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Books By My Bedside: debut novelist Elizabeth Church

Books By My Bedside: debut novelist Elizabeth Church

Elizabeth Church's The Atomic Weight of Love is described as 'one of the hottest breakout novels of 2016'. It's a story of birds and science, and the late-blooming of an unforgettable woman. Here, the author tells as about the books that are currently on her mind.

Which books are on your bedside table?

The Distant Echo by Val McDermid

There are several piles of books beside my bed. Truthfully, there are piles of books all over my home. I take comfort in knowing I won’t run out of books to read, and I relish the thought of all the worlds I’ve yet to explore. 

Among the books on my bedside table today: The Distant Echo by Val McDermid and The Crossing by Michael Connelly. Because I don’t write mysteries or thrillers, I can read them without endlessly comparing my work to what I’m reading. 

More books on that bedside table: Shirley Jackson by Ruth Franklin (Jackson is so acute when it comes to the psychology of her characters), Tippi Hedren’s new memoir (I’m a huge Hitchcock fan and admire her cool sophistication in his films), Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance (because I want to understand a world unfamiliar to me), and Shelby Foote’s Shiloh (I’m obsessed with America’s Civil War).


Which book/s would you recommend to your closest friend right now?

Flaubert Sand correspondence, Harvill Press

I recently recommended the collection of letters between Gustave Flaubert and George Sand (Harvill Press Editions) to a dear friend, who is also a writer. 

It fascinated me to realize that Sand and Flaubert were concerned with many of the same things my friend and I correspond about­–the realities of the publishing world, the ups and downs of the creative process, the growth of a character as a work progresses.


Which book/s are you planning to take on your next journey?

Please don’t make me go on any journeys. I really am content just where I am, and journeys mean I have to actually lug the book along in my arthritic hands.

I think, though, that I would take along a volume of poetry–such as T.S. Eliot or Emily Dickinson. I’d like to dive into that kind of distilled language.


Tell us about your latest book.

Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth Church

The Atomic Weight of Love is an exploration of women’s lives–how they’ve changed in the last fifty years or so, what we do with our precious, early dreams. It’s about long-term marriage, about the sacrifices engendered by both cultural pressures and the way we choose to define “love.”

The novel contemplates how relationships between men and women have changed as a result of the women’s movement, including the fact that relationships are far more “negotiated” now. And, it’s about the beauty of the mountains of northern New Mexico, the disparate impacts of World War II (the atomic bomb) and Vietnam, and the stunning intelligence of crows.


Do you discuss your own work-in-progress with anyone?

Some, with friends.

I don’t discuss anything in great detail; what most interests me is whether or not the general topic and context of my new work intrigues. I’m aware that what holds my attention may not appeal on a wider scale, and so my goal is generally to see if I can spot a spark of genuine interest in the eyes of my listener.

My next novel, Map of Venus, takes place for the most part in Las Vegas in the late Sixties, when the Strip was still populated by the Rat Pack, Tom Jones, Dinah Shore, and showgirls.

When I described the book to friends, they showed a real interest in that setting, those personages, and that bygone era–all of which pleased and encouraged me.


Which book made you want to write?

Fun with Dick and Jane

Each and every book I ever read, beginning with the Dick and Jane series (“See Tip run.  Run, Tip, run!”). I have always had the hunger to write–it is the most abiding aspect of my life.

I also owe a debt of gratitude to the adults of my childhood who let me write them letters and who took the time to respond to my letters. They fed my need to communicate in words how I was feeling, what I was learning, what brought me joy or befuddlement.


If you weren’t writing you’d be…?

Still miserable, practicing law.


The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth Church is published by Fourth Estate


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