, author of Schroder, answered our five questions.
IFOA: Schroder is the story of a father on the run with his daughter, Meadow, and a fake identity. What inspired this story?
Gaige: My inspirations for Schroder were many. I’d say the first inspiration was my own new parenthood. I’m the mother of a seven-year-old boy, one who is a lot like Meadow, very observant. I began the book when he was about three. The transformation into parenthood was a wonderful but rocky one for me. Like a lot of parents, I was intimidated by my new responsibilities—was I saying or doing the “right thing” for my son? I think many parents harbor doubts like these. So Schroder is my parenthood book. Eric is an exaggeration, in his actions, of the problems and choices facing many parents, especially those co-parenting children after divorce.
Before I started writing Schroder, I’d been at work for three years on another novel. It was to be my great Latvian-American novel. My mother is an immigrant from Latvia, and her tale of escape from Stalin’s forces at the end of World War II is an amazing one. But I couldn’t make that novel work. I was actually doing research in Latvia when a new plot—Schroder’s plot—inspired me to tell my mother’s immigrant story from a radically different angle. This one in the voice of a German man—a liar, an imposter.
IFOA: Would it have been possible to write Schroder without being a parent yourself?
Gaige: No! I remember thinking, before I had children, what’s the big deal? I thought kids were very cute but perhaps… overrated? I did not anticipate the almost painful love a parent feels for a child. For me, as an artist, parenthood is rich terrain. There is overwhelming love, also fear and doubt; there are many contradictory feelings, and contradictory feelings are good fuel for art.
IFOA: When and where do you write?
Gaige: I have a seven-month old baby, so alas, I don’t write right now. But I can vaguely remember doing so. I tend to write in libraries, or other anonymous (and quiet) places. I like the carry-in/carry-out feel of writing in libraries. I write in the mornings, with a big cup of tea. I am most happy if I’m looking at a five or six hour stretch without interruption.
IFOA: What are you reading right now?
Gaige: One of my very favorite books, Joe Gould’s Secret by Joseph Mitchell, which I’m teaching in a literature class at Amherst College. I’ve read this book I don’t know how many times. It’s Mitchell’s profile of a man who claimed to be writing an oral history of America. I’m about to start Tenth of December by George Saunders, who is an exquisite writer.
IFOA: Finish this sentence: The best part is…
Gaige: Of the book? The best part of Schroder is probably the later scenes, in which Meadow and Eric’s journey takes a harrowing turn, and his quixotic plans fall apart. But my favorite scenes to write were his memories of the happy years, those handful of years in which he and his wife were in love, and their beautiful daughter was born.
Gaige will read at Authors at Harbourfront Centre on April 10.