Today, we welcome debut author Robin Yeatman to Novels Alive. Our intrepid reviewer, Amy Wilson, posited several probing questions for Ms. Yeatman regarding her new literary satire novel, Bookworm.
What was the source of inspiration for Bookworm?
BOOKWORM was inspired by two things that fascinate me: the complexity of domestic relationships and the power of fantasy.
I had two ideas. The first was the idea of a woman whose unhappiness in her marriage pushes her to escape (mentally? corporeally?) through her fantasy life. The second was the idea that a woman could, after seeing a total stranger, be convinced that he is her soul mate.
This led me to explore a few questions: How does fantasy life affect real life? And, is the fantasy ever as good as we think it will be?
Let’s talk main characters. On the outside, Victoria and Eric have created a perfect life together that is really only a facade. Why does Victoria go along with it?
Good question. Some people might say, what’s all the fuss? Why doesn’t Victoria just get divorced? But anyone who’s been married (or divorced) knows it’s never quite that easy.
Because Victoria doesn’t have a lot of support, she feels trapped. After previous failed relationships and a lackluster career, she succumbs to parental pressure and settles down with someone who will make her life look good on paper. At some level she’s bought into what she’s being told: she’s lucky to have this life, and she should just get on board.
Also, she’s deeply fearful of taking the next step. She’s used to making herself small. It’s so much easier to play nice and to escape in her mind.
Victoria escapes her life through the pages of books. What is the significance of the titles mentioned throughout the story?
The novels Victoria reads are like easter eggs, and were a fun way for me to reveal her character. She’s a fan of authors she can relate to, such as John Updike (who wrote repeatedly about the challenges of monogamy and married life) and Ottessa Moshfegh (whose protagonist in EILEEN has secret desires and a desperate need to escape from her circumstances). She also reads Patricia Highsmith’s STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, the plot of which echoes in her mind and in the story.
I hope that readers enjoy finding and uncovering the literary easter eggs!
When Victoria sees Luke for the first time, she creates a secret world in her mind. The clinical term is obsessive love disorder. What is the rationale behind this?
Depending on how you read it, the “insta-love” at the start of the novel could be seen as Victoria’s fertile fantasy life in action. Or, a profound intuition. Either way, she’s convinced of a deep connection, and it’s the place where she goes to feel good, wanted, seen, accepted. She chases it like an addiction. She believes Luke holds the key to her happiness.
Only time will tell if she’s right! Time, or 288 pages.
Throughout the course of the book, Victoria appears to have out-of-body experiences. Could you elaborate on this?
The bi-locating episodes are a little mysterious, and a lot seductive. I leave it up to the reader to decide. Are these experiences real? Are they in her mind? One thing I will say: they are very real to Victoria.
Relationships play an important role throughout the book. How do the relationships impact the character development?
Relationships are the driving force in this book. However, they are precarious and conditional. There are roles to play and rules to follow—or else. So, the characters do a lot of sneaking around, whether in secret thoughts, or in real life.
At the heart of it, they are all after connection, and go to varying lengths to attain it. Some go farther than others….
Victoria seemed obsessed with finding ways to kill Eric and then imagining the aftermath. What does this say about their relationship? Was this a bit of foreshadowing?
Sadly, it isn’t saying anything good about their relationship! I think it’s telling that Victoria sees Eric’s death as her only way out. It shows how unempowered she is, that she doesn’t feel she has a voice.
This is a life and death story, right from the beginning, even if none of the characters know it.
When readers finish the story, what message do you hope they received?
Be careful what you wish for….
What’s your next project?
Well, without giving too much away (I tend towards intensely private when it comes to my writing), I’ll say I’m currently working on a story that explores rising tensions in a marriage due to opposing aesthetics—and a house at the center of it all.
Publication Date: February 14, 2023
A wickedly funny debut novel—a black comedy with a generous heart that explores the power of imagination and reading—about a woman who tries to use fiction to find her way to happiness.
Victoria is unhappily married to an ambitious and controlling lawyer consumed with his career. Burdened with overbearing in-laws, a boring dead-end job she can’t seem to leave, and a best friend who doesn’t seem to understand her, Victoria finds solace from the daily grind in her beloved books and the stories she makes up in her head. One day, in a favorite café, she notices an attractive man reading the same talked-about bestselling novel that she is reading. A woman yearning for her own happy ending, Victoria is sure it’s fate. The handsome book lover must be her soul mate.
There’s only one small problem. Victoria is already married. Frustrated, and desperate to change her life, Victoria retreats to the dark places in her mind and thinks back to all the stories she’s ever read in hopes of finding a solution. She begins to fantasize about nocturnal trysts with café man, and imaginative ways (poisoned pickles were an inspired choice in Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres) of getting rid of the dread husband.
It’s all just harmless fantasy born of Victoria’s fevered imagination and her books—until, one night, fiction and reality blur and suddenly it seems Victoria is about to get everything she’s wished for . . . .
Robin Yeatman is a shameless bookworm who was born in Calgary and raised in Vancouver, Canada. Educated in British Columbia and England, she studied literature, trained as a broadcast journalist, and worked in radio as a morning show producer. After a dozen years in Montreal, she now lives in Vancouver. Bookworm is her first book.
Such a cool premise for a book – can’t wait to read it!