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On Fran, the main character...

544 WAV audio file
1.5Mb QuickTime movie

On writing about social issues...

704 WAV audio file
2.1Mb QuickTime movie

On her former job with the New York Times...

384 WAV audio file
1.1 QuickTime movie


  • Born: July 8, 1952, in Philadelphia
  • "One True Thing" (1995)
  • "Object Lessons" (1991)
    Both New York Times bestsellers
  • "Black and Blue" (1998)
  • Previous op-ed columns for
    the New York Times: "Life in the 30s", "About New York"

  • Book

    Quindlen's "Black and Blue"


    Novelist Anna Quindlen is well acquainted with the printed word. A noted novelist, she also spent five years as a critically acclaimed columnist with the New York Times. In 1992 she won a Pulitzer Prize for her commentary for the Times. What do you think of her new book "Black and Blue"? Post your review here.

    From facts to fiction

    Quindlen explores changing identities in "Black and Blue"

    (CNN) -- In her new book "Black and Blue," Anna Quindlen wasn't interested in writing another book on domestic violence. Instead, she used an abusive marriage as a catalyst to explore another theme -- changing identities.

    Quindlen tells the story of a woman who takes her 10 year-old son and disappears from her violent marriage.

    CNN's Bobbie Battista talked with the author about her new book, the joy of making things up, and the movie business.

    BATTISTA: I just finished reading the book ... and it was truly one of those books where I just had to close the cover and think for a few moments because it's a very hard hitting book in a lot of ways. I'm curious as to why you chose this particular subject.

    QUINDLEN: I didn't start out wanting to write a novel about a violent marriage. I really was thinking about the themes of identity, and about the notion of people becoming, in a way, the sum total of everyone that they've loved and lived with and sometimes, lost.

    I began to think about what it would be like to give up one identity and assume another. And, as time went by, I thought that one way to do that would be to look at a woman who is leaving a marriage and taking her child and trying to start a completely new life. And that's where the notion of the violence in the marriage came from.

    BATTISTA: I think it's difficult to find where the voice is in this kind of character and relationship. How do you know how an abused woman feels, and was it difficult to try to imagine or convince the reader that Fran would stay in this kind of relationship?

    QUINDLEN: I think if I'd started out thinking that I was going to assume the voice of an abused woman, I probably would have stopped right there.

    It would have been too hard for me. But I really thought that what I was going to do was write about a woman who is smart, who is capable, who acts as a caregiver for a lot of people around her.

    BATTISTA: It's interesting that Fran disappears through the help of an underground network. Is there such a thing as that?

    QUINDLEN: I have no idea.

    BATTISTA: You just made this up?

    QUINDLEN: I made it up. You know, one of the great things about the work I have now is -- I can make it all up. I make the names up. I make the places up. I make the characters up and I make the situations up.

    BATTISTA: ... Perhaps somebody will adopt that idea for women in this situation. Although I'm sure there are some down sides.

    QUINDLEN: Well, and maybe one already exists. But the one in the book, as you say, is very secretive, takes care of business without any kind of publicity or letting anybody know that they exist. So maybe there is one and we just don't know about it.

    BATTISTA: I'd read your previous book, "One True Thing," which is about a young woman's relationship with her terminally ill mother and what that situation creates.

    Is it -- you seem to choose topics that are -- that deal with social issues as well as family relationships. Am I right? Because that one, it doesn't really deal with mercy killing, but it touches on it.

    QUINDLEN: I think when you're writing about the lives of ordinary people, particularly if you're writing about them in difficult situations, which I think illuminate character ... you inevitably run up against the so-called issues that make up our daily news reports.

    So I think, when you're writing about how parents and children deal with each other under difficult circumstances, for most of us, if we looked at those stories in our own lives, what they would be about, often times, are periods of great illness, or great dislocation and difficulty. And we become part of the issues that some of us are reporting at the same time.

    BATTISTA: Meryl Streep is starring in the movie version of "One True Thing." That's a good thing.

    QUINDLEN: Yes. It's a very good thing. You can't go wrong with that. I mean, the movie wrapped about two weeks ago and it's directed by Carl Franklin, with Renee Zellweger, Meryl, and William Hurt playing the Golden family. And the only bad thing about it is that I know novelists love to complain about the movie versions of their books, and I have the sneaking suspicion that I'm going to have nothing to complain about.

    BATTISTA: Have you not seen the finished product yet?

    QUINDLEN: I haven't. They're still working on it now. It's an October release, but I did go on location to the house in New Jersey where they filmed some of the pivotal scenes, and I can just tell you that watching Renee and Meryl together, you have no doubt that they're mother and daughter, or, for that matter, that Meryl is very, very ill indeed when, without the amazing makeup that they did, she's the picture of health.

    BATTISTA: One last thing, we ask all of our authors what they are reading now.

    QUINDLEN: Right now, I just finished the new Anita Brookner novel called "Visitors" and I'm about halfway through a mystery novel by a wonderful writer named Lori R. King, called "The Moor." And I just put away "Paradise" by Tony Morrison, like most of America.


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