Jane: A group of people meet at university in the UK in the 1980s. Half are American. Half are English. They live together at university. They become best friends. They swear that they're going to be friends forever and ever. Of course, life gets in the way. They graduate. One of them is harboring this great secret. She really has to withdraw from the others. We follow them individually throughout their lives. Evvie is a model who then is in an abusive marriage and a single mother. We have Topher who’s a soap actor who is gay but has tremendous issues with intimacy. Then we have Maggie. All Maggie has ever wanted is a big country house filled with animals and children. She doesn't get to have the life that she wants. We follow them throughout the course of their lives. Then at their thirtieth reunion, by which time they’ve all completely lost touch, they all show up at their thirtieth reunion. Within minutes, it’s as if time has stopped. They’ve been swept back to those early days. What starts as a fancy, “Hey, wouldn't it be great if we lived together?” becomes a reality. They all move into together. Of course, there is still this secret from the past that is going to show up and threaten to explode and destroy everything that they’ve created.
Ben: The inner critic, usually it comes from a good place, which is an instinct for self-preservation. That's really useful. The problem is that you can't be safe your whole life or else you don't have any life. Part of the process of maturation is figuring out which of those things is right for you and which of those is wrong for you. When you think of the world as dangerous, then you can't be creative. You can't play. You can't explore. Most doors are two-way doors. You could walk in and walk out.
Ricardo: How I map out a story like this is basically on a back of a napkin. I'm doing storyboarding out of what I think are the important beats. In terms of illustrating itself, the way I work best is actually working with models or working with actual children. The illustrations in this book [Party] are pretty -- maybe photorealistic is a way to describe it. They look like actual children. It’s not really stylized. The kids in the story are actually some friends of mine that I did a series of photoshoots with and tried to storyboard out certain actions and emotions.
Jamaica: I didn't know that people still wrote serious literature. I thought they just wrote penguin detective stories and romances. I didn't know that there was such a thing as writing. I must have always wanted to be an artist or something because I thought I would be a photographer. I studied photography. I began to write out the photographs. It occurred to me then that I'm a writer. I quit the college I was going to in New Hampshire, returned to New York, and started to write. The funny thing about being in America, at least in those days -- I don't know, anymore, what America is like. In those days, whatever you said you were, people said, “Oh, yes. That's what you are because you said so.” I said I was a writer. People said yes. One thing led to the other. Then I started to write for The New Yorker. It’s an improbable tale, but all too true. Every word of it is true.
Heather: For twenty years, I've defended doctors and hospitals when they get sued. While it’s been a privilege and an honor, it’s also very stressful and hard in that trials are a zero-sum game. Someone wins. Someone loses. That means that sometimes it can get quite aggressive. I was finding that during those times of trial, I wanted to maintain who I was and be true to the choices that I've made about who I was, even when things get hard and were at the height of the conflict. I’ve found that some of the ways that I could do that in the courtroom also applied outside the courtroom. We are all our strongest advocates and the best person to protect and champion ourselves. If you can take the tools of a trial lawyer and apply them to life so that you can do those things, I think it would be helpful. I wrote the book to help people be able to do that.
Karen: I had this amazing, magical day in my twenties. I had gone to a party like the one that opens the book, this literary crowd, and met a guy, an artist. Soon after, we had this amazing day at the beach, the ocean. It was deserted and after a storm. A buoy from a lobster pod was quite close to shore. We danced around in waves. We pulled it in, very much like I described in the book. We took the lobsters. Being in our twenties, we didn't think that this is poaching. [laughter] We walked carrying the lobsters by the tail back to his house. We had dinner. Many years later, this guy died. Many years after that, I wanted to capture this day in writing because it was very magical at the time and became more special later. I had lost touch with him. I wanted to write about it.
Madeleine: With the publication of this book, I was afraid that some people would feel resentment toward me in some way that I'm writing about a world that they're still in. There's been a lot of support coming from my peers. I passed a couple of them on the street the other day. They said, “We’re so excited for you. We’re going to be at all the signings.” Every preorder matters. They're like, “We preordered it. What's my character’s name?” I realized that people want their stories told. It’s a big thing in life. You want to be heard. You want your experience shared. They feel like I'm representing the investment banking experience of our peers.
Elissa: I actually recently described Motherland to someone as a story of what would happen if Anna Wintour gave birth to the Susie character from Mrs. Maisel and the latter had to come back and be the caregiver for Anna. Please forgive me, Anna. I doubt that you will hear me saying these words, but you who knows? I don't know. Motherland is a memoir of moral obligation and certainly a memoir of love. It’s a story about what happens when we are called to make a decision about coming back to the fray, coming back into a relationship from which we have painstakingly extricated ourselves after a very long, arduous and difficult relationship. Do we do it? Do we not do it?