Authors & Events
Look Inside | Reading Guide
Jan 01, 2003
| ISBN 9780345458308
Dec 18, 2007
| ISBN 9780307414656
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Jan 01, 2003 | ISBN 9780345458308
Dec 18, 2007 | ISBN 9780307414656
“Laura Pedersen delivers . . . Throughout, you can’t help but think how hilarious some of the scenes would play on the big screen.”—The Hartford Courant“There could be no doubt left in anyone’s mind that my life had all the makings of a country-and-western song.” The second of seven children (with another on the way), Hallie Palmer has one dream: to make it to Vegas. Normally blessed with an uncanny gift for winning at games of chance, she’s just hit a losing streak. She’ s been kicked out of the casino she frequents during school hours, lost all her money for a car on a bad bet at the track, and has been grounded by her parents. Hallie decides the time as come to cut her losses. Answering an ad in the local paper, she lands a job as yard person at the elegant home of the sixty-ish Mrs. Olivia Stockton, a wonderfully eccentric rebel who scribes acclaimed poetry along with the occasional soft-core porn story. Under the same wild roof is Olivia’s son, Bernard, an antiques dealer and gourmet cook who turns out mouthwatering cuisine and scathing witticisms, and Gil, Bernard’s lover, whose down-to-earth sensibilities provide a perfect foil to the Stocktons’ outrageous joie de vivre. Here, in this anything-goes household, Hallie has found a new family. And she’s about to receive the education of her life. From a wonderful new voice in fiction comes the freshest and funniest novel to barrel down the pike since Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café. In Beginner’s Luck, Laura Pedersen introduces us to the endearing oddballs and eccentrics of Cosgrove County, Ohio, who burst to life and steal our hearts–and none more so than Hallie Palmer, sixteen, savvy, and wise beyond her years, a young woman who knows life is a gamble . . . and sometimes you have to bet the house.
Laura Pedersen is an author and playwright from Buffalo, New York. After finishing high school in 1983, she moved to Manhattan and began working on the American Stock Exchange, later spending the better part of the 1990s writing for The New… More about Laura Pedersen
“Funny, sweet-natured, and well-crafted . . . Pedersen has created a wonderful assemblage of . . . whimsical characters and charm.”—Kirkus Reviews
Julie Sciandra and Laura Pedersen have been friends for yearsand worked together at various times. They recently sat down totalk about life and Laura’s book Beginner’s Luck after bowling.(Julie won, but only by a few pins, and there will definitely be arematch.)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 thekitchen with a big red X through it. You’re the one who blew up thepotato because you didn’t know enough to poke holes in it!LP: You should talk, Miss Lipton Cup-a-Soup. Anyway, that’s whyit’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 anythingoutside.LP: But I love to look at them. Pictures are best. However, feel freeto bring me chocolate anytime. The Irish have a saying: "You can’teat flowers."JS: I’ve noticed that all your stories involve these large families andyet you grew up as an only child. Are you stealing from the Pynefamily 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 wasgrowing up. It was a predominantly Catholic neighborhood, andseveral families had enough kids for their own football teams.JS: And what about these Christian families? Your parents divorcedwhen you were a teenager and are so liberal that they probably voteleft-handed.LP: Buffalo, where I grew up, is a melting pot of every ethnicity andreligion. When immigrants came to New York from Europe, manyheaded upstate to work in the grain elevators and steel mills. At mypublic high school we had everything–Baptist, Jewish, Catholic,Presbyterian, Greek Orthodox. I believe that truth can be found inalmost all religions but that no one religion holds all the truth.JS: But you’re Unitarian. Aren’t the people at your church goingto burn you on a question mark for making fun of them inthe book?LP: They laugh at themselves more than anyone else does. Worstcase is that I’ll get hit over the head with a clipboard. The realreason they’re going to be mad is that the official name is "UnitarianUniversalist," and they’re sticklers about that. But with ten syllablesand twenty-one letters it would take up the entire book.JS: Two of the main characters, Olivia and Bernard Stockton, arerather eccentric. Are they based on real people?LP: Not specifically. I’ve had several terrific teachers and mentorsthroughout my life. I’ve also known many type A personalities, gamblers,bohemians, and oddballs, especially having worked on WallStreet in the 1980s and then in journalism and television. And I mustconfess that for the most part I’m charmed by them all–their terrificenergy, idealism, creative vocabulary, and love of life. Also, growingup in the Unitarian Universalist Church exposed me to a large numberof protesters, peaceniks, petitioners, and so forth.JS: What did you steal from yourself? Give me one similarity betweenyou 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, butthey 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 Barrelof Monkeys. When I was five my mom taught me poker, and later Ilearned to count cards at blackjack. But I can only do math whenI’m betting or there’s a dollar sign in front of the numbers. OtherwiseI’m a disaster. The major difference between Hallie and me isthat I always knew what I wanted to do with my life, and if my parentshad any expectations they kept them so well hidden that theyhaven’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, orneighbor’s kid who can’t talk to his or her parents and so she returnsthe favor of lending a sympathetic ear. Then they all join hands andsing "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 knowabout you?LP: As a teenager I didn’t exactly volunteer the information that myfather was a folksinger. But now I don’t mind. I suppose I wouldn’twant people to know about the shoes, the pigs, and the Knicks.JS: I know about the shoes. When no one is around you have someof the worst shoes. The boxes they came in would look better onyour feet than the shoes themselves. And I know about the pigs. Youtook care of the pigs on a farm when you were a kid, became emotionallyoverinvolved, and now everyone gives you pig paraphernalia(except bacon!). But what’s with the New York Knicks? They’rethe 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 becameclear 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 toplay. Though she’s much better than I was.JS: I believe your claim to fame is never having scored a goal in fouryears.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 andchucked 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 thetime Hallie arrives, though he’s still listed in the phone book. I thinkin the movie version the town will be the setting for a fight betweentwo rival gangs of dogs, corgis and Chihuahuas, and it will bechoreographed as a dance sequence like in West Side Story.JS: I’ve seen you wandering around with scraps of paper falling outof your pockets, which means you’re working on another book.Spill the beans.LP: Last Call is a surprising romantic comedy about a somewhat alcoholicdying Scotsman who falls in love with a cloistered nun whoalso happens to be terminally ill.JS: It doesn’t sound romantic or comedic.LP: That’s the surprise.
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