Author Q&A About Love: Haley Tanner

  • February 27, 2012

A Q&A with the author of Vaclav & Lena

Set in Brooklyn’s Russian émigré community of Brighton Beach, Haley Tanner’s debut novel Vaclav & Lena (A Dial Press Trade Paperback, On Sale: February 7, 2012) is the story of two ten-year-old emigrants from radically different worlds. Orphan Lena is introverted, struggling with English, and trapped in an unstable domestic situation.  Precocious Vaclav has a burgeoning love of performing magic that is indulged by hardworking parents pursuing the American Dream. They meet as children in an ESL class and are quickly inseparable. In Vaclav’s eyes, Lena is destined to become his “faithful magician’s assistant” and someday his wife. In Lena’s eyes, Vaclav’s noisy, loving home offers safety, comfort, and access to the care of his big-hearted mother, Rasia.

One day, Lena does not show up for school and disappears from Vaclav’s and his family’s lives as if by a cruel sleight of hand. For the next seven years, Vaclav says good night to Lena without fail, wondering if she is doing the same somewhere. On the eve of Lena’s seventeenth birthday he finds out. In the universally resonant and highly original novel Vaclav & Lena, Tanner has created two unforgettable young protagonists who evoke the joy, the confusion, and the passion of having a profound, everlasting connection.

Haley Tanner is the author of Vaclav & Lena

February Q&A About Love…

Look what we owe to Shakespeare…

If music be the fruit of love, play ___________________________?  (what would you most want to hear?)

Play me I’m On Fire by Bruce Springsteen.  That song just makes me absolutely lightheaded – it captures that painful, rough and ragged moment when your desire for someone is just destroying you, and you wouldn’t give it up for the world.

What is the greatest love prose you’ve ever read?  Who wrote it?  Please quote a few lines?

Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins!  Again!

The bottom line is that (a) people are never perfect, but love can be, (b) that is the one and only way that the mediocre and the vile can be transformed, and (c) doing that makes it that. Loving makes love. Wouldn’t that be the way to make love stay?”

And this, too:

“Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won’t adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words “make and “stay” become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.”

Is your imagination of love, your ability to write about it – greater than your experience?

Oh, no!  I’ve been absolutely wildly in love – and I’ve written about love – and I’m afraid that the best I can do to describe the experience in words is somewhat like trying to throw a stone clear across that Atlantic Ocean. I give it my best, throw my arms out, and I can get pretty far – but the experience is just far too vast.

Have you ever fallen for a character? Who?  How does he or she compare to the real love of your life?

I’ve fallen for characters over and over again!  I fell in love eight times while reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, and I think for about eight years I was dating only boys who reminded me of Bernard from Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins.

What are the words that you can’t imagine ever being associated with love?

I think a lot of things have no place in love – judgment and stinginess, for example. Fear and doubt sneak in and we must show them the door, over and over again. Most of all, I would say the word “if” has no place in love.

With a nod to Yeats – If “love comes in at the eye, how does it go out …. (please imagine the rest of this sentence)

Never! Love never goes out. Love refuses to be time-bound – it might end, but it never goes out.

I want this book: Politics & Prose OR

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