The Debutante Ball Welcomes Leah Stewart

Leah StewartLeah Stewart is the author of the novels Body of a Girl, The Myth of You and Me, and Husband and Wife. The recipient of a 2010 NEA Literature Fellowship, she teaches at the University of Cincinnati, and lives in Cincinnati with her husband and two small children.

Husband and Wife is out now, and it’s an amazing read.

Sarah Price is thirty-five years old. She doesn’t feel as though she’s getting older, but there are some noticeable changes: a hangover after two beers, the stray gray hair, and, most of all, she’s called “Mom” by two small children. Always responsible, Sarah traded her MFA for a steady job, which allows her husband, Nathan, to write fiction. But Sarah is happy and she believes Nathan is too, until a truth is revealed: Nathan’s upcoming novel, Infidelity, is based in fact.

Suddenly Sarah’s world is turned upside down. Adding to her confusion, Nathan abdicates responsibility for the fate of their relationship and of his novel’s publication—a financial lifesaver they have been depending upon—leaving both in Sarah’s hands. Reeling from his betrayal, she is plagued by dark questions. How well does she really know Nathan? And, more important, how well does she know herself?

Leah Stewart Takes the Deb Interview!

Who is one of your favorite (fictional or non-fictional) characters?

Buffy, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I could list a bunch of literary ones, too, but she’s the first who came to mind.

Which talent do you wish you had?

I wish I could sing. I think this is because as a writer I emphasize the emotional, and few things are as immediately and viscerally affecting as a song.

What are the hardest and easiest things about your job?

I think one of the hardest things about my job is that it’s two jobs: I teach writing and I write. In a number of ways these pursuits are complementary, but for me they both require such intense concentration that they can be hard to balance. The easiest thing is that my time is so much more flexible than it would be if I worked all day in an office. I remember once talking to a writer friend about how hard writing was, how frustrating it is to spend so much time locked in a struggle with your own brain. And then we had to laugh at ourselves, because we were sitting outside chatting in the sun on a weekday afternoon, which isn’t really a marker of a hard life.

Have you ever met someone you idolized?  What was it like?

One of the pleasures of teaching in a program like the one here at the University of Cincinnati is getting to invite writers for our reading series. In my time here I’ve arranged to bring in Denis Johnson and Lorrie Moore, both writers I idolized. I have a sense of direction so bad it’s debilitating. I managed to get lost getting Denis back to his hotel, and I managed to get lost getting Lorrie between the campus parking garage and her reading. Both of them were very kind about my idiocy. Both of them were, in general, wonderful guests. As for me, I enjoyed not feeling self-conscious and idiotic the whole time they were here, the way I used to feel around the writers at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, where I started as a staff member while still in graduate school. The first time I saw Barry Hannah there I couldn’t even speak to him. I’m proud to announce I’ve come a long way since then, or I might have fainted with embarrassment in front of Lorrie Moore at my inability to find my way around the campus where I teach.

Has anyone ever thought a character you wrote was based on them?

The only people who’ve ever told me they thought that have been right. I don’t base my primary characters on anyone in particular—in part because that might constrain my ability to make them complicated in both good and bad ways—but I do often picture someone for secondary characters. I forgot to tell one of my friends I’d based someone on her in my second novel, and she discovered it in the middle of the night, reading in bed next to her sleeping husband. I think it blew her mind a little. I know she woke her husband up to read him the description, so he probably was annoyed with me.

Leah Stewart's Husband and WifeThanks for coming by, Leah!  If you have questions or comments for Leah, join us in the comments below!

You can find out more about Leah at her website, or check in with her on Twitter or Facebook.

Get more information on Husband and Wife here!

“Stewart (The Myth of You and Me) creates a crisis of faith where adult reality collides with youthful dreams, “the people we were and the people…we always thought we should be.” The writing is tactile, elemental, even comical, providing readers with a situation that could so easily be their own. Highly recommended.” —Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal *Starred Review*

8 Replies to “The Debutante Ball Welcomes Leah Stewart”

  1. Leah, thanks so much for coming by the Ball! This isn’t the first time I’ve heard about your book, and I’ve been intrigued by it every time. This one pushed me over the edge — I’m heading to after I type this comment.

    I’m also a directional imbecile. If I’m leaving my neighborhood, I need a Mapquest printout or I’m lost. I’m officially making a mental note never to take one of my idols for a drive… or if I do, to handle the situation with as much aplomb as you.

  2. Wow, I have to confess I’ve never heard of your new book, but now I’m putting it on the list for my book club to read. It sounds like a wonderful novel for discussion!

    Thanks so much for sharing with us, and I look forward to reading this book!


  3. Leah, so great to see you here! I ordered HUSBAND AND WIFE recently, and I’m so eager to read it! xoxo P.S. I so wish I could sing too. (I won’t go into details about the time in high school when I sung in a garage band, and totally and horribly embarrassed myself.)

  4. I downloaded HUSAND AND WIFE to take with me on vacation this summer, and enjoyed it so much! Lots of twists and turns and unexpected developments. The couple seemed so relatable – like they could’ve been my friends.

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