Beginner’s Luck

Paperback $15.00

Ballantine Books | Jan 01, 2003 | 368 Pages | 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 | ISBN 9780345458308

  • Paperback$15.00

    Ballantine Books | Jan 01, 2003 | 368 Pages | 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 | ISBN 9780345458308

  • Ebook$11.99

    Ballantine Books | Dec 18, 2007 | 368 Pages | ISBN 9780307414656

Praise

“FUNNY, SWEET-NATURED, AND WELL-CRAFTED . . . Pedersen has created a wonderful assemblage of . . . whimsical characters and charm.”
Kirkus Reviews

Author Q&A

Julie Sciandra and Laura Pedersen have been friends for years
and worked together at various times. They recently sat down to
talk about life and Laura’s book
Beginner’s Luck after bowling.
(Julie won, but only by a few pins, and there will definitely be a
rematch.)


JS: You shouldn’t have asked me to do this. I know too much.

LP: That’s the reason I can’t get rid of you.

JS: Let’s start with the cooking. There’s a picture of you in the
kitchen with a big red X through it. You’re the one who blew up the
potato because you didn’t know enough to poke holes in it!


LP: You should talk, Miss Lipton Cup-a-Soup. Anyway, that’s why
it’s called fiction. I can write about food even if I can’t cook it myself.
Nothing bad ever happens to a writer. It’s all material.

JS: Same with the flowers. You’re allergic to almost anything
outside.


LP: But I love to look at them. Pictures are best. However, feel free
to bring me chocolate anytime. The Irish have a saying: "You can’t
eat flowers."

JS: I’ve noticed that all your stories involve these large families and
yet you grew up as an only child. Are you stealing from the Pyne
family again?


LP: Mostly. They lived behind me and had two parents, nine kids,
two dogs, and a cat. I spent a lot of time over there when I was
growing up. It was a predominantly Catholic neighborhood, and
several families had enough kids for their own football teams.

JS: And what about these Christian families? Your parents divorced
when you were a teenager and are so liberal that they probably vote
left-handed.


LP: Buffalo, where I grew up, is a melting pot of every ethnicity and
religion. When immigrants came to New York from Europe, many
headed upstate to work in the grain elevators and steel mills. At my
public high school we had everything–Baptist, Jewish, Catholic,
Presbyterian, Greek Orthodox. I believe that truth can be found in
almost all religions but that no one religion holds all the truth.

JS: But you’re Unitarian. Aren’t the people at your church going
to burn you on a question mark for making fun of them in
the book?


LP: They laugh at themselves more than anyone else does. Worst
case is that I’ll get hit over the head with a clipboard. The real
reason they’re going to be mad is that the official name is "Unitarian
Universalist," and they’re sticklers about that. But with ten syllables
and twenty-one letters it would take up the entire book.

JS: Two of the main characters, Olivia and Bernard Stockton, are
rather eccentric. Are they based on real people?


LP: Not specifically. I’ve had several terrific teachers and mentors
throughout my life. I’ve also known many type A personalities, gamblers,
bohemians, and oddballs, especially having worked on Wall
Street in the 1980s and then in journalism and television. And I must
confess that for the most part I’m charmed by them all–their terrific
energy, idealism, creative vocabulary, and love of life. Also, growing
up in the Unitarian Universalist Church exposed me to a large number
of protesters, peaceniks, petitioners, and so forth.

JS: What did you steal from yourself? Give me one similarity between
you and Hallie and one difference.


LP: I gambled as a kid. I’m an only child. My dad is an only child.
His father was an only child. My mom has a brother and sister, but
they don’t have any children. So it was all these grown-ups and me.
They weren’t about to start playing Chutes and Ladders and Barrel
of Monkeys. When I was five my mom taught me poker, and later I
learned to count cards at blackjack. But I can only do math when
I’m betting or there’s a dollar sign in front of the numbers. Otherwise
I’m a disaster. The major difference between Hallie and me is
that I always knew what I wanted to do with my life, and if my parents
had any expectations they kept them so well hidden that they
haven’t surfaced to this day.

JS: So what happens to Hallie after the book ends?

LP: She grows up and one day there’s a cousin, niece, nephew, or
neighbor’s kid who can’t talk to his or her parents and so she returns
the favor of lending a sympathetic ear. Then they all join hands and
sing "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" in a round.

JS: Yeah, sure they do. I can ask you anything and you have to answer,
right?


LP: Yes, there are electrodes attached to my fingertips.

JS: What’s the one thing you wouldn’t want readers to know
about you?


LP: As a teenager I didn’t exactly volunteer the information that my
father was a folksinger. But now I don’t mind. I suppose I wouldn’t
want people to know about the shoes, the pigs, and the Knicks.

JS: I know about the shoes. When no one is around you have some
of the worst shoes. The boxes they came in would look better on
your feet than the shoes themselves. And I know about the pigs. You
took care of the pigs on a farm when you were a kid, became emotionally
overinvolved, and now everyone gives you pig paraphernalia
(except bacon!). But what’s with the New York Knicks? They’re
the local basketball team.


LP: I wrote a story for The New York Times and spelled it "Nicks."
Of course, my editor fixed it before we went to print, but it became
clear how little I knew about sports.

JS: But you played soccer in high school.

LP: That’s why Hallie plays soccer. It’s the only game I know how to
play. Though she’s much better than I was.

JS: I believe your claim to fame is never having scored a goal in four
years.


LP: I was a fullback. We’re just supposed to stand tall near the goal,
more like security guards than athletes. However, I did score once.
Though it was for the other team. My heel caught the ball and
chucked it into our own goal.

JS: I was curious as to why there wasn’t a dog in Beginner’s Luck.
You love dogs.


LP: The Stocktons had a dog named Buster, but he’s dead by the
time Hallie arrives, though he’s still listed in the phone book. I think
in the movie version the town will be the setting for a fight between
two rival gangs of dogs, corgis and Chihuahuas, and it will be
choreographed as a dance sequence like in West Side Story.

JS: I’ve seen you wandering around with scraps of paper falling out
of your pockets, which means you’re working on another book.
Spill the beans.


LP: Last Call is a surprising romantic comedy about a somewhat alcoholic
dying Scotsman who falls in love with a cloistered nun who
also happens to be terminally ill.

JS: It doesn’t sound romantic or comedic.

LP: That’s the surprise.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

 

Julie Sciandra and Laura Pedersen have been friends for years
and worked together at various times. They recently sat down to
talk about life and Laura’s book
Beginner’s Luck after bowling.
(Julie won, but only by a few pins, and there will definitely be a
rematch.)


JS: You shouldn’t have asked me to do this. I know too much.

LP: That’s the reason I can’t get rid of you.

JS: Let’s start with the cooking. There’s a picture of you in the
kitchen with a big red X through it. You’re the one who blew up the
potato because you didn’t know enough to poke holes in it!


LP: You should talk, Miss Lipton Cup-a-Soup. Anyway, that’s why
it’s called fiction. I can write about food even if I can’t cook it myself.
Nothing bad ever happens to a writer. It’s all material.

JS: Same with the flowers. You’re allergic to almost anything
outside.


LP: But I love to look at them. Pictures are best. However, feel free
to bring me chocolate anytime. The Irish have a saying: "You can’t
eat flowers."

JS: I’ve noticed that all your stories involve these large families and
yet you grew up as an only child. Are you stealing from the Pyne
family again?


LP: Mostly. They lived behind me and had two parents, nine kids,
two dogs, and a cat. I spent a lot of time over there when I was
growing up. It was a predominantly Catholic neighborhood, and
several families had enough kids for their own football teams.

JS: And what about these Christian families? Your parents divorced
when you were a teenager and are so liberal that they probably vote
left-handed.


LP: Buffalo, where I grew up, is a melting pot of every ethnicity and
religion. When immigrants came to New York from Europe, many
headed upstate to work in the grain elevators and steel mills. At my
public high school we had everything–Baptist, Jewish, Catholic,
Presbyterian, Greek Orthodox. I believe that truth can be found in
almost all religions but that no one religion holds all the truth.

JS: But you’re Unitarian. Aren’t the people at your church going
to burn you on a question mark for making fun of them in
the book?


LP: They laugh at themselves more than anyone else does. Worst
case is that I’ll get hit over the head with a clipboard. The real
reason they’re going to be mad is that the official name is "Unitarian
Universalist," and they’re sticklers about that. But with ten syllables
and twenty-one letters it would take up the entire book.

JS: Two of the main characters, Olivia and Bernard Stockton, are
rather eccentric. Are they based on real people?


LP: Not specifically. I’ve had several terrific teachers and mentors
throughout my life. I’ve also known many type A personalities, gamblers,
bohemians, and oddballs, especially having worked on Wall
Street in the 1980s and then in journalism and television. And I must
confess that for the most part I’m charmed by them all–their terrific
energy, idealism, creative vocabulary, and love of life. Also, growing
up in the Unitarian Universalist Church exposed me to a large number
of protesters, peaceniks, petitioners, and so forth.

JS: What did you steal from yourself? Give me one similarity between
you and Hallie and one difference.


LP: I gambled as a kid. I’m an only child. My dad is an only child.
His father was an only child. My mom has a brother and sister, but
they don’t have any children. So it was all these grown-ups and me.
They weren’t about to start playing Chutes and Ladders and Barrel
of Monkeys. When I was five my mom taught me poker, and later I
learned to count cards at blackjack. But I can only do math when
I’m betting or there’s a dollar sign in front of the numbers. Otherwise
I’m a disaster. The major difference between Hallie and me is
that I always knew what I wanted to do with my life, and if my parents
had any expectations they kept them so well hidden that they
haven’t surfaced to this day.

JS: So what happens to Hallie after the book ends?

LP: She grows up and one day there’s a cousin, niece, nephew, or
neighbor’s kid who can’t talk to his or her parents and so she returns
the favor of lending a sympathetic ear. Then they all join hands and
sing "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" in a round.

JS: Yeah, sure they do. I can ask you anything and you have to answer,
right?


LP: Yes, there are electrodes attached to my fingertips.

JS: What’s the one thing you wouldn’t want readers to know
about you?


LP: As a teenager I didn’t exactly volunteer the information that my
father was a folksinger. But now I don’t mind. I suppose I wouldn’t
want people to know about the shoes, the pigs, and the Knicks.

JS: I know about the shoes. When no one is around you have some
of the worst shoes. The boxes they came in would look better on
your feet than the shoes themselves. And I know about the pigs. You
took care of the pigs on a farm when you were a kid, became emotionally
overinvolved, and now everyone gives you pig paraphernalia
(except bacon!). But what’s with the New York Knicks? They’re
the local basketball team.


LP: I wrote a story for The New York Times and spelled it "Nicks."
Of course, my editor fixed it before we went to print, but it became
clear how little I knew about sports.

JS: But you played soccer in high school.

LP: That’s why Hallie plays soccer. It’s the only game I know how to
play. Though she’s much better than I was.

JS: I believe your claim to fame is never having scored a goal in four
years.


LP: I was a fullback. We’re just supposed to stand tall near the goal,
more like security guards than athletes. However, I did score once.
Though it was for the other team. My heel caught the ball and
chucked it into our own goal.

JS: I was curious as to why there wasn’t a dog in Beginner’s Luck.
You love dogs.


LP: The Stocktons had a dog named Buster, but he’s dead by the
time Hallie arrives, though he’s still listed in the phone book. I think
in the movie version the town will be the setting for a fight between
two rival gangs of dogs, corgis and Chihuahuas, and it will be
choreographed as a dance sequence like in West Side Story.

JS: I’ve seen you wandering around with scraps of paper falling out
of your pockets, which means you’re working on another book.
Spill the beans.


LP: Last Call is a surprising romantic comedy about a somewhat alcoholic
dying Scotsman who falls in love with a cloistered nun who
also happens to be terminally ill.

JS: It doesn’t sound romantic or comedic.

LP: That’s the surprise.

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