New York City looms large in the life of novelist Allison Lynn, who moved with her family to Indianapolis from Manhattan in 2010. It also has a large presence in her new novel, The Exiles, though it is largely set elsewhere.
Nate and Emily, the two main characters, are moving from New York to Newport, R.I. with their ten-month-old son, exiles from a Manhattan lifestyle they can no longer afford. Almost as soon as they arrive, their Jeep, tightly packed with all their possessions, is stolen. In the aftermath, the couple must deal with the secrets they've been hiding from each other and themselves.
Lynn, along with her husband, Michael Dahlie, will take part in the straight-forwardly named Panel of Award-Winning Novelists Who Just Happen to Be JCC Members today at 7 p.m. Dahlie is an assistant professor of English at Butler University; Lynn teaches in that school's graduate creative writing program. They have a five-year-old son and live in Meridian-Kessler. I talked with Lynn at Butler's Efroymson Center for Creative Writing.
NUVO: Did it take a long time to write The Exiles?
Allison Lynn: It did. The first novel [Now You See It, published in 2004] took me about two and a half to three years which at the time seemed really long. The Exiles takes place over one three day weekend. That's a really contained time period; I figured that it would take me no time to write this. It came out nine years after my first novel. But it was really six years or so of intense writing.
NUVO: One quote leapt out at me from your first book, "The hard and true fright he felt, the very real terror was how easy it was to lose himself so close to home." That seemed to have some weight in The Exiles too.
Lynn: You're the first person to bring that up, but that sentence almost describes the entire plot of The Exiles. These two characters living in New York have lost who they are. Years before I even started writing this book, this friend of mine had been moving to Boston. She had arrived there with her significant other when their car with all of its belongings was stolen. And the house they were supposed to be moving into fell through.
In the back of my mind, for years I've had that concept about being someplace unfamiliar, without any of your things, stripped of all your material goods - things we define ourselves by too much these days. And I though it might be freeing to have some days out of yourself.
I created these characters, and as it played out, to my surprise, it was anything but freeing. Absent all their material goods and money, all of that emotional and psychological baggage they've been carrying around comes out in relief.
Because of all the trappings of New York and how busy their lives were - and how fabulous their lives were in a lot of ways - they completely lost sight of what was going on in their relationship. And that's so easy. I think that happens in so many lives.
NUVO: You have a passion for abstract sculptors like Walter De Maria and Richard Serra...
Lynn: My whole day is spent with words and in my own head. Sometimes when I need a break, nothing revitalizes me more than looking at great art or architecture. And especially the abstract - the paintings that you can look at forever and get that kind of visual awakening.
NUVO: Are you at work now on anything new?
Lynn: I just started a new project. It's very different than my first two novels. The characters in those novels come from similar milieu. All the four main characters are New Yorkers who are all a little bit misfits. None of them fit into their social scenes. They're relatively traditional novels. But the new project, which I'm not saying that much about, is the first thing I've ever written that I'm not sure will work. It's much more experimental. It involves a few different time periods. And I'm actually doing quite a bit of research now that I haven't had to do before.