Instagram is a magical place. You can unintentionally buy stuff you didn’t realize you’d be buying that day, you can find inspiration for your hair, clothes, makeup and interior decorating, it can inspire you to plan a trip to somewhere new, and it can help you discover some really great books if you just know where to look.
You know, like a publisher’s account.
That’s how we came across Elyssa Friedland’s amazing book The Intermission. The blue cover with the couple and the sweet dog caught our eye and we just knew that we had to read it. And boy, are we glad we did! The story of love, confusion and the desire to come clean about our secrets to be well and truly loved for the person that we are captivated us and we think it will captivate you as well!
Luckily for our lovely readers (and totally for us too!), we were given the opportunity to speak to the lovely author and pick her brain about this story, what she’s reading and who she thinks would star in the movie adaptation of her book!
Congratulations on your sophomore novel, The Intermission, being on shelves! How does it feel?
It feels great. I love the cover of The Intermission, much more so than my first book. I think had I been more experienced the first time around, I would have pushed back on the cover and on the title of my first book. This time, I didn’t feel so new to the industry and I had a more clear vision of what I wanted. I also know many more booksellers and bookstagrammers now, and it feels like I’m part of a really great family. There was a lot of enthusiasm when my second book came out, which isn’t quite the same as a debut where you’re more of an unknown.
Does it feel different from your debut?
The process of promoting the book is largely the same. I would say that the only real difference is knowing what I’m in for this time around.
Okay, let’s get right into it. What was the catalyst for this story?
I’m fascinated by marriage and think it can be the subject of endless novels. Every marriage is so unique. There are some universal messages and themes that recur in all marriages, e.g. the need to make compromises and the trouble with sustaining passion, but for the most part marriage issues are specific to each couple. What works for some won’t work for others, and what attracts people together and drives them apart is extremely individual. I could write one hundred “intermissions” and they’d all be different.
Before we get into the real thick of things, we learn that Cass previously had a job in the Broadway world. Did you ever want to work with Broadway (a job I would leave literally any other for, if we’re being honest) or was it just one of the most New York jobs that was criminally underrepresented in novels set in the great city?
I’m a huge theater person. I see a ton of shows and plays with my husband and bring my children when I can. I’ve wondered why so many novels are set in New York City and yet the theater world is rarely represented. So I set out to change that in my own small way by making Cass a theater professional. I also think her career choices makes her a more interesting and nuanced character. She has a creative spark and a genuine appreciation for culture.
Time for the nitty gritty. Both Cass and Jonathan seem to want to distance themselves from their mothers, but for different reasons. Was that to show that no matter the circumstance, our mothers influence the way we go through life?
Yes, yes and yes. The good ones, the bad ones, the distant ones, the hovering ones, they all impact our lives forever.
Another thing we thought that was interesting is that Cass chastises her mother for depending on men and jumping in and out of relationships, but Cass chases after a man to get her out of her situation instead of just doing it herself. Was that comparison intentional?
I think the difference is that Cass would say her mother goes from one loser guy to another just so she’s not alone. She needs men to feel that she is attractive and has worth. Cass, in pursuing Jonathan, is very calculated and deliberate about what she’s doing. It’s not a decision made in a bar after a few drinks. There are similarities in that both feel the need for a man, but for very different reasons.
Which brings us to the idea that Cass essentially sought out Jonathan as her husband via social media. Some people might read that and think that it’s totally unrealistic. However, it’s actually a total breeze to make that a reality. What would you say to those who think it’s a ludicrous plot line?
I think it’s not only plausible but happens all the time! It’s very easy to fall in love with someone just based on their social media persona and from there you can easily learn their habits and haunts. So “bumping into someone” you follow online is really quite doable. I think we’re entering a gray zone where we’re not sure how much to admit we have “stalked” someone online. Over time, I’m sure everyone will admit it more freely.
It’s sort of easy (sorry!) to not like the two of them in the beginning because she sought him out for a specific life or that he frequently checked up on former flame Brett (or, SPOILER, he cheated on her at a fragile time). But we see them as real. Would you say that people tend to believe their literary characters need to be an exaggeration of real life instead of an honest look at reality; a story they might hear over coffee with friends?
I have heard from others too that Cass and Jonathan weren’t the most likable characters in the beginning. But I’m totally okay with that. I wasn’t setting out to write two entirely likable characters. I was hoping to create very real people with serious flaws, because to me that reflects the world we actually live in.
Trial separations or “intermissions” are becoming more and more popular, despite being entirely taboo to discuss. Why did you want to explore this gray area?
Precisely for this reason. Intermissions are increasingly prevalent but nobody talks about it. I know of several couples right now who are living under one roof but are in the midst of trial separations. These couples have children and so are inclined to stay in the same home but they are exploring whether they are better off together or apart. They don’t want to jump to a mentally taxing and financially costly divorce without being sure it’s the right decision.
We learn that Cass was pregnant a few years before the events of the story. She very obviously has unresolved feelings about it whereas he seemed to compartmentalize it. It’s clear that the two of them never fully discussed a tragedy that befell their marriage and it took a heavy toll on them in different ways. Were you hoping to open the discussion of a taboo (which is stupid) topic such as a miscarriage with that plot point?
I honestly just wanted to show a difficult episode that occurred in their marriage and how they each handled it differently. Marriages are made up of small events, like day-to-day life, but also bigger moments – deaths, miscarriages, grandiose fights. And they take their toll on the relationship. I wanted to pick one such episode and unpack it.
Marty Speigel seems like a literary version of Harvey Weinstein. What is it about powerful men who abuse their power and status that can draw someone like Cass in?
I wish I knew. I guess the simple fact is that power is an aphrodisiac. Harvey Weinstein crossed the line and is a criminal, but Marty Spiegel is different, at least with respect to Cass. He uses his power to attract her, but he doesn’t physically abuse her. She is a willing participant.
Speaking of movies, could you ever see The Intermission becoming a movie? If so, who would be your dream cast?
I wish it would more than anything but so far no bites. I think Blake Lively would be an amazing Cass, especially after seeing her performance in A Simple Favor. As for Jonathan, I think Armie Hammer would be wonderful.
Megan’s Note: A Simple Favor is criminally unseen and should be on everyone’s viewing list immediately. Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick are incredible. It’s also just great.
We absolutely love, love, loved how you had us at the end. Did you want to purposely mislead readers? (If so, hurtful. We were convinced of the opposite!)
I did want to toy a little with the reader, but not to be mean. I wanted the reader to believe the relationship was going to go in one direction but not be 100% sure and see how they felt about it, and then it would turn out to be the opposite. So the reader can experience both outcomes and see which one they wanted to happen more and believed was more correct.
Note: Seriously. Know going in that the ending will totally mess with you!
Now to the fun ones! What is your writing process like?
I’m lucky that I don’t have to be in total quiet to write because I have three little kids that are delicious and demanding. They are often around me when I write and I enjoy it. I think they keep my brain fresh. Writing is exhausting and having noise around me keeps me alert. I try to write a little bit every day but that doesn’t always happen. If I don’t write, I at least try to read.
Are you working on anything right now? (And can we read it? Because we’re obsessed with this one.)
I have a book coming out this summer called THE FLOATING FELDMANS. It is about a multigenerational family that goes on a cruise to celebrate the grandma’s birthday. Being trapped brings out the best and the worst for the Fedmans. And of course you can read it!
*Immediately adds it to our list*
And finally, what are you reading right now?
I’m reading One Day in December by Josie Silver and listening to How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan. I always have two books going at once – one in print and one on audio.
If you love books that will keep you guessing what’s going to happen next and what secrets lie within a marriage, The Intermission is the book for you. This book was truly incredible and proves marriage isn’t always as easy as the movies makes it out to be. It’s real and heartbreaking and everything you could want from a novel.
It’s available NOW everywhere books are sold, in e-book and audiobook! Here, we’ll even give you the Amazon link!
Thank you so much to Elyssa Friedland for allowing us to totally fangirl it up about this book! We can’t wait to read the next one! Find her on Instagram here!