With the release of her most recent novel, Motherland, August 14, 2012 we wanted to know more about Amy Sohn, the Park Slope writer and mom of a seven-year-old daughter. In her newest book, Sohn, who has written four novels and has also contributed to pieces for New York magazine and The New York Times as well as TV Pilots for such networks as HBO, Fox and ABC, writes about five New York City parents whose lives unravel one summer in Cape Cod, Los Angeles, the Village and Park Slope. Read on as she talks about her life as a novelist, about life as a New York City parent and why you should read her book before Labor Day.
Red Tricycle: What (or who) inspired you most in creating the cast of characters in Motherland?
Amy Sohn: My daughter entered kindergarten a few years ago and I was fascinated by the social drop-off scene at school. I wanted to write about the moment in time that the child(ren) are in school all day, and if it’s public school, the investment in real estate has finally paid off in the form of free education, and the parents wonder if they’re happy. Is the bourgeois ideal really ideal? What happens when the over-investment in family backfires and the couple realizes they are on treacherous romantic ground? It’s a rich and emotionally packed point in time when the baby/toddler years are over and the parents finally get a chance to breathe and do some introspection. It leads to some nostalgia, some regret, and for my characters, to chaos, infidelity, and sex and drug addiction.
RT: Did you spend a lot of time writing Motherland in a Park Slope café (or two)?
AS: I am not a café writer. I sit at a laptop and get depressed by everyone else at their laptops ignoring each other and I think the world is coming to an end. I do occasionally do hand-editing at Cafe Martin on 5th Avenue but the conversation is so stimulating and so “Cheers”-like that it is hard to focus. At night while finishing this novel I would do hand-editing at the ramen place on 5th Avenue between Garfield and First while eating a late dinner.
RT: What are the restaurants you frequent most?
AS: Of course Al di la, Bar Corvo (Crown Heights), Franny’s (Prospect Heights), Giuseppina’s and Convivium Osteria.
RT: Any kids’ menus you think go beyond the usual mac-n-cheese/chicken finger offerings?
AS: I love Bark, Sweet Melissa for ice cream (takeout only), and my daughter goes to Moxie Spot with her grandma. I also like Teresa’s in Brooklyn Heights for pierogis, and Purity for an after-school carb overload. She eats at ‘Snice at least once a week. For dinner, we prefer to eat at home together most nights. It’s more fun for everyone involved, though I do have fantasies of taking her to the Russian Tea Room tea this holiday season.
RT: What’s your favorite way to spend the day with your daughter?
AS: The Brooklyn Public Library fountains, Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, JJ Byrne playground (now that it’s renovated), the GAP greenmarket in winter for a hot cider. I love going to Governor’s Island with her (math room, Children’s Museum crafting and claymation, and the quiet courtyard with rocking chairs straight ahead of the Brooklyn Ferry). We also enjoy the Manhattan Children’s Theater and the improv group for kids at Gallery Players.
RT: Does your family have any back-to-school traditions?
AS: This year it will be Rockaway Beach. Both my husband and daughter surf (she just started this summer) and when I’m taking a break from working on my next novel I’ll be joining them. Love the food there. We also had friends who were members of the Atlantic Beach club and spent time with them there last summer, where we saw a surprising number of brownstone Brooklynites mixed in with the Long Islanders.
RT: Where do you like to score your back-to-school gear?
AS: There’s the annual trek to Staples on 4th Avenue for the ridiculous number of supplies we are now required to buy not only for our kids but for the classroom. We try to turn it into a social outing with lunch afterward at ‘Snice.
RT: What do you love most about being a NYC parent?
AS: I love walking with my child as opposed to driving, and I love the cultural offerings. She sees so many plays, just as I did as a child growing up in the seventies, but back then I was often dragged to murder mysteries by my dad because there wasn’t that much stuff for kids. I still hold my ears every time a gun is onstage in a play, re-traumatized.
RT: What do you like least about being a NYC parent?
AS: The status obsession.
Do you plan to read Amy’s new book? If you have read it, let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
— Lambeth Hochwald