Welcome, one and all, to Literary R&R's stop on Natalie Wexler's The Mother Daughter Show mini blog tour, hosted by the fabulous Nicole from Tribute Books. For this stop, we will share a brief book summary, author bio and a guest post from author Natalie Wexler. So, grab your coffee, get comfy and enjoy!
ISBN #: 978-0984141296
Page Count: 274
Copyright: December 2011
Publisher: Fuze Publishing
At Barton Friends, a D.C. prep school so elite its parent body includes the President and First Lady - three mothers have thrown themselves into organizing the annual musical revue. Will its Machiavellian intrigue somehow enable them to reconnect with their graduating daughters, who are fast spinning out of control?
By turns hilarious and poignant, The Mother Daughter Show will appeal to anyone who's ever had a daughter - and anyone who's ever been one.
Natalie Wexler is the author of The Mother Daughter Show (Fuze Publishing 2011) and an award-winning historical novel, A More Obedient Wife. She is a journalist and essayist whose work has appeared in the Washington Post Magazine, the American Scholar, the Gettysburg Review, and other publications, and she is a reviewer for the Washington Independent Review of Books. She has also worked as a temporary secretary, a newspaper reporter, a Supreme Court law clerk, a legal historian, and (briefly) an actual lawyer. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband.
How did you make sure to get the voices right of the daughters? How did you develop an accurate tone for their dialogue?
I think the secret to crafting any dialogue is to listen carefully to the way people talk, and then try to hear your characters talking in your head and see if their dialogue rings true. In some cases that's more difficult than others.
Right now, for instance, I'm working on a novel that's set in the early 19th century. I have letters and newspaper articles from the period, but obviously it's impossible for me to listen to anyone from the early 19th century in conversation. Even dialogue in novels from that era sounds artificial to us. Is that because people really spoke that way, or because writers back then didn't try to imitate people's actual speech? Hard to know, but I do my best. Fortunately, there's no one still around from the early 19th century who's going to pop up and tell everyone I got it wrong.
In a way writing dialogue is easier with a contemporary novel: all I have to do is find out how people really speak is to keep an ear out. Or just listen to myself. But of course, different subgroups of society speak in different ways, and there's still the chance that when you're writing dialogue for a subgroup other than your own you'll get it wrong. And there IS the risk that they'll pop up and tell you that.
To get the daughters' voices right in The Mother Daughter Show, I did have something to go on right in my own backyard, more or less: an actual teenage daughter. And she had friends, many of whom tended to congregate in my house, so I had ample opportunity to eavesdrop.
I wouldn't say I did that deliberately (or at least, not with an eye to putting what I heard in a novel), and of course none of the daughters in the novel is based on any real individual - just as none of the mothers is. But there are certain well known tropes and cadences that are pretty common to 21st-century teenage girls: the tendency to end every sentence as though it's a question, the use of "like" as a filler, the use of adjectives like "totally." I think anyone who pays attention around teenagers can mimic that type of speech pretty easily.
But of course, while I wanted my daughter characters to be believable as contemporary teenagers, I didn't want them to be generic. Nor, even though the book is a satire, did I want them to be parodies. I needed them to come across as genuine individuals. One of them is rebellious, one is (or at least has been) docile and obedient, and one is intensely private. So, within the parameters of believable teen-speak, I had to tailor their voices and dialogue to fit their characters.
Another consideration was the difference between the way teenagers speak to their parents and the way they speak to their friends. While most of the daughters' dialogue in the book is between them and their mothers, there's at least one daughter-to-daughter phone conversation that is overheard, at least in part, by a mother. That mother is pained by the fact that her uncommunicative daughter is such a different person with her friends: talkative and animated and open.
While writing a pretty late draft of the book, I also hit upon the idea of including text messages between the daughters. That device allowed me to capture what is in some ways the quintessential 21st-century teenage voice, with its abbreviations and deliberate misspellings and distinctive capitalization and punctuation (or lack thereof).
I hope I've done a decent job of faithfully reproducing the voices of teenage girls, circa 2009. And I'd like to think that two hundred years from now, if some writer of the future attempts a historical novel set in our period, she'll be able to use The Mother Daughter Show as a guide to what people actually sounded like way back when.