A Conversation with Eliza Kennedy


I reviewed I Take You, by Eliza Kennedy on Tuesday, and here’s a conversation to tell you a little more about her book:

When were you first inspired to write I Take You?
I was at the gym, in a very bad mood. (Hate the gym.) My mind, in its gym-induced agony and boredom, cast back to an effort I’d made years ago to write a novel about a wedding. I was thinking about why that book had failed when a question popped into my head: What if the bride didn’t want to get married? It was followed by another question: Why would a bride not want to get married? And finally, the answer: Because she loves to sleep around. I was electrified! I raced home and wrote the first chapter that afternoon. Ten months later, the book was finished. This is the only good thing that has ever happened to me at a gym. Ever.

Describe the protagonist, Lily Wilder.
Lily is maybe best described as a great lover of life. She loves good conversation. She loves her high-powered job, her complicated family. She loves New York City, her adopted home. She loves to go out with her friends. She loves to drink. A lot. And above all, she loves men. There are so many men in the world! Hot, witty, fascinating men. Lily loves to meet these men, to banter and flirt with them, and, of course, to sleep with them. Whenever she pleases, as often as she pleases, in as many different ways as she pleases. But she’s getting married in a week. So this is a problem.

You and Lily both live in New York and worked as big-firm lawyers. Any other similarities?
Alas, no. If I were Lily, I wouldn’t have written a book. I’d be too busy getting lit and sleeping around. However, I do think that if the world were a little bit different—if girls weren’t bombarded with mixed messages about assertiveness and femininity, if our culture weren’t so schizophrenic about sexuality, if women weren’t subtly and not-so-subtly encouraged to be the objects of other people’s lust rather than the subjects of their own—I might be more like Lily. Lots of women might be more like her, in the ways that count: confident, unashamed and unapologetic in fulfilling their desires.

Where did Lily’s character come from?
I honestly have no clue where she came from—the deepest, darkest recesses of my warped subconscious? She seeks maximal pleasure, all the time. She says and does exactly what she wants, regardless of the consequences. Now that we’ve found each other, I sometimes entertain myself in dull situations by imagining what Lily would do. This is not without its dangers.

What was your grand plan when you first set out to write this novel?
My goal from the outset was to write a fun, entertaining book about a free-spirited woman who has no business getting married. But when I was about two-thirds of the way through, I realized I could add a little substance to the froth—that I could use Lily to talk about bigger issues, such as monogamy and female sexuality, friendship and marriage and family. That layer of the book came fairly late.

Much like the nuptials in I TAKE YOU, your own Ket West wedding was a bit of a near disaster. Tell us about it!
Our disasters were more practical than existential, fortunately. A planning visit was cut short when the state ordered a mandatory evacuation in the face of a looming hurricane. On the day itself, my maid of honor missed her plane and arrived only moments before the ceremony. My hair was styled into a freakishly hard helmet that would have deflected rocks. (Seriously. I have photos.) One of our readers suffered chest pains and spent the ceremony in the hospital. Best of all? A drunk family member had to be physically restrained from assaulting the DJ. She is now an ex-family member. But everybody has stories like these, right? After all, a wedding is simply a foretaste of marriage itself: beautiful, infuriating, and subject to forces well beyond our control.

Tell us about some of the supporting characters.
I just had to imagine the kind of people Lily would have come from and the kind she would surround herself with. So she has a bevy of strong female relatives, such as her outspoken, irascible grandmother and a hard-charging politician stepmother. She also has (surprise, surprise) a gregarious libertine of a father. Lily’s best friend, Freddy, is both a willing accomplice in some of her more questionable escapades, and a gentle scold who does her best to help Lily avert total disaster. Will is the one character who doesn’t quite fit: he’s so kind and polite and upstanding and good. Is he what Lily aspires to? Is he the type of man she secretly wants, or the one she thinks she should want? Or is he, perhaps, not all that he seems . . . ?

Lily’s experiences touch on larger issues, such as the nature of choice, the implications of desire, cultural expectations of monogamy, and the pursuit of pure fun. What’s your take on some of these issues?
The questions a novelist raises are just that: questions. My goal was to use Lily and her predicament to raise them, but not necessarily to answer them. Humans are an inherently promiscuous species trapped in a culture that worships monogamy. But instead of thinking hard about how to reconcile those warring impulses before we join souls in blessed communion with one person, forever, we obsess about the dress and the venue and the band and the guest list. This is understandable, but completely insane. Lily does a lot of things wrong (a lot of things), but at least she’s stepping back from the wedding madness to question who she is and what she wants before she walks down the aisle.

Any thoughts about who should play Lily in a movie version?
To hell with the Deep Thoughts—bring on Hollywood! This is a topic of heated debate in my household. I can think of a dozen actresses with great comic timing who could capture Lily’s signature blend of sexy chaos, poised professionalism, and genuine heart. I don’t think conventional attractiveness is a requirement—I’ve always envisioned her as having more charisma than flat-out beauty. But Alec Baldwin has to play her boss, Philip. Otherwise, I can’t see any point.

What’s your favorite cocktail?
The Gershwin at the Raines Law Room on West 17th Street: 2 oz. gin, 3/4 oz. lemon juice, 1/2 oz. ginger syrup, 1/2 oz. simple syrup, shaken with ice and poured into a champagne coupe, then spritzed with rosewater. Drink two and call me in the morning. Actually, drink two and call me right away. I’ll be there in ten minutes. And I’ll bring Lily.

About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

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