Author One-on-One: Christina Baker Kline and Joshilyn Jackson
Christina Baker Kline is a novelist, nonfiction writer, and editor. Her novels include Orphan Train and Bird in Hand. She lives in an old house in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband, and three boys.
Christina Baker Kline: Your characters seem to have broken the "rule" that men and women can't be friends. Do you think this is possible only in novels?
Joshilyn Jackson: You might be asking the wrong person. When I was nineteen, I met a gangly, dark-haired, geeky guy with big feet and a weird sense of humor. He quickly became my dearest friend. In those days, I would have said, “Of course they can!”
Seven years later? He’d grown into the big feet and become one helluva man. Reader, I married him. Twenty years and two kids later, I still like him best.
The man/woman thing is powerful, and it can be so sneaky. Attraction can grow between the most unlikely pairings, given time and shared experiences and discovered connections. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s a risk. Better not to mess around with it if you’re sure you do not want it. You can’t get sex back to sleep once it’s good and woken.
Someone Else’s Love Story has two sets of man/woman best friends, and I didn’t want attraction to intrude on the dynamics. I tried several ways to remove it entirely from both equations, but it didn’t work until I attacked sex where it is most powerful—in its mystery. I took away wondering and speculation; both pairs of friends have already had sex with each other before the novel begins.
Men and women can’t get around sex, true, but I thought perhaps these two friend-pairs had elected to move through it. Through it, and into something else.
CBK: This is a story about family and friendship, truth and secrets, and love. But it is not necessarily a love story. Do you think that on some level all stories are love stories?
JJ: Yes. Not all stories are romances, certainly, but all good stories are love stories, in one way or another. “Only connect,” E. M. Forster said, and at these words, a great Amen rises in me.
CBK: Your characters have definite musical tastes—The Pixies, early David Bowie, They Might Be Giants. Are you promoting your own favorite bands through Shandi?
JJ: I am a visual arts person, a museum person. I am much more interested in seeing than hearing. I have embarrassingly pedestrian musical tastes; I listen to cheery pop with my eleven year old daughter. I like music that doesn’t ask me to pay much attention to it. As I write this, Pandora is playing “Jungle Love” for me. I am chagrined to report that I just thumbsed it up.
All the bands mentioned came from hanging out with my husband, my niece Erin Virginia, and my cool friend Lydia. I know this music because it matters so much to them, and they matter so much to me. I used their bands and songs to say things about the characters---not me.
CBK: Your contemporary novel deals with an ancient concept: the miracle. Do you believe in miracles?
JJ: Absolutely. Someone Else's Love Story is full of huge, overblown miracles. A virgin birth, a holy sacrifice, more than one resurrection. But they are all fake. They are all explained away and undercut. They are dust.
The real miracles are smaller. There are at least two in this book, so tiny it is easy to miss them. They are very true and dear and frail and human. They spark and pop for only a moment before they begin to diffuse and spread themselves like mist into the story. They change everything.