Maum’s debut novel, I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, views monogamy and love through the eyes of an artist, Richard, in Paris.

Why did you decide to set the novel in 2002?

An initial version of this book was written 10 years ago. I was living in Paris and the Iraq War was about to break out. When I picked the project up again last year, I kept it in that time frame because, in hindsight, I knew more about the conflict in Iraq, and the beginning of the aughts was an interesting period—a panicked, delusional, misguided period—that I didn’t want to lose.

The novel does a wonderful job of remaining accessible while simultaneously dealing very honestly with heavy emotions. Was it difficult to find the right balance?

I tried to be honest in the writing. I do find, in life, both heartache and humor in the same room together. Whether the humor is making you laugh depends on if you’re the victim of the heartache. For instance, last summer, I was eight months pregnant and we had to put our cat down. I mean, we really loved this cat. While we were burying him in the backyard, two men were painting our nursery. And the painters were singing along to “Love Shack” on this awful radio with terrible sound while we were outside crying. But that’s what’s so wonderful about life: these up-and-down moments. That’s what I was trying to capture in the book.

The Blue Bear painting symbolizes Richard and his wife Anne’s early bliss, Richard’s ignorance, and a version of their marriage that no longer exists. That’s quite a bit to hang on one painting. Where did the idea for this piece of art come from?

I was walking around the gallery district in Paris in 2001, looking for some kind of sign to start a new short story, and I passed a closed gallery that had a note on the outside window: “Mr. Architect, you were wearing an elegant hat and you wanted to buy the blue bear. Please get in touch.” And it wasn’t signed. So that was my catalyst for a short story that became the novel. I spent a lot of time sitting around, thinking about this image, and I built a story up around it.