Interview with Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

Lorraine Zago Rosenthal is a debut author with Other Words for Love. She has taken the time to share her thoughts with Figment on why she writes, what inspires her, and to share some advice on love and writing.

Why must you write? What would you do if you weren’t a writer? (Or, what was the best job you had before becoming an author?)

I write because I love it! I developed a fondness for books as soon as I learned to read, and I read fiction constantly. After a while, I wanted to create my own characters and stories, so I started writing. I was also highly influenced by film. I’ve always enjoyed watching movies, and from a young age I studied character development, dialogue, and plot—which really helped to develop my skills. I didn’t choose writing—it chose me. It’s just an inherent desire. Although I’ve had other jobs, I was always writing on the side. The best job I’ve had before becoming an author is teaching writing and literature on the college level, which I currently do part-time.

Where is the place in which you most love to write?

I do all of my writing in my home office.

OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE is your first novel. Now that you’re a published author, what’s been the biggest surprise?

What has surprised me most is the overwhelming support I have received from the book blogging community. I was introduced to these amazing people—readers and bloggers— through Twitter. Before that, I had no idea that this community existed. Everyone has been so welcoming, friendly, and supportive of my novel. I’m truly grateful to have met these wonderful people.

You have a playlist for OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE on your blog, and mention that music plays a role in your writing and that you can see how some songs on the playlist match scenes in the book. Did you have the songs picked out before you wrote those scenes or was it a case of serendipity?

Music always inspires my writing. It helps me to feel what my characters are feeling. Other Words for Love is set during the mid-to-late 1980s, and music also helped to transport me to that time. The novel contains some scenes in which the novel’s protagonist (Ari) and her friends dance the night away at a club in Manhattan, and listening to songs from that era made it easy to visualize those scenes. But not all of the music that inspired me is from the 1980s. The playlist is long, it’s eclectic, and it has songs from various decades and different artists. To answer your question, some of the songs had already inspired me before I began writing, and others came about while I was working on the novel.

What is the value of solitude to a writer?

Although nobody wants constant solitude, a lot of it is needed for a writer. It’s important to have time alone to think and to create. Your question reminds me of one of my blog posts that I titled “Recipe for a Novel,” in which I wrote: “Have you ever read Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own? In it, Woolf discusses the importance of a writer having his/her personal space…I’m quoting her because in the literal sense, it is very important for a writer to have a “sanctuary.” You should have somewhere to go—a home office, a couch in a quiet corner, a seat under a leafy tree—that is your space alone, that’s off-limits to others while you’re working, where you can write undisturbed and without distractions. And make sure those around you respect your space.”

What advice would you give to a young person, or your younger self, about love?

My advice is that while it’s great to have and to enjoy a relationship, don’t turn it into your main focus. Be responsible within that relationship, and put yourself first. Never let anyone or anything stand in the way of what you want to achieve. And always remember that if a relationship doesn’t live up to your expectations, everything happens for a reason. Learn and grow from the experience, and move on to better things.

Are you working on a new book? If so, can you tell us a bit about it?

I’m currently working on another YA novel that is set in NYC. The story and main character are different from Other Words for Love, but the novel also deals with love, family, and other relationships.

In closing, what single best piece of advice would you give to a hopeful young writer, in a sentence?

Work hard, be a professional, believe in yourself, and never give up.

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