An Interview with Alon Preiss, author of the new novel, In Love With Alice (Chickadee Prince Books, 2017)
December 6, 2016
What led you to write this story?
It was just an idea. I had this idea, a couple of decades ago, about a married couple torn apart by circumstances and divorced now for many years, meeting and falling in love again after they have remarried, and committing adultery against their new spouses. But to do this in a way that everyone in the story would be sort of … not exactly….
That’s right. If I’ve done this right, you’re absolutely sympathetic to everyone. The old wife, the new wife. You want everyone to be happy, even though they cannot all wind up happy. Because, in real life, everyone wants to marry Zelda. And in real life, not everyone gets to marry Zelda. And then once you marry Zelda, it’s not really what you’d hoped or expected. Not all it seemed from the outside looking in, being married to Zelda.
Everyone in the book is treacherous.
In a way. When Maurow kisses his ex-wife, Harriet, for the first time in the book, he says that he did something wrong, but that Harriet didn’t. Only one of them had done something wrong. Then Harriet says, not something so very wrong, and Maurow agrees, not the worst thing that someone could do. In today’s world, this is almost like being absolutely upstanding and ethical. So if I’ve done my job properly, you kind of accept them sympathetically in these terms, the way they see themselves. As sort of excusable, sort of not-horrible people.
Where did the idea for the character of Alice come from?
I had a conversation a long time ago, back in the very early 1990s, with someone who had built a real estate business, very massively leveraged, in the 1980s, and then lost everything in the collapse at the end of the decade. He had not paid much attention to anything else other than building this failed business, and that was literally all he had on his resume. Of course he was nothing like Alice, he was just someone in a predicament. But I gave Alice that predicament, and giving a woman that predicament made the whole story very different, and her personality just grew from there out of the situation. First, she is someone who is very capable, very accomplished, brilliant, with that particular sort of beauty and charisma that you need to succeed in business, extremely proud, and then also she is someone who is utterly crushed. And then what does she do? And not just what does she do … who is she?
You have said that the people she loves, and who love her, are situational.
Yes. We humans are mostly evolution, and after that we are situational.
This book is sympathetic to the rich.
I hope not!
Look, I suppose there are people in this book who have a certain amount of money.
To say the least.
It doesn’t mean that I am sympathetic to the rich. You might find some of their dreams and hopes to be misguided though stupidly sympathetic, but I am not sympathetic to them as wealthy people or sympathetic to wealth accumulation as an activity. People should not be rich. Being rich is wrong. There is no reason or excuse to be rich.
This book is less political than your first novel, A Flash of Blue Sky.
I would disagree. In my Alice story, the forces of international politics bring one couple together; a meaningless political power struggle and pointless military coup splits up another couple. It’s always there, these ideological struggles, these secular religions.
Real religion plays no role in the lives of these people.
That’s right, on the surface they are all completely rational and secular, but we never really escape it, right? At one point, Alice thinks about someone who is up in Heaven, and then she stops and reminds herself, There is no Heaven, and she wonders how she could have forgotten something like this, which she was completely sure about. But it seems wrong to her that this person who she is thinking about … it is just wrong that this person is not in Heaven. It is impossible to grasp, even for those of us who are absolutely secular and absolutely non-believers. The insignificance of being one person in a universe of two trillion galaxies, the certainty of the eternity of nothingness, the genuine pointlessness and randomness of the evolutionary sentient somethingness that follows and then precedes the two bookmarks of nothingness that define us. Even non-believers catch ourselves accidentally believing, just out of desperation, when our guard is down. How could I forget Heaven does not exist!
That is pessimistic.
In Love With Alice by Alon Preiss will be published by Chickadee Prince Books on May 1, 2017 in trade paperback.