The Grown Ups author Robin Antalek stops by for a quick chat.
What was your writing process for The Grown Ups?
The opening line was a gift. I was sitting on the floor of my local library’s used book shop eavesdropping on the conversation of the two elderly volunteers while I pondered a stack of books when I heard one of the woman say to the other: ‘it was the summer all the children in the neighborhood had a virus.’ I scribbled that sentence into one of the books I was going to buy. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I originally wrote the entire first chapter of The Grown Ups in the first person as a short story – it was obvious to me when I was done with the short story that it was really a first chapter.
It then took about six months for a fast first draft told entirely in the first person voice of Sam Turner. When my agent and editor read it they said they wanted to hear some of the other voices, and suggested I try Suzie and Bella. So I went back into the manuscript turning first person to third and, working off the original draft, adding in chapters from Suzie and Bella’s perspectives.
It took a very myopic story and opened it up so that the reader almost gets a rashomon story experience. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done – but worth it in the end.
Describe your journey as an author so far.
After college I took any writing gig that came my way. I wrote ad copy, radio scripts, press releases and once, for a business news network where I had to keep a dictionary of financial terms in my desk drawer. But I taught myself to write 30 second business spots like I went to Wharton.
I wrote for pennies a word, sometimes for free, always for the experience and a byline. Fiction was for fun. I wrote nights and weekends and submitted short stories, eventually getting personalized rejections and then, submitting to those kind enough to offer encouragement.
Slowly, slowly, so very slowly I began to accumulate some publishing credits. I like to say the three novels I wrote without representation are my MFA program.
The third novel actually had a publisher interested before I even had an agent – an editor at that house introduced me to my then agent and we were in the process of making a deal when it all fell apart. I ended up shelving that novel and writing what would eventually become The Summer We Fell Apart which sold to Harper Collins.
In between TSWFA and The Grown Ups I wrote another novel, shelved that too, switched agents and wrote The Grown Ups which sold to William Morrow. It’s been a ride. But everything needed to happen the way it did, no matter how painful. It makes everything now all the sweeter.
Ten fantastic things to do in the town/country/state you grew up in.
My ‘growing up’ years were evenly split between New York City and a small town at the edge of the Florida Everglades in the early 1970’s. It was a Florida akin to the wild west – deserted wild beaches along the gulf coast, no condo’s, no chain stores or restaurants. It was a pretty fantastic place to live from nine to eighteen.
The Grown Ups A Novel by Robin Antalek
Releasing January 27th, 2015
From Robin Antalek, author of The Summer We Fell Apart, comes an evocative and emotionally resonant coming-of-age novel involving three friends who explore what it means to be happy, what it means to grow up, and the difficulties in doing both together. Spanning over a decade, and told in alternating voices, The Grown Ups explores the indelible bonds between friends and family and the challenges that threaten to divide them. It is the addictive and moving story of these old friends who wind up confronting their past in order to find happiness in their adult lives that make this novel an anticipated winter release.
Sam Turner, the summer he turns 15, feels lucky enough to enjoy the unexpected attention of his friend Suzie Epstein, even though it’s only a few secret months. For reasons Sam doesn’t entirely understand—and will never question—the budding relationship is kept hidden from their close circle of friends. But before their summer tans can even start to fade, Sam’s world unexpectedly shatters twice: Suzie’s parents are moving away to save their marriage, and his own mother has suddenly left the house, leaving Sam’s father alone to raise two sons.
Watching as her parents’ marital troubles escalate, Suzie Epstein takes on the responsibility of raising her two younger brothers while simultaneously planning an early escape to college to seek independence. Though she occasionally thinks of Sam, it’s her oldest friend Bella Spade she finds herself missing. Embarrassed by the destructive wake of her parents as they left the only place Suzie could call home, Suzie makes no attempt to reconnect with the one person she needs. Its years later that a chance meeting with Sam’s older brother Michael will reunite her with both Sam and Bella—finally forcing her to confront her friends, her past and what she left behind.
After losing Suzie, Bella surprisingly finds her first real love in Sam. But his inability to commit to her or even his own future eventually drives them apart. Watching Suzie and Michael as they seem to have worked it all out, Bella’s only to wonder where she went wrong and how to make it right.
Add The Grown Ups to your Goodreads shelf.
About Robin Antalek
Robin Antalek is the author of The Summer We Fell Apart: A Novel
Her nonfiction writing has been published in literary journals and in several collections, including The Beautiful Anthology; Writing Off Script: Writers on the Influence of Cinema ; and The Weeklings: Revolution #1 Selected Essays 2012-1013. Her short fiction has appeared in 52 Stories, Five Chapters, Sun Dog, The Southeast Review, and Literary Mama among others. She lives in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Click on the banner to follow the tour