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KxBurns
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Questions for Joanna Smith Rakoff

It is our pleasure to have author Joanna Smith Rakoff join us starting next week. Please post your questions for Joanna here.

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KxBurns
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Re: Questions for Joanna Smith Rakoff

Joanna, we're delighted to have you join our discussion and to get the opportunity to preview A Fortunate Age.

 

With the group, you've created a dynamic set of characters. Is there one member of the group with whom you identify most?

 

Tal seemed to be the most disconnected from the group right from the start, as if he was already engaged in the process of separating from them. Is this why you don't present a chapter from his point of view?

 

Karen

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Vermontcozy
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Re: Questions for Joanna Smith Rakoff

Dear Joanna..I have throughly enjoyed the first 5 chapers..Reading into the next chapter.Your audience will be large,its a comfortable read with so many mini plots,I always like that.NY,Brooklyn as a backdrop is important to me,but other people from other Cities,Towns will be able to relate in different ways.I am part of that stereotype..and it never bothered me..I now live in a very wooded area near Manchester Center, Vt.......Left all that behind,but as you know...its still part of your core.I wish you great success..I will be passing on the book,and wondering if you ever Plan to come to Vermont?The NortHshire Bookstore would be a great venue for your book...Of couse it can't compare to BN,they launched you,and with good reason...Thank you,Susan.(I hope that BN isn't upset with me promoting another Bookstore..They are Independent and have been here for at least 30 years..very upscale,but very Vt.  Thank you Karen for all of your support
Kindness,I've discovered,is everything in life...Issac Bashevis Singer
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thewanderingjew
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Re: Questions for Joanna Smith Rakoff

Thank you so much for coming on to the board to share with us. I feel as if I am a displaced character in the book sometimes because my kids were in their era, their lives paralled the character's in terms of experience and choices but not in terms of how they enacted them. They were more stable and responsible, overall. I grew up in, and have personal experience in, almost every neighborhood you describe. I am kind of a distorted image of the parents because I am far more grounded and less materialistic. Almost shamefully, I identify with certain traits of the characters but I don't believe I ever took those traits to the extreme as they do, at least I hope not for the sake of my kids! They seem to have turned out great, so far, knock on wood!

twj

1-What made you write this particular book?
2-How did you get the background to write about these kind of characters. Is it autobiographical to some degree?
3-Did you exaggerate some of the characteristics of the neighborhoods and the characters to make a particular point?


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debbook
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Re: Questions for Joanna Smith Rakoff

Hi Joanna,

I wanted to know if you have ever been to Rochester? The character of Dave did not like it and I wondered if you had the same experience.

 

 

A room without books is like a body without a soul.~ Cicero...
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m3girl
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Re: Questions for Joanna Smith Rakoff

Joanna,

 

Congratulations on the upcoming publication of the book!  I was wondering how much of this story is 'autobiographical'?   And which character do you relate the most to? 

I've only read the first five chapters at this point - and I am finding it to be an interesting read.

 

Thanks,

Susan 

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mattzay
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Re: Questions for Joanna Smith Rakoff

I am also curious about which character you identify the most with. Were any of the characters based on friends or family. Most of the characters seem detached from their parents, was that also based on personal noticings?
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GSB65
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Re: Questions for Joanna Smith Rakoff

There has been much discussion of the sex scene between Beth and Will.  Many were turned off by it, I really had no problem with it other than I'm curious to know the meaning of this scene.  What was this supposed to show us about Beth's character?

 

Thank you for sharing your book with us.  I have enjoyed the story, though I'm having a tough time with the "New York" aspect of it, never having been there myself.

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krb2g
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Re: Questions for Joanna Smith Rakoff

Dear Joanna,

 

Thank you so much for sharing your book with us. I really enjoyed it, and while I haven't read The Group, I do think A Fortunate Age works a lot like The Forsyte Saga, Middlemarch, Our Mutual Friend, and War and Peace (to mention some of my favorite examples). My biggest quibble with the book, in fact, was that it wasn't long enough.

 

I was wondering if you could comment on your writing process. Did you have to do a lot of research? Did your conclusions about your generation change as you researched/wrote? Your sub-plots intersect in neat ways: for example, I liked the way Caitlin Green-Gold kept popping up; did you work from an outline? Did you cut material (or characters, or plotlines)?

 

Thanks for taking the time to join the discussion, and best of luck!

JSS
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JSS
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Re: Questions for Joanna Smith Rakoff

Dear Joanna,

 

I actually have 2 questions at this point:

 

1. As a male, I felt very enlightened by your detailed insights into the way your female characters think and feel. I assume that you are able to do that so expertly because you are both female and that you can relate to your various female characters personally and from a female perspective. My question is; from what basis or form of experience did you gleen your insights into your male characters?

 

2. To me, Beth is the most real character you have created. That realness is apparent on a variety of levels to many of us who have discussed her this past week. Would you talk about your creation of Beth a little bit for us please? Is there a specific reason for her coming through like that or was that unintentional on your part?

"I know not if this earth on which I stand is the core of the universe or if it is but a speck of dust lost in eternity. I know not and I care not. For I know what happiness is possible to me on earth." Ayn Rand
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booksJT
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Re: Questions for Joanna Smith Rakoff

Hi Joanna

 

I read your book I thought it  was excellent for your first novel. I just have  two questions for you. Who are some of  your favorite writers? Question 2 Who was the first  character you created and why? I hope to read more novels by you in the future.

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Chatterbox
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Re: Questions for Joanna Smith Rakoff

Hi Joanna,

 

Thanks for being willing to participate in this kind of forum!

 

It's clear -- even if you hadn't acknowledged it yourself as you did in your postcript-- that this is an hommage to Mary McCarthy's "The Group", right down to the wedding that begins it and the event at the end (I won't indulge in a spoiler for anyone who hasn't gotten that far!)

 

I have a couple of questions that flow from that:

 

-- McCarthy's book was dealing with a generation that, in some ways, really was living in a "Fortunate Age". By which I don't mean the 30s, but rather, that they were the first generation of young women for whom attending college and having a degree of self-determination (real options) after graduation, something that made the contrast with their parents' generation that much more acute. What  makes the generation of the 1990s distinctive to you? Is there any particular way in which their post-graduation struggles to come to terms with the 'real' world -- professional choices, relationship issues -- differed as drastically from those who came of age in the 60s, 70s or 80s as those of the women who graduated in the 1930s did from their parents' generation? (Because that was what resonated most for me in The Group; the fact that there was no role model, in many ways, for what some of these women wanted to do, while now we have myriad possibilities.)

 

-- McCarthy's book had only female characters. Obviously, even women's colleges like Vassar now admit men, so it's natural that any "group" of today would include men, but what led you to include them in your 'inner circle' so that you were telling part of the story from a male viewpoint? What difficulties did that bring with it?

 

-- What kinds of difficulties did you encounter in terms of trying to manage so many different characters? Did you ever consider breaking with McCarthy's model to focus on telling the story through the eyes of only two or three of these characters and their interactions with the others? 

 

Thanks!

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chris227
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Re: Questions for Joanna Smith Rakoff

Hi Joanna.

 

I am one of the readers who had a tough time with the first chapter but as I get further into am finding myself enjoying the book more and more. I am from NJ and am familiar with New York.  You use a lot of detail about NYC and the city seems just as much a part of the story as the characters themselves, when you were writing did you ever feel that people unfamiliar with NYC may miss something?  Did it worry you that many people may not be able to relate to the setting and the characters who are such a roduct f NYC?

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dhaupt
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Re: Questions for Joanna Smith Rakoff

Joanna,

Hi and thanks for giving us your readers this unique opportunity to talk to you about your new book.

First of all I have finished it and loved the book, I really like your writing style and how you made so much information make sense. This book was based on people my daughters age but I saw a lot of her friends and her in the characters, the only difference being that we're midwesterners. I noticed in your bio that you also attended Oberlin so I'm sure that some of what we've read is about you and your coming of age.

My question for you is - Have you always wanted to write, when did the bug bite you.

Thank you again for sharing yourself with us. 

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prizequeen69
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Re: Questions for Joanna Smith Rakoff

Dear Joanna,

 

Congratulations on a wonderful first novel.  I truly enjoyed it and became very involved in the characters.  As a former English major, I seem to read with a proofreader's eye however, and I found several typos and other small errors (e.g. Katharine Hepburn is spelled with an "e" in your first mention of her) in this pre-publication edition.  Would it be at all helpful to you for me to list them (by page) or will your editors pick these up??

 

Best to you for much success,

Mary

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Maria_H
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Re: Questions for Joanna Smith Rakoff

Hi Mary,

 

Thanks for offering!  But this ARC is only a proof and her publisher has a team of copyeditors who will pick up on these errors before the final book is printed.

 

Maria

 


prizequeen69 wrote:

Dear Joanna,

 

Congratulations on a wonderful first novel.  I truly enjoyed it and became very involved in the characters.  As a former English major, I seem to read with a proofreader's eye however, and I found several typos and other small errors (e.g. Katharine Hepburn is spelled with an "e" in your first mention of her) in this pre-publication edition.  Would it be at all helpful to you for me to list them (by page) or will your editors pick these up??

 

Best to you for much success,

Mary


 

 



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biljounc63
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Re: Questions for Joanna Smith Rakoff

I am interested in the naming of your charaters. As one who normally reads thrillers. I noticed in chaper six the FBI angent Sadie met ouside Cailin's apartment is named Micheal Connely. Is that some sort of reference to the thriller author of the same name?
Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
~ Joseph Addison ~

"Reading lets you visit the world of another"
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mv5ocean
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Re: Questions for Joanna Smith Rakoff

Joanna thanks so much for sharing your book with us in this type of format. I've found that I enjoy your style of introducing a character in depth and would like to know which character you most identify with. And have YOUR friends contacted you to find out if a particular character is related to them? It would seem as though your friends would actually TRY to find themselves in this novel. Actually, I would imagine that wouldn't have to ask, they probably know who is who if they are honest with themselves. Best of luck on this venture and I look forward to reading more of the book!!!

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Darbys_Closet
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Re: Questions for Joanna Smith Rakoff

Hi Joanna,

This is so great that you have the opportunity to discuss your book with a whole group of people before your book hits the shelves!  I would think it helps tremendously regarding future book interviews.

My question is short yet has me wondering....Why or How did you come about giving this book the title of "A Fortunate Age"?  I wonder about the title, because the characters, don't seem to be appreciating their current age.  Or is this a book where the title makes sense upon the books completion?

Thank you so much for your time and the best of luck to you!

Darby

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Dances_through_Books
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Re: Questions for Joanna Smith Rakoff

Hi Joanna!

 

Thank you so much for sharing your talents with us!  Congratulations on a great first novel! My question has to do with how you ended the novel. Was your intent to leave it open ended? Are you referencing the unstable current global and national environment with the tone of the final chapter? Are you considering an epilogue to tie up each characters story? What is going on with Tal? Is he a nihilist, terrorist, or just severely depressed?  Thank you for the opportunity!

 

~Kati