Interview with Abby Slovin author of Letters In Cardboard Boxes

Today we are joined by Abby Slovin, author of Letters In Cardboard Boxes. She’s here to tell us a few things about herself and give us a little inside info about her book. You can read my review of Letters In Cardboard Boxes here.

Abby Slovin was born in the summer of 1983 and lived in the same house on Long Island until attending the University of Michigan. She has a deep love for New York City, Brooklyn especially, where much of her family has its roots. She loves to spend time outdoors, travel, research family genealogy, and relax at home in Jersey City with her husband, Dominick and dog, Grumpy.

Abby wrote Letters In Cardboard Boxes, her first novel, over the course of three years from November 2007 until October 2010. She is currently working on her second novel, and readers can also access other work by Abby on her  website, including poetry and short stories.

Abby Tells Us About Herself

Give us three “Good to Know” facts about you. Be creative. Tell us about your first job, the inspiration for your writing, any fun details.

I’ll go with “fun details”. I enjoy hearing these sorts of details about people I don’t know, so I’ll assume the same for your readers (excuse me in advance if these are a little random). One fun detail you only need know me a short time to figure out, (1) I’m always exhibiting a handful of hopeless fashion faux pas (blue and black go together for me, sandals in winter if the weather is warm enough, plaid and polka dots if I feel like it, that sort of thing). Many have tried to assist, but none have been successful.

(2) Another fun fact: As a child, I wanted to be an actress. I even read a book, “So You Want to Be A Star,” and outlined a four-step plan to fame. Of course, this plan was not only unsuccessful, but so seriously and methodically pursued that its very hilarious to read it again now.

(3) One of my favorite ways to spend time is through a long meal, stretched out over a number of hours. My husband and I can sit at the dinner table sometimes three hours, eating slowly, talking, laughing. I love when family holiday meals last an entire day. I think its the best way to bond, to have a shared experience. There’s nothing more perfect to me than the sight of a family or a couple enjoying a long, extended meal together. Nothing better depicts family or love to me than that.

I’m not certain that these are “Good to Know” facts necessarily, but I think they’re little tidbits I don’t often share.

What else do you want your readers to know? Consider here your likes and dislikes, your interests and hobbies, your favorite ways to unwind — whatever comes to mind.

I love walking around and watching New York swirl around me (I’ve been told that I walk much slower than most “city people”), long conversations over coffee, watching movies. I also love to travel. I’ve become very involved with family genealogy research over the past few years. My favorite way to unwind is to throw my cell phone somewhere far away and sit in silence, enjoying the sound of being “unplugged”.

Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?

Absolutely. For me, writing becomes dynamic, a living thing even, once infused with reviews and opinions from readers and reviewers. I’m in no way deterred by a bad review, as long as it includes constructive points rather than just straight negativity (“I just didn’t like it”, for example). I think the best way to grow is to take into account the things people are saying about my work, both negative and positive. Sometimes I receive feedback that really makes me think about things differently, inspires me to do something better with my future work. You can only achieve growth with your mind open, I think.

What are you reading right now? Are there any authors (living or dead) that you would name as influences?

Some of my favorite books, including the ones I’m reading now, are recommendations I would never have picked up on my own (Clan of the Cave Bear, for example in high school; the Tao of Pooh; Ishmael; White Oleander). I’m usually slower to read books that are immensely popular because I like the hype to die down a little before I pick it up, but I will eventually make my way to the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” I’m reading an amazing novel right now by the brilliant Christopher Moore that was recommended by my husband.

In terms of influences, I always point to the wit and humor of Woody Allen and Kurt Vonnegut and the quirky characters depicted in novels by Ruth Ozeki and Charles Baxter. These are writers who have consistently impacted me over and over again.

Abby Lets Us In On Some ‘Letters’ Secrets

What inspired you to write Letters In Cardboard Boxes?

Although the story is completely fictional, it was inspired by a personal moment in my own life. While I was cleaning out some of my grandmother’s possessions after she had died, I found letters she had exchanged with my grandfather during their courtship and was hit with a lot of emotion. In particular, guilt at not having known this part of her life, sadness for not being able to talk to her about it, but also a lot of happiness that these letters breathed life into someone I loved who was no longer around. I started imagining a story with this idea at its center — of finding remnants of a person’s life after they’ve passed — and organized a fictional story around it. I named the main characters after my grandparents simply because it felt good to hear their names spoken out loud again.

How would you describe Letters in Cardboard Boxes to someone who has not read the novel?

This story gets to the heart of a very special relationship between an eccentric grandmother and her granddaughter alongside a series of fantastical letters they once exchanged, and portrays the impact of having this relationship break down. It focuses on the sort of struggle people go through every day without ceremony, something that readers can relate to on a genuine level. And, while its a very universal story, readers have also found the writing itself unique and well-paced and the story very compelling.

Which of your characters is your favourite?
He appears later in the story, but I love Jerry’s boyishness, his honesty and compassion, and his quirkiness. But also, his quiet sadness. I think he’s a good, complete character.

Which of your characters is most/least like you, and in what way(s)?

I think all of my characters have a little bit of me in them, but “a little bit” is probably where it ends because I’m very passionate about creating truly fictional characters. I can relate to Tanya, her eagerness to find answers and the boldness she possesses at a young age. I probably relate the least to Jill, mainly her inability to focus or follow things through to the end. But, I do believe that even Jill has some of myself in her.

Which of your characters would you most/least to invite to dinner, and why?

Phila would be a fun character to invite to dinner. Always reaching for something pithy or interesting to say. His elusiveness makes him a fun person to spend time with, I think.

Which question are you most sick of answering in interviews?

I’m being truly honest when I say I’m not sick of answering any questions. I appreciate all opportunities I get to discuss my work and, particularly as a younger debut writer, think of it even as a way to better understand my own work and encourage people to talk about it.

Is there a question that you’re most sick of asking? 🙂

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Haha, the tables they be turned. I never get sick of asking questions. Actually,  some people find me quite annoying because I ask so many questions. 🙂

Thank You very much for the awesome answers and giving us, the little people ;), a little insight into you and your novel. We wish you all the best and hope you have great success in everything you do. Don’t forget folks, Abby has some new stuff in the works and other writing that you can find on her website. Check it out, don’t be shy.

You can find Letters In Cardboard Boxes on:

Goodreads | Amazon  | The Piermont Straus Library | Lulu | On Abby’s Website

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