Channeling a newlywed’s worst nightmare in ‘Forever, Interrupted’

Taylor Jenkins Reid Provided
Taylor Jenkins Reid didn’t pull any punches in her debut novel.
Credit: Mila Shah

“Forever, Interrupted” is every newlywed’s nightmare. Tucked into a blissful new life after marrying your best friend, your new spouse will bike to the corner store to buy you Fruity Pebbles, simply because getting you what you’re craving brings them joy.

In this novel, however, the joy is short-lived: Elsie Porter loses her husband, Ben, nine days after they elope following a whirlwind romance. Ping-ponging between her crippling crawl back to whatever a “normal” life might be and the early days of their courtship, the book is a brisk read despite the heavy subject matter.

In the book, Elsie and her mother-in-law (who Ben procrastinated telling about Elsie’s existence) come to terms with losing him, including whether leaving rancid hot dogs in the fridge honors him. Taylor Jenkins Reid tells us why she chose to wreck her characters’ lives in her debut novel.

How did you get the idea to do this book?

I eloped a couple of years ago, almost five years ago. I only knew my husband for four months before we got married. Obviously getting married in general is a rush of emotions, sort of a crazy time, but to do that with someone you just met, I was very overwhelmed. … [I started thinking,] “What happens if I lose all of this? What happens if he dies?” I just became very, very fearful of something crazy happening and me losing him. Around the same time, I knew I wanted to sit down and start writing a book. My brain had been focused on all of these terrifying things. I thought, “Why don’t I explore this and find out if there’s a story here?”

In what ways did the story, then, parallel your own life?

We told our parents really soon, my mother immediately. She sort of saw it coming. His family knew very, very soon after. He doesn’t have the relationship with his family that Ben has with Susan in the book, where he’s always trying to protect them. … It was completely shocking to them, and it forced all of us to become a family instantly. I think that’s a very interesting dynamic.

The unimaginable sorrow is really vivid. Did you lose someone yourself, or how did you get into that space?

This fear had been so real and almost visceral for me, that getting to those places, writing the scene when she actually loses Ben and it’s all sinking in for her, it was really easy for me to write because it was basically writing my worst fears on paper. These were things that I had mulled over in my head, and they were second nature to me. If Alex was 25 minutes late coming home from something, my brain was already going, “What if this is it? What if it’s happening now?” Getting to those places where she’s realizing what she’s lost was sort of finally letting out all these thing that had been driving me insane. I didn’t sit down to write it to make myself feel better about things I was afraid of. I sat down to write it because I had a good story. When I was done, I definitely had a feeling of, “I’ve let that go.”

So it sounds like writing this helped allay some of your initial fears.

It did. I just assumed when I started to write the book, “OK, this woman loses her husband, and her life is going to be terrible from now into eternity, and nothing is ever going to make her feel better.” That’s what I thought the story I was writing was. As I started to write it … you lose your husband and it’s terrible and it’s awful, but at some point you put two feet on the floor and you get out of bed. That’s what has to happen.

This is your first book. Did anything surprise you about the writing process?

I had this whole idea when I sat down. I was like, “This is going to happen and then this is going to happen and then this is going to happen.” You start writing, and you suddenly realize that all of the things that you thought might happen, that’s not going to work now that you’ve sat down with the character and started to write. You’ve gotten to know her, you’re like, “She would never do this, that would never happen.”

What are you working on next?

“After I Do,” it comes out next summer, and it’s about a married couple that takes a year apart because they’re no longer in love.

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @reporteralison



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Mayor pledges lower greenhouse gas emissions from New…

Just hours before the start of the People’s Climate March on Sunday, and two days ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit, Mayor Bill de…

National

The best places to see the Northern Lights…

A large solar storm hit the Earth's atmosphere and will tonight illuminate the skies with aurora borealis -- also known as the Northern Lights.

Local

Police officer killed Sunday morning Bronx crash, 8…

One NYPD police officer was killed and eight other officers were injured early Sunday morning when the van they were traveling in crashed  in the…

National

Pennsylvania police shooter manhunt near home of suspect's…

A police manhunt intensified on Friday for the gunman who killed an officer and wounded another in an ambush at a Pennsylvania police barracks a week ago.

Television

'How to Get Away with' mischaracterizing Shondra Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes read Alessandra Stanley's New York Times piece about her being "an angry black woman" and "a romance writer" and it did not sit well with her.

Gossip

New nude celebrity selfies leak … and Clay…

A new batch of nude selfies of Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Vanessa Hudgens, Lake Bell and Avril Lavigne hit the web and Clay Aiken has something to say!

Television

James Spader's route to villainy on "The Blacklist"

In honor of the second season premiere of "The Blacklist" tonight, where James Spader plays good guy/bad guy Raymond “Red” Reddington, it’s a good time to look back at Spader’s…

Television

True Detective

NFL

Jay Cutler takes Marc Trestman's coaching to heart

While Jay Cutler turned to an autobiography on the man who would be his head coach, Trestman had personal experience with the player.

NFL

Jets vs. Bears: 3 things to watch

Jets fans likely chalked up Monday's matchup with the Bears as a loss when the NFL schedule came out. But given their team's play so…

NFL

Rashad Jennings carries Giants in first win this…

Rashad Jennings, who came to New York from Oakland last year, by way of Jacksonville, was highly coveted this offseason by general manager Jerry Reese.

NFL

3 things we learned as Giants pick up…

The Giants picked up their first win of the season over the Texans.

Career

Here's how to make the most of visit…

You’re primped, you’re looking polished, you’re prepared with a stack of resumes. Job fair hunters, unite! There are a few things to keep in mind…

Education

Learn how to study effectively and stop cramming…

Picture this: It’s midterm week, and college students everywhere are trying to frantically memorize all of the math formulas, political theories and historical facts that…

Parenting

How motherhood inspired Bethenny Frankel's new book

Bethenny Frankel's new children's book is about how her daughter and dog didn't always get alone.

Parenting

A sneaky way to serve kids fruits and…

"My First Juices and Smoothies" gives smoothie recipes for kids.