In a week full of great new releases, Susan Gloss’s debut novel Vintage is a standout. It’s been compared to The Friday Night Knitting Club, and centers around a Midwestern vintage clothing shop the way it connects a group of women who are all at turning points in their lives. Today, Susan is here to talk vintage clothes, juggling day jobs and writing, and some real-life inspiration behind this novel.
LB: You’re an attorney, a mom, a blogger, and you run an online vintage shop. How did you find time to write your debut novel?
SG: I put myself on a strict word count diet of 1000 words per day. Over months of doing that, the story came together in small increments. Revisions are where I do my best work, though. And for that, I had to lean hard on my husband, my parents, and my in-laws to watch my toddler son so that I could have uninterrupted hours of editing time. I carry my laptop with me everywhere. I’ve been known to write while getting an oil change, waiting at the doctor’s office, or under the dryer while my hair color is processing.
LB: How did you get the idea for writing this particular story?
SG: My grandmother was a seamstress and pattern maker–the book is dedicated to her–and my mother loves to sew, so I grew up with a fascination for fashion and fabrics. I’m also a thrift store junkie. The idea for VINTAGE was born of many hours spent browsing racks at secondhand stores and letting my imagination wander.
LB: Violet knows the stories behind the dresses she sells. What’s the best story you ever heard about a garment?
SG: A friend of mine made her own wedding dress from intricate vintage table linens she inherited from her grandmother. Her grandma passed away before the wedding, but I just know she was there in spirit. You could sense it.
LB: All three women are so vivid and real. I fell in love with them. In the course of writing the book, did you come to have a favorite?
SG: Violet was the most challenging to write because she holds her cards close to her chest. She doesn’t open up easily. But I think that, because it took me so long to get to know her and delve into her desires, I came to love Violet the most.
LB: Amithi is from India, a traditional upbringing and an arranged marriage. What research did you do in writing this character?
SG: Initially, I did a lot of research online for historical events and cultural references. Once I finished a draft, I had a couple of Indian-American beta readers review the manuscript. One of those beta readers is a friend of mine from law school who currently lives in New Delhi. The other was a friend’s mother who, like Amithi, immigrated to the US with her husband at a young age. They talked with me about what worked and what didn’t and helped me get Amithi’s story right.
LB: As a lawyer-turned-novelist, you’re in good company: Emily Giffin, Julie Buxbaum, and Brenda Janowitz all worked as lawyers. I’m sure there are many others. Do you think there is something about working in law that prepares you to write a novel?
SG: I’m proud to be in the company of those amazing ladies! I do think the study and practice of law lends itself to a fascination with reading and writing. It’s hard to get through law school without being able to craft a good sentence. I think, too, that the critical thinking skills taught in law school help in tackling a long-form project like a novel. Lawyers are used to looking at pieces and stringing them together into a logical whole.
LB: Tell me about your blog, The Debutante Ball, which has hosted new writers since 2007, including Eleanor Brown, Sarah Jio, and guest bloggers Meg Cabot, Jodi Picoult, and Jane Green.
SG: Every year, the outgoing class passes the torch to a new group of debut authors. There’s an application process, and I was honored to be one of the five chosen for 2014. I’ve really enjoyed becoming friends with the other “debs” in my class. Authors from past classes have been supportive, too, in helping get the word out for us newbies. The blog archives are a fantastic resource for writers. The blog has amassed such a diverse roster of guest authors over the years. We’ve even got an interview in there with John Grisham.
LB: What book have you read recently that you loved?
SG: I adored How I Came to Sparkle Again by Kaya McLaren. In another life, I’d be a ski bum, so I just lapped up this funny and heartwarming story set in a ski town.
LB: What’s on your TBR?
SG: So many yet-to-be published books are on my TBR. But among those that are already out, Michelle Wildgen’s Bread and Butter and Erika Robuck’s Fallen Beauty are at the top of my list.
LB: Are you working on a new novel?
SG: Yes, I’ve got a first draft and I’m about to roll up my sleeves and embark on revisions for my editor. It’s a stand-alone title slated to come out in summer 2015.
Vintage by Susan Gloss
Harpercollins/ March 25