Infidelity, obsession, secrets, family expectations: These are just a few of the issues author Randy Susan Meyers tackles in her second novel, The Comfort of Lies, in which the lives of three seemingly unconnected women prove more intertwined than they could have ever imagined. In this Zola Q&A, Meyers discusses why deception is more a part of our culture than ever and offers tips on how to tell a well-crafted lie.
Zola: Between Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’o, lies seem more a part of our culture than ever these days. Why?
Randy Susan Meyers: We’ve probably come too far since the days of “Honest Abe” expectations and George Washington confessing to chopping down the cherry tree lessons. Too many of our politicians and other public figures have been caught in huge, shameful and dangerous lies. (Think of the cover-up of child abuse in the Catholic Church.) This can’t help but engender deceits big and small. There are almost no surprises left after a lie such as Bernie Madoff’s.
Zola: One of the book’s central themes is the balance of career and family. Can you describe your own experience with this juggling act? Does having the profession of “author” make it more or less difficult?
RSM: My children are now grown, so though the job of mother never ends (and one is eternally only as happy as one’s unhappiest child) I’m juggling far less. When my children were young (and I was usually working two jobs as well as being a mom—and trying to cram in writing) life was a constant round of undone and nothing-ever-enough. Whichever part of my life was well tended (children, work, romance, friends, helping out family) the other was less so. Certain parts of my life just slid away–making good regular meals, keeping up with the laundry, the house, decent haircuts, my eyebrows—you name it.
I don’t think being an author makes it more or less difficult—I think our society is hard on parents. Having it all is a crock, especially if you also want to include regular sleep in your routine.
Zola: There is a marked contrast between the novel’s characters before they became mothers and after. You have two children yourself. How did motherhood change you?
RSM: How did motherhood not change me? My first daughter was born when I was 21, I don’t remember being an adult without a child. I remember sitting on the bed, holding my 3-day-old baby girl and thinking, “nothing will ever be the same.” And I was right. There is always a part of one on alert, no matter the age of one’s child. Before caller-ID one could never leave a ringing phone unanswered. I would never ignore a call from either daughter; a mother is on duty 24-7 for the rest of her life.
The shift is so seismic, that I can either write 100,000 words, or simply say this: for me, having children meant donating a portion of my brain to them in perpetuity.
Zola: The book shifts third-person perspectives between three women and a man. What was most challenging writing from a male point-of-view?
RSM: Actually, I love writing from a male point-of-view (in my next book, a man is one of the main characters.) I find when writing ‘male’ I am freer in as much as I don’t find myself worried about representing anyone, not myself, not womankind, not motherhood. I can move into a place of total freedom, removing the ‘reader over my shoulder’ much faster than when I write ‘female.’
Of course, there are things that are simpler when writing female—tops being when writing about sex. Wrapping my head around the difference in urges, that was an interesting challenge.
Zola:The Comfort of Lies is your second novel. Was it any easier than writing the first? Did you do anything differently process-wise this time around?
RSM: I was lucky, because I began my second novel (in a very early draft form) before my first book sold. That was the fortunate part. Plus, I was able to learn from whatever mistakes I made previously, by knowing better what was important for structuring it (i.e.: outlines, etc.) my book, and what foundations I could build that would make a huge difference when revising my novel. There are so many things that one thinks about, so many ideas, that you think you’ll remember when you finish your draft, but unless you write them down in a ‘findable’ fashion, you simply won’t.
So, the writing was easier. However, the time and emotions involved were more difficult. So much of the energy formerly spent on writing and imagination was now spent on promotion, obsessing over reviews, hourly Googling, Facebooking, Tweeting—the chattering of the online world does not mix with writing. If I hadn’t discovered a program called “freedom” I’d have been lost.
Zola: What’s the one public lie that’s shocked you most?
RSM: The lie about the “weapons of mass destruction” that engendered the war in Iraq probably shook me harder than any other, because of the destruction wrought in the name of that story.
Zola: The book suggests lying causes more trouble that it’s worth. But if someone feels they have to, any tips on how to be convincing?
RSM: Hmm… now you’re really in my wheelhouse.
1. Keep it simple. When asked “why” or “what happened” give only one so-called-fact, not a basketful.
2. Don’t get belligerent or defensive. When a wo/man says, “why don’t you call so-and-so and see” then you can be guaranteed s/he’s lying.
3. Stay calm. People telling the truth don’t get hysterical. Liars do.
4. Don’t cover your mouth with your hands when telling a lie. It’s a give-away.
5. Never repeat the question directed at you, such as:
Her: “Did you bounce a check?”
Him: “Did I bounce a check?”
Repeating the question is a dead giveaway that the liar is buying time.
This article was updated on September 29, 2014
This article originally appeared on Zola Books.