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Laura Blackett and Eve Gleichman on their novel Trust & Safety photo

Eve Gleichman and Laura Blackett have written two of my favorite novels of the last few years—first, The Very Nice Box, and now, Trust & Safety. The former is a literary thriller set at a furniture company bearing a striking resemblance to Ikea, and the latter follows newlyweds chasing dreams of a rural life in the Hudson Valley. After persuading her tech-bro husband to invest in a fixer-upper, Rosie is finally pursuing the life she thinks she wants (based on an Instagram ad). To make ends meet, the couple rents out their dilapidated outbuilding to a queer couple apparently living the dream. Rosie is immediately smitten with Dylan, the studly butch of the polyamorous couple. But of course, appearances can be misleading, and as in their first book, Gleichman and Blackett keep the reveals coming. In addition to their knack for pace and plotting, Gleichman and Blackett consistently write endearing, complex characters in smart, witty prose. Over Google Docs, we discussed Trust & Safety, writing as a duo, and Taylor Hanson in 1997.  

Can you each pick two words to describe your book? 

Laura: Escapist fantasy

Eve: The first thing that came to mind for me was: “Oh, god.”

If your book is adapted, what actor needs to be in it? 

Laura: Well, we made a mood board for Dylan that included Heath Ledger, Taylor Hanson, and Mary Oliver at her butchest.

Eve: I was going to say Taylor Hanson from the year 1997. So I think we’re going to need a time machine. 

I’m curious about the two-person writing process - do you each write different chapters or characters, or how does it work?

Eve: We both write all the characters, and we both write all the chapters, and by the end, ideally, there’s only one voice. I know that clears up nothing. Generally, we start by alternating writing each chapter, but it doesn’t always work out that way. And we both edit heavily, so that our hands are in every chapter, paragraph, sentence, word, paragraph break, and punctuation mark. We get together to discuss what we want to happen in the chapter, and then one of us will sit down and make it happen. Often the chapter goes in a different direction than we planned, and that is part of the magic. We try to be really flexible, and we’re both committed to making the story not boring under any circumstances, even if it means razing whole chapters.

Laura: We also text a lot and kind of gossip about our characters. And getting together in person is important. Some of our best ideas arrived after many hours of hanging out and talking through things IRL.

How did writing Trust & Safety differ from writing The Very Nice Box

Laura: One thing is that Eve and I both wrote our versions of the first chapter and compared them. I remember them being shockingly similar!

Eve: That’s right—the book starts with a wedding, and we both came to that idea separately. I wish we could find our original separate first drafts of the first chapter of the book. This novel was more difficult to write and took us longer. I think it’s subtler The Very Nice Box, and less satirical, which made it harder to write, because it wasn’t always clear what the characters needed to do to move the story forward. I can’t think of a single scene we didn’t totally re-write, which was not really the case for The Very Nice Box.

Laura: Also, we wrote more of our first drafts in separate places because of the pandemic. I remember having many more dinners during the drafting of VNB.

What are each of your biggest strengths as a writer? Weaknesses? 

Laura: I think I mix metaphors and avoid details like the weather and what people do with their hands when they talk to one another. It’s also very hard to get characters to move from one place to another in a way that’s not boring or jarring, and I haven’t figured it out yet. I think I have a good sense for plot and what needs to happen in order to build suspense, or to get readers to care about a particular outcome. I also think I’m good at adding funny extras to scenes.

Eve: I’m obsessive and tend to cut things that are working fine. This sounds bad coming from a writer, but I also have a really hard time describing the way things look. I’m not a very visually observant person. Colors, clothing, natural landscapes, faces — not easy for me to describe. I do think I have a sense of mannerisms when it comes to dialogue — the syllables characters stress, how they often say things that totally contradict how they feel. 

Where’s your dream writing retreat?

Laura: Somewhere cold and bright with a fireplace.

Eve: And importantly, plenty of distractions nearby…hikes, places to spend money, fields to kick a ball. Part of writing for me is avoiding writing. 

If you could get a drink with any fictional character, who would it be? 

Eve: Why am I only thinking of children’s books? I guess I’d have to go with Ferdinand the Bull.

Laura: That’s really cute, please invite me! This will reveal what my go-to winter binge watch is, but I’m gonna have to choose Elaine Benes.

How do you want your readers to feel? 

Laura: Surprised yet satisfied

Eve: I totally agree. And I think I want readers to feel implicated, but not in a punishing way. Ideally, they see themselves in the characters and are able to laugh at themselves and feel a tenderness towards both the characters and themselves.

What’s a book that made you want to write?

Laura: Recently it was No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood. But in general I think poetry makes me want to write more than fiction does. 

Eve: I agree about poetry. Sometimes I just want to emulate a feeling I get from reading a poem or short story. Any time I read Maile Meloy, for instance…

What’s a book you wish you’d written?

Laura: I don’t know, actually! I know this question is getting at what we admire. But I wanted to answer with: every version of our book we had to scrap on the way to our final draft.

Eve: That’s a great answer. I think any time I read something that feels stylistically unadorned and simply told, I feel envious. I felt that way reading We Do What We Do in the Dark by Michelle Hart. But I often feel that way about great short stories, too. 

Favorite recent read? 

Eve: My favorite book in recent memory is The History of Sound by Ben Shattuck, which comes out this summer.

Laura: I loved Vladimir, especially the discrepancies between the protagonist’s inner world and her dialogue.

One word each to describe what you’re working on now?

Eve: Patience

Laura: Relationships