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Lisa Zeidner
Love Bomb


Original Airdate: April 4, 2014

 

About the Author

Lisa Zeidner is a novelist and poet. Her stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in GQ, Tin House, The New York Times, and many other publications. She is the author of five novels, including Love Bomb, and two books of poems. She is a professor at Rutgers University in the MFA Program in Creative Writing and resides in Cherry Hill, New Jersey with her husband and her two greyhounds.

 

About this Book

Lisa Zeidner’s Love Bomb is a tale of love gone wrong. Helen Burns, a psychotherapist, is hosting her daughter’s wedding at her quiet home in suburban New Jersey. The wedding is cut short when an armed woman wearing a wedding gown and gas mask takes the group hostage. No one knows why or what the armed woman is after. One by one, guests try to find possible offenses and sins that might have spurred the armed woman to crash the wedding. Only Helen makes progress and is the only one who can get the masked woman to open her secrets and release the guests before the SWAT team storms the house. The author uses humor throughout the story to provide a unique side to an otherwise serious situation.

 

Extended Interview Videos



More Resources

http://lisazeidner.com/

 

Transcript

VOICEOVER: Books and company is made possible by the Virginia G. piper center for creative writing. Serving writers and readers in the Phoenix metro area, the State of Arizona, and the world.
ALBERTO RIOS: Welcome to books and company. Bienvenidos todos. I am your host, Alberto Rios, and we are joined by author Lisa Zeidner, who will be talking about her novel "Love Bomb." Published by Sarah Creighton books. Welcome, Lisa.
LISA ZEIDNER: Thanks.
ALBERTO RIOS: When I read this book, I wondered more than anything else, is how do you begin to conceptualize a book that has complexity and many stories, and a lot to say? How did you start thinking about this?
LISA ZEIDNER: I just started thinking with, with the woman in the wedding dress and the gas mask.
ALBERTO RIOS: That started it?
LISA ZEIDNER: That started it.
ALBERTO RIOS: Ok.
LISA ZEIDNER: Just --
ALBERTO RIOS: Which we should say is an abiding image, a woman in a, we won't give that away, what happens, but, a woman in a wedding dress and a gas mask.
LISA ZEIDNER: Right.
LISA ZEIDNER: And a combat boots.
ALBERTO RIOS: And combat boots.
LISA ZEIDNER: And clown socks.
ALBERTO RIOS: And clown socks.
ALBERTO RIOS: How did you think that that would be a, an opening for a novel?
LISA ZEIDNER: Well, when I was working on the book, terrorism was much in the news, and we're always seeing female terrorists in the Mideast. And I was just really interested in the idea of what can happen with a violent woman as the protagonist of a book. My feeling is that in, when we think about women and violence, there is always something vaguely comical about them. Lorena Bobbitt, she's a comical character. The astronaut and the diaper. But, men somehow seem dangerous and serious. So, I was thinking if you put a rifle with a crazy woman, how would people react to her? And I also was interested in suburban, you know, in putting a kind of violent situation into the suburbs. Where things are always supposed to be safe and lovely. And seeing how people respond because there is violence all over our country.
ALBERTO RIOS: And it starts with the title. "Love Bomb," which could have gone a couple of different ways. When I first read the title, "Love Bomb," I was like, it will be like an explosion of rainbows or something.
LISA ZEIDNER: Wrong book.
ALBERTO RIOS: Not this, not this "Love Bomb," so you begin to define for us something a lot more, with a lot more at stake. You mentioned the idea of being funny or comedic. This book is, is, is -- it traverses a, an edge between, between comedy and there is a lot of comedy on the page, but, it's not a funny story.
LISA ZEIDNER: Right.
ALBERTO RIOS: It's a serious story, with a lot at stake, and I wonder how you think about that edge.
ALBERTO RIOS: And it could have gone either way.
LISA ZEIDNER: Right.
LISA ZEIDNER: And well, everything I write, I think, would fall under the, the banner of something like black comedy. I just -- I'm not ready interested in things in one tone. I don't feel that life is like that. I feel that we, we giggle and tell stories at funerals, and love stories are not all perfect. And just the kind of complex blend of emotions you feel seems more true to me. And also, I like funny things. Just on the simplest levels, so, I'm always after that complexity. It can make people nervous, you know, if the tone is not totally screwed down and they don't know exactly what they are supposed to be feeling. But, the books that most interest me are books which don't tell you what you are supposed to be feeling, and you have to sort through that.
ALBERTO RIOS: And I think that that's what I love most about this. Is that, is that it was offering me different ways to react. And not the least of which is, if we think about the aggregate of characters, in the main, the funniest thing is, there is all these psychiatrists in a room. That's like a joke.
LISA ZEIDNER: Yeah.
ALBERTO RIOS: It's not a joke, obviously. But it's like a joke, like ten psychiatrists walk into a bar, right.
LISA ZEIDNER: Exactly. And you know, I think that maybe I will just pause and, and say what the basic setup is. This is about an armed woman in a gas mask. Noted the gas mask, who storms into a suburban wedding, with 60 people in it, and it's a nice, down home backyard wedding, and tells the guests that she will let them go if the right person apologizes to her. It turns into an Agatha Christy guessing game about who has done her wrong. Who, who might have offended her in one of things that I wanted to do, you know, how there are terrorists in movies, and everybody is, is cannon fodder except for three. You have a bad guy, a good guy, and two people with kids. Well, I wanted all 60 characters to not want to die. I wanted you to know all 60 characters. So, there was some complexity of trying to weave a bunch of storylines together so that you are following each one. And lastly it's a book about love, it's a book about marriage and relationships. I wanted to see what kind of spectrum of experience I could compress into one book. So the setup is goofy, people are standing up and giving lectures.
ALBERTO RIOS: Well, and they are all educated, and they all have something to say, they are used to being the ones giving the talk.
LISA ZEIDNER: And you noted the psychiatrist, which I forgot to mention, luckily, there are, I believe, eight psychiatrists, in attendance, and they all assume that they are going to be the ones to save the day because they are going to figure out what this nut case wants, and they are going to give it to her and deal with her. As it turns out they are not very effective at that.
ALBERTO RIOS: They are not very effective at that because this, this, this, we won't give away any, any surprises this but it this is has an element of, at risk of saying a word that is going to scare everybody, post-modernism. You cannot use regular historical processes or logic in the way that we are used to it, to solve this. And yet, that's what the psychiatrists are bringing to bear. We have -- you have this very careful distinction in which the, when she becomes the main character, the woman, who is -- she's careful to say trained as a Richean, not a Freudian. Maybe you could, you know, that's an important distinction, and maybe you can talk about that, but, she's not working with the same approach that, that this whole room full of psychiatrists is bringing to bear big-time. And in fact, the, the woman in the bridal dress, appears, and everybody starts processing what's wrong with her.
LISA ZEIDNER: Right.
ALBERTO RIOS: But the lady, the main character, she's different.
LISA ZEIDNER: Well, the kind of heroine of this novel is a bride's mother, who is not a shrink. She is a PHD. She is careful to note that she has no medical degree, and she use a more intuitive approach to try to connect with the terrorist and, and let's call her an H.T., that would be more accurate, the hostage taker. She calls her the terrorist of love, but actually, she's just a garden for a hostage-taker, so what I wanted was the nuttiest woman you can imagine and the sanest woman you could imagine. What kind of bond that they could kind of form with each other, but essentially, this is a novel which everybody judges everybody. By a set of standards. You have a SWAT team. You have the way police evaluate people. And you have a lot of racists who think that they know something about you on the basis of skin color. And you have a lot of shrinks who have their own mode of evaluation, and it's really about the difference between the way that we really are and the way that we are judged. And how you go through all of that. That seems partly what novels are for, to help you think about character and, and, and how we think about characters, so yeah, it's post-modern, it's not about character but about how we think about character.
ALBERTO RIOS: Exactly. And, and interestingly, another way of positioning this, too, is everybody in their own way is trying to help.
LISA ZEIDNER: Right.
ALBERTO RIOS: It's not an evil mastermind trying to take over the world, they are trying to help, and it shows us how desperate that, you know, thing that we feel towards each other is. I want to help you. Also, how, how often ineffective that connection might be. We think that we can help each other, but, you know, ultimately, something else kicks in.
ALBERTO RIOS: All sorts of things happen, and we were talking about the, the distinction between comedy and seriousness, and the, the setup as you described it, it's this, this wedding party, and they are in a room, and it all gets blocked off by, by this woman, H.T., the hostage-taker, and they, they are being told don't do this or that, on, on payment of your life. She has a rifle and such.
LISA ZEIDNER: And a bomb.
ALBERTO RIOS: And a bomb, we cannot forget that. And so it has elements of something, let's say like Bell-Canto, which you are familiar with that novel, it's high seriousness, and we don't know if there is a terrorist group or if it's -- we don't know, so we have those stakes. And yet, there is another aspect to this that's a bit like a chorus line. People come forward and start --
LISA ZEIDNER: I'm sorry, I didn't catch the book like that, a combination of Bell-Canto and A Chorus Line.
ALBERTO RIOS: I love that, that's what was so intriguing. It was bringing strands of, in some fashion, popular culture, but not one piece of popular culture. It was not imitated in that sense. Was bringing these things together, it was a patchwork.
LISA ZEIDNER: You are not the poet Laureate for something.
ALBERTO RIOS: It just connected when I said it. But, it's bringing the strands together and creating a new braid of popular culture. And so when I was reading this, it's very serious, but I can't tell if they are taking it seriously.
LISA ZEIDNER: Right. Do you remember when Aurora happened? How everybody said that they felt like they were in a movie?
ALBERTO RIOS: Yes.
LISA ZEIDNER: One of the things that I wanted to explore in the book is that we all -- it's very hard to have genuine experience of your own any more.
ALBERTO RIOS: That's what we're saying again, it's worth saying again.
LISA ZEIDNER: It's very hard to have genuine experience because we're always just -- you fall in love and you are thinking about how people fall in love in movies. You are being ALBERTO RIOS: you are in a terrorist event and you say, I feel like I'm on CNN. It's like almost as if the experience of our culture robs us of anything innate and pure. And, and I really wanted to, to kind of flood the book with everybody's effort to get back to something of their own. During this experience, and I think that I can say without spoilers that this is a book with a happy ending.
ALBERTO RIOS: Fair enough.
LISA ZEIDNER: And --
ALBERTO RIOS: I would say it --
LISA ZEIDNER: I don't think when you are reading it, when I first sent the book out people said don't use the word "terrorist." The second you do, you cannot be funny because that's serious business. But, as you noted, I am really fighting what you can joke about. On the other hand, I think that you feel reading this book that, that there is not going to be a massacre. Right. There is a threat. But, it's not that kind of -- it's not, you know, Bosnia. It's the U.S. and the suburban backyard.
ALBERTO RIOS: What's interesting is those thing are invoked -- I'm going to kill you if you move but, they are invoked in some other place, in movies, and we all -- all the characters even draw the strands, what is it like, for themselves, they are struggling, but what is actually lapping here?
LISA ZEIDNER: And to me.
ALBERTO RIOS: And to me.
ALBERTO RIOS: Right.
LISA ZEIDNER: To me, personally.
ALBERTO RIOS: Right.
LISA ZEIDNER: Like one of the characters has a nursing baby, the baby is crying. One of the characters -- one big event in the book, people have to pee. I mean, they are in there for, for eight or nine hours, you know, and they are in a great room and they had to figure out some way to relieve themselves. This is not a, a tragedy, but, it's a little awkward, especially when you are dressed up for a wedding. So --
ALBERTO RIOS: A great image.
ALBERTO RIOS: I will pause and reintroduce ourselves. Remind our viewers, you are watching books and company, and I am your host, Alberto Rios, and we are joined by Lisa Zeidner, talking about her most recent novel, "Love Bomb." So this idea of, of the practicalities of being a human being, okay, big thing going on, but I have got to go to the bathroom.
LISA ZEIDNER: Right.
ALBERTO RIOS: And I thought that that was a wonderful touch because absolutely, isn't that just as readers, we're reading, but what about -- how do astronauts go to the bathroom? It's that idea of, you know, an hour goes by and two hours, and --
LISA ZEIDNER: There is a diabetic in the room. She needs her insulin. It's in her purse. You know. There are issues that come up.
ALBERTO RIOS: They are very real and, and they ultimately solve it in a, in a, kind of a, a low style but very practical, it works. It's an echo of probably how many people in the room live. So, there is even that element brought in. It's, it's -- it's a range of human experience there.
LISA ZEIDNER: Right.
ALBERTO RIOS: Emotions and practical.
LISA ZEIDNER: Right. Especially a range about, about what the relationships are like. There are a couple of good marriages in this book. And there are a couple of them. Really, really awful ones.
ALBERTO RIOS: Right.
LISA ZEIDNER: And there are a bunch of dating stories. There is a, a spectrum of obsession like, at one point, there is a woman whose stalking a guy on Facebook and won't admit that they have broken up. Kind of crossed the bend into somebody who really needs help. So, I really wanted to show that kind of spectrum of experience in the book.
ALBERTO RIOS: And you do. That's what comes through.
LISA ZEIDNER: Thanks.
ALBERTO RIOS: And we were also referring to other popular culture things or how it's bringing things in, and you do something, it's organic to the language that I ended up really having a lot of fun with, every time I came across them, and they were serious moments, but they were just built in quietly. You take nouns and turn them out of literature, and turn them into adjectives for purposes of the book. So, you have, for example, font-larish, and habish amish, and bitta Ironically, so you are taking notice of things that are out there but bringing them to bear on the actual action on what's going on. Did you have fun with that or how did you come up with that idea?
LISA ZEIDNER: I didn't know that I had done that. Thank you. Thank you for the observation. But people -- there is a novelist, you know, who is the hostage, too. So, people come to this with their, their range of experience, so some people are talking about hostage most, and some people are talking about novels. I think that in one draft, bell-cana was mentioned, I'm not sure if it's still in there, but there's a little set piece in the novel about, about Collette's obsession with him. And anyone who knows that story, what a bunch of wackos.
ALBERTO RIOS: And the letter that he writes. Do you remember what he says?
LISA ZEIDNER: Yeah.
ALBERTO RIOS: When the rebuff letter --
LISA ZEIDNER: You know, it's just quoted in the book, but it is from a biography of their relationship. Collette shows up at his door, and she is in tears and he writes her and says, I don't remember exactly the quote, but, it basically says, don't contact me again, and I'm not home, and I will never be home.
ALBERTO RIOS: It was a devastating line.
LISA ZEIDNER: But, you know, poor woman. She, she kept all his letters, and she was madly in love with him. He burned her letters. So, you know, there is all of these kind of yucky relationships in the book that are, that are discussed, and as well as sweeter ones.
ALBERTO RIOS: And those are inhabited in this hostage-taker in different ways. She sees the great stories, and she lives part of the bad stories, and she, and she sort of is the mix that all those things go into. So that she is, is kind of a this figure of different artifices that, that the, the gas mask, the wedding dress, the combat -- these are different parts of different experiences, and she is all of them together.
LISA ZEIDNER: That's interesting. I mean, one of the problems writing the book is that Helen, the bride of the mother, the mother of the bride, the bride of the mother, maybe that's my next book.
ALBERTO RIOS: I like it.
LISA ZEIDNER: The mother of the bride is very quiet. She's not showy. And, and she's got a kind of, of thoughtful observational way about her. And, and that's what a good shrink should do. I know not many of them do it. But, it was hard to write the book because in most movies, your hero does heroic things so you can tell how, you know --
ALBERTO RIOS: She goes so far as to describe herself, and you describe her. She was used to people talking over her, through her, and she was quiet for a living.
LISA ZEIDNER: Right.
ALBERTO RIOS: A great characterization.
LISA ZEIDNER: Yeah, but, if you are like that, you are kind of invisible. The other thing, of course, is that she's a middle aged woman. And, and middle aged women are not often the heroines of either books or movies. There is a pint where as a woman, you feel like you have become invisible anyway. So, I mean, I do think the book has a feminist angle to it in that way.
ALBERTO RIOS: Not the least of which, it's this woman taking action at the front of things, right?
LISA ZEIDNER: Right.
ALBERTO RIOS: And even if she doesn't know why, 100%, she knows she should be, she has to.
LISA ZEIDNER: Right.
ALBERTO RIOS: If she doesn't--
LISA ZEIDNER: the men are going to mess it up.
ALBERTO RIOS: Yeah.
LISA ZEIDNER: So, male ideas, a strength and power versus female ones, and you know, it's also means, a means to be a book about motherhood. When we first fall in love, it's us and the other. And then if you procreate, it gets messed up. Parental love is a different love but a lot of the book is about the love people have for their children and how that relationship kind of changes the primal relationship with the mate. So, I think that I'm not giving away much to say that the H.T. did not have great parents.
ALBERTO RIOS: Fair enough. In a weird way, in this monstrous getup, I will just characterize it, when she is dressed in that sense, she does not seem to have parents at all. She's a creation of her own sensibility at that moment. It's almost a raw feeling being worn in front of everybody. So she is the hostage-taker but also on display, this is something that's been done to me.
LISA ZEIDNER: That's interesting, too. There is a -- a statue in the Louvre, and I am now forgetting the artist's name. But, it's a monstrous wedding dress with a tiny head at the top. And all of these dead babies clinging to the dress and arms, and I can't remember -- oh, I'm not going to remember it. I will let it go. But, you know, that image of her in the dress as a kind of artistic creation herself. She's starring in the film of her own revenge.
ALBERTO RIOS: And there is the film, ethic again, right. But she is.
LISA ZEIDNER: Right.
ALBERTO RIOS: And she has a great costume designer.
LISA ZEIDNER: Yah! Right.
ALBERTO RIOS: Right.
ALBERTO RIOS: Which is -- it's, it's her experience that, that designs the costume, in a curious way. We don't, in essence, by the end, and I am not giving anything away, necessarily get an explanation of what each component part of that getup is, but, we can abstract into why she chose that to wear, which I think is, is -- you give us enough for that, absolutely.
ALBERTO RIOS: You mentioned names out of, of literary lift, too. And, and I'm just wondering -- you mentioned Yates, you mentioned --
LISA ZEIDNER: He also had an obsession with a woman.
ALBERTO RIOS: Yeah.
ALBERTO RIOS: And different kinds of ways to think about that. And, and they are not just straightforward references, and I am wondering why you but the them in there. My take on it, is, is literature gives us so many plots. And, and you were looking to the psychiatrist to tell us what might happen. But also, looking to literature to say, what might happen.
LISA ZEIDNER: Right. What is, what is -- what do we hope to learn from a novel? What a bad experience do we get from a novel that we don't get from a diagnosis? What do we learn about character? So, you know, a lot of what's in there are things that, that were deeply moving to me. Portrait of a lady is in there, if you want to read about a betrayal, you cannot do much better than that. But, I don't think that again, that I'm giving anything away to say that when our H.T. is told about the book, she's like why are you telling me about this old, dead book? You know. So, it's in there the same reason that the film references are in there, you know. As the kind of cultural stew, that we live in and from which we try to sort out our own relationships to stuff. So, you hear about a divorce in real life and somebody is going to make a Brangelina reference. It's part of the way we live now.
>> In all of this mix, because there are so many characters, I have a curious question for you -- who do you think the most overlooked or most minor character is in that group? We have the psychiatrists all wanting to talk and the mother who asserts her quietly and the H.T., the hostage-taker, asserting herself, and different people who are trying to do things. But who is overlooked?
LISA ZEIDNER: By whom, the reader?
ALBERTO RIOS: Anybody, by the reader or the group. I would say by the reader, maybe, who did we not --
LISA ZEIDNER: I can tell you who I like most. I like the couple who are breaking up, one of whom is a patient of Helen's. I think that the guy in there is such a bafoon, and I love him. And he is the novelist, by the way. I also like the fact that the caterer stuck in the room winds up being part of the action, as well. I like the caterer. And of course, the caterer winds up -- the assistant winds up very important in the resolution of the book.
ALBERTO RIOS: Well, and I think that one of the -- if I had to just read into it, just listening to myself ask the question, I think it might be the baby who is crying. You know, the baby doesn't get to be a character in the way that we think of characters. But gets to be a presence.
LISA ZEIDNER: That's interesting.
ALBERTO RIOS: How does the baby contribute, well, by crying.
LISA ZEIDNER: Right.
ALBERTO RIOS: And so, it's an echo of, of the pain, you know, that might be inhabiting the room starting with the H.T.
LISA ZEIDNER: Nobody wants a baby to die.
ALBERTO RIOS: Right.
LISA ZEIDNER: When things get really comical and you realize there is a baby, the stakes get raised. So, you know, I keep trying to raise the stakes, challenge the stakes, raise the stakes, and challenge them.
ALBERTO RIOS: I love the commentary in general, you have got really, really, one psychiatrist is good, and shouldn't eight be even better? And, and it does not really work out --
LISA ZEIDNER: Too many cooks, right.
ALBERTO RIOS: And too many.
ALBERTO RIOS: And, and, and I don't know where we, we go from here, as, as, as -- we have the end of the book, and what do you think happens? Do they live their lives or what do you think happens to the characters? We won't give anything away. Can we be the same after either experiencing something like that or reading a book about an experience of something like that?
LISA ZEIDNER: Well, I think that you would have to be held hostage to be as moved by it as they are. I don't think that the book is going to do it. But the book does have, you know, like the epilogue in animal house is really short but this has a long thing that tells you what happens to everybody, and I would say that it's my favorite part of the book.
ALBERTO RIOS: To tell the stories out.
LISA ZEIDNER: Right, to, you know, move out of the frame of the day of the event.
ALBERTO RIOS: From the narrow to the wide and in a curious way. It ends up being an embrace of the event.
LISA ZEIDNER: Thank you. That's nicely put.
ALBERTO RIOS: Your arms reach around it all, and we've been through it together by the end, and you bring us out of -- you take us into it but bring us out of it, as well. And I think that works quite effectively.
LISA ZEIDNER: Thank you very much.
ALBERTO RIOS: I want to thank you for being here today.
LISA ZEIDNER: Thanks for talking to me.
ALBERTO RIOS: And I want to thank the viewers for joining us. This has been books and company, and I'm your host, Alberto Rios, and we've been joined by Lisa Zeidner, talking about her latest book "Love Bomb." Please join us again next time when we'll be bringing you another good book. Thank you, Lisa.
LISA ZEIDNER: Thanks.
VOICEOVER: Books and company is made possible by the Virginia G. piper center for creative writing. Serving writers and readers in the Phoenix metro area, the State of Arizona, and the world.

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