Photo © Nina Subin.
Nancy Star is a former movie executive turned novelist whose new novel, Sisters One, Two, Three, published by Lake Union, made Publishers Weekly’s list of Top Ten Print Book and Amazon Kindle Bestsellers of 2016. Previous books include Carpool Diem, a scathing comic novel about a downsized consultant determined to navigate and win in the cut-throat world of competitive parenting; Up Next and its sequel, Now This, mysteries featuring a TV talk-show producer turned detective; and Buried Lives, a psychological suspense novel.
In addition to writing novels, Star is an essayist whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Money Magazine and Family Circle.
Before turning to writing fiction full-time, Star worked in New York and London for the Samuel Goldwyn Company, collaborating with writers on original material, scouting for books and plays for adaptation, and acquiring independent films for release. Prior to her stint at Goldwyn, Star was Story Editor at The Ladd Company where she got to work on some of her all-time favorite films, including Blade Runner, Body Heat and The Right Stuff.
What are you reading? What's on your nightstand?
I confess to being guilty of often reading two books at once. Right now it’s George Saunder’s, Lincoln in the Bardo and Nathan Hills’ The Nix (which I’m reading for the second time). I have a perilously stacked pile of books on my night stand, some on deck to read, some already read but still held close: Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg, Moonglow by Michael Chabon, On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman, A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline, The Underground Railroad by Colin Whitehead, and My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout.
Where do you go to get inspired?
If only there were a place where I could reliably be inspired. In truth I never know where inspiration will strike. A snippet of a conversation overheard on a subway, a thought that pops into my head while out kayaking on a pond. One thing I do know is that when I’m working on a book and I need to figure something out, a walk is required! Big plot problems call for a hike. My favorite place to hike is on the beautiful Land Bank trails of Martha’s Vineyard.
What's something that surprised you recently (in a good way)?
I was in a meeting at a library recently and suddenly found myself flooded by memories of going to the library as a child. I had forgotten how completely at home I feel in libraries. The smell of the books, the look of the shelves, the buzz of the lighting, it’s part of my deepest memories. That surprised me in a good way!
Where do you write?
I have an office in my home. It’s on the third floor — intended as a guest bedroom—and it’s perfect because it gives me solitude plus it has a nearby bathroom, two essentials for a writer’s office! For several years I shared an office in a church with three lovely writers. That was where I realized how often I read aloud when I’m working (who knew!). So for me, a private space is important.
What/who makes you laugh? Why?
My husband, my daughters, my son-in-law, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, Philip Roth, John Irving, Elizabeth Strout, Glenn Eichler, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and more! I was at a reading last night where Augusten Burroughs made me laugh so hard I almost cried. I love to laugh and I’m happy to do so at every opportunity!
Favorite fictional character ever?
Only one favorite? I can’t! How about two? Jay Gatsby and Sophie Portnoy (in case Sophie’s not your favorite, she’s Portnoy’s mother in Portnoy’s Complaint). Oh, how fun it would be to get those two together!
What do you want your readers to know about you and your books?
I love when I’m in the middle of writing a book. At that point I can slip in and disappear into the world I’ve created and truly feel as if the characters are alive. Luckily, when I come out of the world of my fiction I’m often delighted to find there are real humans present, namely my family, who I love to spend time with!
What are you working on?
I’m working hard on a new novel and this is what I can share: until I’ve fully worked out what my book is about, until the characters are totally alive to me, until I know not only how their story ends but what the story is saying at its core, I can’t talk about it. I’ve tried but what happens when I talk about a novel too soon is it ends up not making sense to anyone, including me! I’m not being coy when I say, I can’t talk about my new book. Over time I’ve learned that I need to protect the unfinished story the same way you would protect a new puppy who hasn’t gotten his shots yet!
"Delightful, heart-wrenching, and honest, this book is a lovely examination of memory, the past, and how, despite flaws, the strength of family ties remains throughout years of tumult and misunderstanding."
"A consistently compelling and entertaining read from cover to cover, Sisters One, Two, Three clearly showcases author Nancy Star's genuine flair for deftly created characters and original storytelling.”
—Midwest Book Review
"An emotionally gripping portrait of a family's secrets and confessions…Star brings all the members of the Tangle clan to life—these are multifaceted, complex characters with remarkable depth and nuance. Readers will enjoy seeing the childhood quirks resurface in the Tangle adults, and fans of Jamie Brenner and Elizabeth Kelly will adore this compelling multigenerational story.”