Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Blog tour: The Grown Ups by Robin Antalek

The Grown Ups
A Novel
By: Robin Antalek
Releasing January 27th, 2015
William Morrow

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.

Robin Antalek is the author of The Summer We Fell Apart. 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.

Hello Robin! Welcome to Roberta’s Dreamworld and thank you for your time. First of all, tell us something about yourself, both as a writer and as a person. 

Thanks for having me. I am mother, wife, friend, daughter, dog lover, reader, writer and a lover of bad television and sappy movies. The order I listed here doesn’t really have any significance.

How/when did you realize you wanted to become a writer?

I am a reader first. When I realized the power that words had to transport me into an entirely different world - well - there was nothing else I wanted to do. I have been so fortunate that I have been able to realize that dream.

Let’s speak about The Grown Ups. We’ve read the synopsis but can you tell us a little more about what the book is about? 

The Grown Ups was originally written in first person from the viewpoint of Sam Turner. In the very early stages I was thinking I might get a short story out of my idea of a family having a very public meltdown, a hidden box of provocative photographs and a first kiss - and then when that was done it was obvious (well to me, anyway) that there was way more I had to tell and I didn’t want to leave the neighborhood or the friends. Simply put it’s about a group of friends spanning fifteen years, those friends we think we’ll never be without, first crushes, first love, first loss. It’s about how life happens whether we want it to or not. I resist the phrase *coming of age* because all of us, if we are walking this earth, whether we like it or not, has to grow up. At least chronologically…. and its often messy. That’s where The Grown Ups thrives.

How did you come up with the idea and how did you create the characters? 

The first sentence of The Grown Ups was a gift. I had just shelved a book I had been working on for two years - and was seriously wondering where I was going next. I was sitting on the floor in my local library’s used book shop, surrounded by books I was going to purchase while eavesdropping on a conversation between the two elderly volunteers (in my defense it is a really small shop) when one of the women said to the other ‘it was the summer all the children in the neighborhood had a virus’. I scribbled the sentence inside one of the books and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Soon after Sam arrived fully formed, and then his brother Michael. I knew Sam was the underachiever of the two. Then the rest of the neighborhood kids arrived: Suzie Epstein, Bella Spade, Peter Chang, Johnny Ross, Frankie, Celia, Mindy and Ruthie. After I had this tight knit group of friends - it went from there. I’ve never seen those volunteers in the shop again. It’s funny to think their conversation, one simple sentence, sparked an entire book. Incidentally, I have absolutely no idea what came before or after that sentence. It was as if it was the only thing I needed to hear. A gift? I’d say so.

If you should describe your books in three words, what would you pick? 

Family. Love. Loss

Do you have any favorite authors and did they influence your choice of the genre?

I am a huge fan of the late Laurie Colwin, also Lorrie Moore, Ann Beattie, Kate Christensen, Jami Attenberg …. those are just names off the top of my head there are so many many many more. As far as influences? Sure, they all write about the messy complications of ordinary people. That’s totally my thing.

What else do you enjoy doing, when you’re not writing? 

I love to cook and entertain, go for long bike rides on my old school schwinn that I’ve had since high school, walk my pup, spend time with my husband and daughters, go to the movies, read, travel.

As a writer do you get support from your family and friends? 

I am fortunate to be surrounded by the most amazing group of people who have always supported my dreams and cheered right along with me when they came true.

What are your dreams and plans for your future as a writer? 

I want to keep writing - that’s the only plan I have right now.

Would you like to say something to the readers to encourage them to read your books? 

I am endlessly fascinated by the entanglements of families and friends and all that messy stuff that happens while we are living our lives: love, loss, longing, heartaches and hope. I will do my best to tell you a good story, hopefully one that you will remember long after you turn the last page.

Years ago on a December night in their junior year of high school they had been in Peter Chang’s basement before the winter dance, when Sam had turned to Bella, his eyes as navy as his sweater, and said, “So?” 
It began as simply as that, friends who had known each other since they were in diapers. Sam made her happy.  Just the sight of him as his cheeks flushed a deep shade of red was all it took. She wanted to kiss him and she knew that he probably wanted to kiss her too.  Later, when they had all stumbled from Peter’s basement, wandering through the streets of their neighborhood to the high school, Sam had bumped up against her shoulder and she had found his hand down by his side and grabbed hold of his fingers.  He wound them through hers and hadn’t let go, and right then in that moment she had been so sure of everything she had ever wanted.  
Since her mother’s funeral, Bella had been stuck on that memory, and she didn’t know why.  Maybe it was only the ache of nostalgia.  She wanted to lie in bed alone and go over every minute she had spent in Sam’s arms.  But then she had noticed the way her mother was looking at her and instead she had crawled into bed with her and whispered about Sam.  The mustard light in the room was diffused by the angle of the bathroom door, and she caught a glimpse of her mother’s face in the shadows.  She was smiling but there was also something sad in her expression.  


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