In their first-ever joint interview, bestselling novelist Scottoline and budding fiction writer Serritella dish about their second essay collection, My Nest Isn't Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space.
What's it like to transition from fiction to writing about yourselves—family members and pets—in your essays?
Lisa Scottoline: It's freer, because I get to be more confessional. I can tell the unvarnished truth about what it's like to be a woman of a certain age in an uncertain age. Both of us love to talk, to communicate with people.
Francesca Serritella: Yes, it's natural for us to talk about our family, to share and be playful about it.
Where are you now? Set the scene—are any pets around?
FS: I'm sitting on the bed, away from the street [in Manhattan], and I brought Pip with me. He sleeps all day.... I have to wake him up in the morning. He's like a 15-year-old son.
LS: I'm at home [outside Philadelphia], on the couch in the family room, cuddled up with Peach. She's wide awake, looking at me.
Lisa, when Francesca moved to New York, you wondered if your "house [gave] birth to her apartment...."
LS: I did! Sometimes things don't hit me until I sit down and really think about what happened. And the thing about letting go, and separation—I know so many women my age whose families aren't what they expected. Even if it's not what you planned, you can make a life for yourself on your own and be happy.
FS: I admire my mom. Even though being a single mother was hard on her, I know if I end up not married for whatever reason, it doesn't mean I made a mistake. If I were where my mom is 30 years from now, I'd be incredibly happy.
LS: And when I look at my mother, I reflect on her strength and endurance. She's cranky sometimes, but she is lovable and loving. I'd be happy to be there at 86. I would, however, have a new bra—with an underwire.
You write about universal experiences. Do you get a lot of reader feedback?
LS: We do, and it's great because you can see what moves people. When the column [in the Philadelphia Inquirer] comes out on Sunday, by 11 a.m. we have e-mail.
FS: I've been touched and surprised by the e-mail we get. People are really open—I like to think it's a result of our being so honest.
You write books together. Do you also edit each other's work?
FS: We bounce ideas off each other. I'm sure my mother would be a terrific editor because she's a terrific writer. She's also a really great mom, so I keep her on reserve as just mom. She definitely has been a teacher and instilled in me that writing is hard work.
LS: It's not an editing relationship, and I think it's great. She's always had her own voice, so I stay out of her way and make sure she has snack food. Truth is, every writer has to be a good editor, and you have to edit yourself. It's a skill every writer has to acquire.