Taylor Larsen made an appearance on The Public Library with Helen Little podcast to talk about her mesmerizing debut novel Stranger, Father Beloved, which follows an extremely complex character named Michael James in the midst of a breakdown. While Michael's interior life is a huge part of the story, Larsen deftly incorporates the lives of Michael's wife, Nancy, and his teenage daughter, Ryan, as well. She revealed that the novel started as a first person narrative focusing solely on Michael, however, it felt too claustrophobic. Throughout her time as both an undergrad and then an MFA student at Columbia, Larsen says she learned how to truly write a novel and this allowed her to become much more interested in the other characters in her story. "It became more than just Michael's story," Larsen explained.
Larsen opened up about some of the real life inspiration behind her novel, explaining that she's known people who suffered similarly to Michael. She even revealed that she's able to really identify with Michael, as well, due to her own experience with suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder. "He's a very high functioning person and he tries to project perfection, but there's a lot of internal suffering." she told Helen. "I've had OCD and it used to be very severe and it's very hidden, so, I would be doing my thing and coming across as so together, but inside I was a complete mess. No one saw it."
Stranger, Father, Beloved is written in close third person, however, Larsen was still able to vividly bring Michael's inner life to the page. She talked about what it was like to successfully write from a male perspective as a female author. She relied heavily on her two male writing mentors to catch things that felt off about Michael's maleness in her early drafts. Larsen studied women and gender studies as an undergrad, revealing that she's "fascinated with trying to go inside a male character and see the way they can sometimes look down on women." Larsen will continue this type of exploration in her upcoming second novel, which will also be told from the male perspective.
Larsen's sophomore novel doesn't have a release date yet, but she did reveal some juicy details during her appearance on The Public Library with Helen Little. "It's even darker than [Stranger, Father, Beloved]," Larsen told Helen. "There's some violence in it and some sexual violence and that's hard to write about, but I feel like there's actually more lightness and hope mixed in with the darkness. Hopefully, I'm maturing as a writer and am able to bring in both elements."
Stranger, Father, Beloved is available now, so, make sure you check this one out. You won't want to miss this intriguing, unforgettable story.