Susannah Marren is originally from Long Beach Island, New Jersey. She currently lives in Manhattan with her family and still spends her summers on the Jersey Shore. Between the Tides is her first novel.
A Conversation with Susannah Marren
1. What inspired you to write Between the Tides?
I have long been interested in the female experience in our society—as a mother, a daughter, a wife. I’ve also been intrigued by the dangerous elements in certain female friendships and how they play out. I believe that environment informs our relationships. The idea of city life versus a suburban existence and the pitfalls and rewards inherent in both became a theme of the book. The fact that a wife/mother (Lainie) did not fit in either place was very compelling for me. The question lingers: what is the price of motherhood?
2. The yin and yang of Lainie and Jess’ friendship and long history of competition was convincing. They seem to be ‘toxic’ friends; is that what you were going for?
For Between the Tides I liked the idea of an ongoing competition — one that invoked events of those early years at the shore for Lainie and Jess. I carried that competition into adulthood—motherhood, life in Elliot, career (or lack thereof) and marriage. How many of us get to revisit such a friendship and still be in the game? While writing this I thought a great deal about the summer friends of my youth and how the ‘it’ girls were not always the ones everyone followed later in life.
3. The voices of Lainie and Jess are distinctive and both narrators are “types”. Why did you tell the story this way?
I thought that some readers will identify with Jess and others with Lainie and perhaps ask the question, am I a Lainie or a Jess? I was in both characters’ heads and I felt the friction between them combined with the intensity of their attachment.
4. Did you find it easy to switch from Lainie sections to Jess sections?
I found it fluid in terms of Lainie’s point of view and Jess’s point of view. I thought about both characters for months. I had always known how the book would end—since the earliest drafts—and for that reason, I was able to shift gears as the story unfolded. Jess is tough minded and a survivor—that’s very obvious from the outset. Lainie, in an otherworldly way, is a survivor too.
5. Did you purposely leave the ending of Between the Tides open to interpretation? What are you asking the reader to consider?
Yes, I did leave the ending open to the reader’s interpretation. Part of what I’m asking the reader to consider is that not everyone fits into a societally prescribed role. What constitutes family—what is fictive family? I’m asking if we are able to forgive and understand those who don’t embrace motherhood or wifehood.
6. Do you consider this a romance novel or women’s fiction?
I consider this novel to be a bit of both. Surely there is a romantic element and it is part of the tale. Yet it’s also a story about mothers and daughters, and female friendships—and how singular is the search for happiness.
7. What sorts of fiction and nonfiction do you read? Who are your favorite writers?
I am a fan of both novels and nonfiction. As far as fiction goes, I love the classics, Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann, Jane Austen’s work, the Bronte sisters. For more current novels, Sophie’s Choice by William Styron, The House at Riverton by Kate Morton, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Bellefleur and other fiction by Joyce Carol Oates. When it comes to nonfiction, I love to read about Anne Boleyn, Mary Todd Lincoln, and books about gender roles throughout various cultures.
8. What is your next project?
I’m currently writing a new novel. I’m quite excited about it and very involved with the story.