Laura Dave Interview

Fall in love with up-and-coming new novelist

We are obsessed with love: legislating legitimate forms of it, institutionalizing it through marriage and other unions, depicting culturally accepted norms in the media. Turn on any radio station and you'll hear it. Newsmakers debate it. The word permeates our daily lexicon: "Don't you love it when that happens?" or, "I love that dress on you."

Novelist Laura Dave - like others before her - attempts to elucidate some of the intricacies of love in the modern era. Her first novel, London is the Best City in America, struggled with the nature of infidelity and failed relationships. Her second, The Divorce Party, examined the growing phenomenon of parties celebrating the termination of a marriage, much like our celebration of their inception. And in The First Husband, to be released mid-May, Dave explores the difficulties of long-lasting relationships in a fast-paced, globalized, career-driven world. What should we give up for a significant other? And what happens if the sacrifices aren't worth it?

"I write without knowing what will happen," Dave said in an interview with tableau. "But I always ask myself a question as I write. Often that question has to do with commitment, which we all struggle with."

Commitment to writing, however, was never a question for Dave. "I always wanted to write ever since I was very young," she said. "Since elementary school, I wrote stories. That was what I always wanted to do."

After finishing her undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Dave worked briefly in film. "I wanted to work in the day and write at night. But I quickly learned that didn't work," she said, laughing. "If I wanted to write, then I needed to just write. I began to look for places to write full-time, places that encouraged craft."

For Dave, that place was the University. Here, she learned to focus on the craft she always has loved. Complimenting the "extraordinary" faculty, Dave explained, "I learned the lesson that it's always about the writing. I learned how to get up and work. The emphasis in the program was not on publishing - it was on learning how to become the best writer you can become."

This dedication to craft can be seen in Dave's accomplishments: after graduating from the MFA program in 2003, Dave's first two novels were published to critical acclaim and have been optioned as films by Universal; her journalism has appeared in The New York Times, Glamour and The Huffington Post.

It can also be seen in her writing itself, where the polished prose never interferes with her quick wit and relatable characters. Dave emphasized that good writing is not just artistic brilliance; it's hard work. "I write maybe a hundred drafts," she said. "That sounds crazy, but it isn't really. Good writing is rewriting. The more you write, the more you figure out what's really happening, and the more honest your work becomes."

This honesty and commitment shines through on her every page. In The First Husband, her characters are confronted with difficult situations that force them to rethink their identities and identifications, their dreams and relationships with others. Yet one of the marvelous things about her books is that they point out the contradictions and difficulties of love while still managing to preserve some of the reasons why we need relationships.

"In my books you only see [the characters] take the first step toward living a better life - something like happiness, something like being true to themselves," Dave said. "But I like to leave them in a moment of hope, a moment of discovery. It suggests that a story goes on from there."

This sense that the story is not finished, that the characters will continue to grow and mature and find themselves, permeates her work. And it is this sense of hope that enables Dave to resonate with her readers by suggesting that, despite the uncertainties of modern love, there is still much to be said about the fulfilment that comes out of a committed relationship with others and with yourself.

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