A former advertising copywriter, Ellen Meister left the business world to raise a family and chase her fiction-writing dreams. She is the author of three novels, THE OTHER LIFE (Putnam, 2/2011), THE SMART ONE (HarperCollins/Avon, 8/2008) and SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA (Morrow/Avon, 8/2006), as well as numerous short stories, including a contribution to the recent MILK & INK ANTHOLOGY. She currently curates for DimeStories, a literary podcast program, and runs an online group for women authors.
Ellen lives on Long Island with her husband and three children, and is at work on her fourth novel, FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER.
What if you could return to the road not taken?
Quinn Braverman never told her loving husband, Lewis, that the real reason she chose him over her neurotic, semi-famous ex-boyfriend, was to show her mother that she could have a happy, stable relationship with the guy next door.
But she has an even darker secret: Quinn knows another life exists in which she made the other choice and stayed with her ex-boyfriend. The two lives run in parallel lines, and there, on the other side, the Quinn who never married is speeding through her high-drama life in Manhattan. Here, she lives in the suburbs, drives a Volvo, and has an adorable young son with another baby on the way.
So far she’s played it safe, never venturing over to the other side. Then a shocking turn of events rattles Quinn, and she makes the reckless choice to finally see what she’s been missing.
There, she not only rediscovers her exciting single life, but meets the one person she thought she’d lost forever. Her mother.
But Quinn can’t have both lives. Soon, she must decide which she really wants—the one she has…or the other life?
What is your definition of a good book?
I like the way this question is phrased, because it implies that it's completely subjective ... which of course it is! Not only that, but for me the answer is a moving target that shifts according to whatever book has most recently grabbed my interest. Sometimes it's a voice that's so fresh it leaves me breathless. Other times it's a plot that pulls me in so deeply I can't put the book down. And often it's the glimpse into a truth so profoundly simple that I fall head over heels in love with a single sentence.
But always, it's the characters. And when I can feel an author's abiding affection for his or her characters, despite their flaws, I'm all in. To me, it doesn't get any better than that.
How does your latest literary offering qualify as that "good book"?
I think it's up to the readers to decide if THE OTHER LIFE fits the definition. I hope they think it does, because I believe so deeply in this book. When I got the idea to write about a woman who had the ultimate escape hatch--a portal in her basement to the life she would have had if she never got married--I felt something click. And then, once I realized who my characters were and that my protagonist's mother was dead in one life and alive in the other, I knew this was a "what-might-have-been" story I couldn't turn my back on.
In fact, when I sent my agent the proposal, I had to hold my breath waiting to hear back, because I knew I simply had to write this book, even if it she didn't approve. Fortunately, she loved it, and so did several editors who bid on it at auction. I hope readers feel the same way!