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Lorrie Moore
There are several strong plot strands in the novel and I wondered what had been your first idea - whether it was Tassie's story, Sarah and Edward's terrible back-story or, possibly, the adoption of a mixed race child?
At this point it's difficult to recall what came first--or if any one thing did at all. Usually a writer gets her energy from several narrative threads that have converged in the mind and set off feeble little sparks--nothing too dangerous. Certainly I had Tassie, Sarah, and Mary-Emma from the beginning, as well as Tassie's family at home. I wanted a governess novel but also a portrait of the American midwest that would animate what I think of as all the midwest's interesting contradictions and unexpectedness.
Tassie is a wonderful creation. She's at a stage in her life which most of us will recognise - when she is sometimes behind the gate on the stairs and sometimes firmly with the grown-ups downstairs. What made you want to write about her?
I wanted a young woman who was simultaneously rejecting the place she'd grown up and returning to it in some way--but I wanted to follow her through a very scenic route. She is twenty, which is an adult, but she turns twenty-one in the course of the novel which in the US is the official age of adulthood.
The novel begins in the autumn of 2001, soon after 9/11. Why did you set it in this very particular period?
It takes place mostly in the year 2002, between 9/11 and the Iraq War. I thought that was a very interesting year in history, full of a kind of sinister silence and passivity.
Which books would you like to see on the shelf next to A GATE AT THE STAIRS?
Well, I alphabetize my books, so on one side would be Brian Moore and on the other side would be Susanna Moore. That is, if, ideally, my house were in order.
Which authors have influenced your writing?
Oh, I hope all of them, but I would hate to name names lest the living ones feel blamed.
Lorrie Moore

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