In Young Jane Young (Algonquin, Aug.), a politically ambitious intern has an affair with the married congressman she works for. It becomes a national scandal that derails her life, but, tellingly, not his.
What was the inspiration for this book?
I was avidly watching the lead-up to the election, and I was particularly fascinated with why millennial women were seemingly going for Bernie Sanders. That started to make me think about a series of questions, including: If you’re a woman, should you always vote for a female candidate? Then I was thinking about my own perception of Monica Lewinsky. That scandal happened when I was in my early 20s. She seemed slutty to me then, but now, as a grown woman, I think it’s crazy to even imagine the president of the free world abusing power in that way.
What made you think of Monica Lewinsky, and why do you think that scandal still lingers?
One of the things that made that particular scandal so potent is the fact that it was the first real internet scandal. You could view so much information about it, making it different from any political scandal that had come before. In many ways, this novel is about that. I had also seen a Frontline episode about the first generation of young people to grow up with the internet in their homes. When they left to go to college, they took their cell phones and Facebook accounts with them. For someone my age, when you left for college, you just left. I was also remembering that scene from The Scarlet Letter when Hester Prynne has to stand in the town square for four hours, and it’s really horrible for her to stand in the town square and be publicly shamed. But if you’re Monica Lewinsky you’re going to be standing in that town square forever. You never get to leave.
Do you see this as a political novel?
To an extent it’s not as much a political novel as it is a feminist one. But it does talk about politics, and we’re in a season of pretty brutal politics. One of the things I really love about fiction is it’s one of the few places we can still have a discussion with somebody who is not like-minded. On Facebook you can block anyone who doesn’t agree with you politically, but in fiction there’s actually a chance to talk to each other. I find that to be a really optimistic thing.