Villains, Victims, and Vices: A Conversation with Author Caroline Leavitt


Published:

The writer talks about villains, victims, and vices – and why she snoops

In New York Times bestselling author Caroline Leavitt’s 11th book, “Cruel Beautiful World,” 16-year-old Lucy runs off with her high school teacher, William. Set in 1969, against the backdrop of the Manson tragedy, the novel grapples with grief, scandal and love before turning dark. Leavitt writes from Hoboken, N.J., often called NYC’s sixth borough. 

 

What unifies your books?

I’m really interested in characters and people under duress. People living their life and something traumatic happens and makes them question everything they think they know about their life. 

Where do you get your ideas? 

From stuff that has happened to me. Something I’m trying to understand. “Girl in Trouble” for example was written after my husband and I were trying to openly adopt. We were never chosen and I couldn’t understand why. I couldn’t forget all the voices of those young girls. I wrote the book to try and understand what it’s like to be so young and growing up still and have a child. What it’s like to be a couple trying to adopt. 

What’s the most difficult book you’ve written?

My first novel, “Meeting Rozzy Halfway.” I started out wanting to write short stories and sent the story into a contest. And won first prize and got an agent right away. She sold the short story as a novel. I panicked. But that was good. When you’re terrified, it signals you’re writing about something deeply meaningful for you. I feel the novel’s job is to go to all the dark and embarrassing places most people are afraid to go to. 

What’s the most profound thing you’ve uncovered about yourself?

It was with my current novel. I ended up writing about my relationship with my real-life sibling. I meant it to be a love letter to our relationship. Growing up she was my hero. And then she changed and became troubled and unhappy. And I’m this Pollyanna. I kept trying to help her and the more I tried the worst things became with us. As I was writing, the question became “how do you help someone you love when they don’t want your help?” The answer is sometimes you can’t. 

 

 

The New York Times said repositioning William as a victim in “Cruel Beautiful World” was “mawkish.” Do you agree?

William was just a troubled man. I believe no villain ever thinks he’s a villain. I let him tell his story at the end. But you don’t know whether he’s telling the truth or even believes what he’s saying.

Have you ever been a victim?

I met this guy once who seemed nice. After three months we moved in together. Things started turning weird. One time we went out to a restaurant and I reached for a roll, and he put his hand over my hand and said “oh honey you would look so much better if you were five pounds thinner.” Then it started with my clothes. He didn’t want me to see my friends. My friends staged an intervention. They said “you look like death.”

You wear cowboy boots to readings. Why?

On eBay I saw a pair of red cowboy boots for $10. And I thought, a woman who wears those boots wouldn’t be afraid. I felt braver when I put them on. People started knowing me as the woman who wears cowboy boots. I’m not scared now. When I wear them now I wear them because I want to, not because I need to. 

Do you have any vices?

Chocolate and coffee. You can’t get through life without coffee.

Any secrets?

 

To find out Caroline Leavitt's secrets and more, subscribe now or pick up the February/March issue of South Magazine.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

South's Greatest Chefs 2018

This is the tastiest contest of the year! Nominate now!

South's Greatest Kids 2018

Nominate your kid for the cutest contest of the year!
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Events Calendar

  • #art912, Grounded

    Mar 30, 2018
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Telfair Museums will feature a commissioned work titled Grounded by Adolfo Alvarado, a Savannah-based artist whose work incorporates cal­ligraphic...

  • Turtle Talks

    May 16, 2018
    10:15 AM - 10:15 AM @ Tybee Island Marine Science Center

    During Turtle Talks, you’ll learn about anatomy and natural adaptations of sea turtles, discuss Tybee’s Sea Turtle Project conservation...

  • Savannah Voice Festival, Speed Dating Tonight!

    Aug 19, 2018
    2:00 PM - 5:00 PM @ Charles H. Morris Center

    Michael Ching’s popular opera Speed Dating Tonight! introduces you to all the characters you might run into at speed dating: the exercise...

  • Tybee South Beach Walks

    May 16, 2018
    2:00 PM - 3:00 PM @ Tybee Island Marine Science Center

    South beach walks depart from the science center where you’ll join a knowledgeable marine science educator on a guided walk of Tybee’s south...

  • Tybee Marsh Treks

    May 16, 2018
    4:00 PM - 5:00 PM @ Tybee Island Marine Science Center

    On a marsh trek, you’ll enjoy a hands-on exploration of Georgia’s salt marsh, searching the mud for fiddler crabs, snails, and more. Learn...

  • Mamma Mia at Savannah Theatre

    Aug 17, 2018
    8:00 PM - 10:30 PM @ Savannah Theatre

    Mamma Mia! The Worldwide Smash Hit Musical based on the music of ABBA! Over 54 million people all around the world have fallen in in love with the...

  • Mamma Mia at Savannah Theatre

    Aug 17, 2018
    8:00 PM - 10:30 PM @ Savannah Theatre

    Mamma Mia! The Worldwide Smash Hit Musical based on the music of ABBA! Over 54 million people all around the world have fallen in in love with the...

  • Sphere of Influence: Glass Artists of Western North Carolina

    Aug 01, 2018
    11:00 AM - 40:00 AM @ Toe River Arts Council Gallery

    Sphere of Influence will visually document the global impact of WNC glass artists, and the research gathered from over 55 regional glass artists....

  • Savannah Voice Festival, Madness and Mayhem

    Aug 20, 2018
    7:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Charles H. Morris Center

    Discover opera’s darkest gems in this concert featuring mad scenes, villainous plots and unhinged characters. The Savannah VOICE Festival Artists...

  • The Write Thing: Kwame Alexander

    Aug 22, 2018
    5:00 PM - 6:00 PM @ Southwest Chatham Library

    Nationally recognized author Kwame Alexander presents engaging ways to motivate youth and inspire a love of reading and writing. Free and open to...

  • Savannah Voice Festival, La Traviata

    Aug 22, 2018
    7:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Charles H. Morris Center

    Experience the tragedy of a hopeless romance in the most performed opera of today, Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata. In this timeless story, a young...

  • Voice Festival, Come Together Master Class

    Aug 23, 2018
    4:00 PM - 7:00 PM @ GSU Armstrong Campus Auditorium

    A Master Class with Maria Zouves and Benjamin Warsaw. Great music is made when great musicians come together. This unique master class explores the...

  • Savannah Voice Festival, Kings of the High C's

    Aug 23, 2018
    7:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Charles H. Morris Center

    It’s not just three tenors—get ready for a fantastic performance full of high C’s and that tenor bravado that makes leading ladies (and...

  • Summerfest

    Aug 24, 2018
    8:00 AM - 2:00 PM @ Congress Street

    Held annually on the fourth Saturday in August, Summerfest has been recognized at the South Carolina Governor’s Conference on...

  • Yoga Relay to Support Family Caregivers

    Aug 24, 2018
    5:30 PM - 9:00 PM @ Service Brewing Co.

    You are invited to join us in raising support for our local caregivers by joining together in a yoga relay! What’s a Yoga Relay? We will do 100...

  • Savannah Voice Festival, Fab "Four" The Festival

    Aug 24, 2018
    7:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Charles H. Morris Center

    Travel back in time to the “Age of Aquarius,” in this concert celebrating the vibrant music of the 60s. Accompanied by Savannah’s own Elite...

  • Tybee Equality Fest

    Aug 24, 2018
    7:30 PM - 1:00 AM @ Different locations

    Tybee Island is a welcoming little island with lots of LOVE to give! We are coming together as an in the spirit of continued Unity to create this...

  • SMCC Inaugural Business Expo with Support from Dismas Charities, Inc.

    Aug 25, 2018
    10:00 AM - 4:00 PM @ Georgia Southern University: Armstrong Campus

    The inaugural SMCC Business Expo is free for all attendees and includes seminars and panels which will provide insight from experts in branding,...

  • Savannah Voice Festival, La Traviata

    Aug 25, 2018
    7:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Charles H. Morris Center

    Experience the tragedy of a hopeless romance in the most performed opera of today, Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata. In this timeless story, a young...

  • Savannah Voice Festival, Stories Great and Small - Festival Finale

    Aug 26, 2018
    5:00 PM - 8:00 PM @ Plantation Club at The Landings

    Concert or Gala Dinner Package available. 5 p.m. – Concert, 6:30 p.m. – Gala Dinner. After three weeks of sharing stories, the Savannah VOICE...


Show More...

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Scenes of the South

7th Annual Savannah Ambucs/ Celebrity Bowlapalooza Auction

Plenty of supporters came came out to the 7th Annual Savannah Ambucs/Vaden Chevrolet Pooler Celebrity Bowlapalooza Kickoff and Auction for a night of fun and fundraising. There was an Amtryke, specially adapted 3 wheel bike giveaway, and a silent and live auction. The auction was to help make a difference in the Savannah community and to inspire mobility and independence for people with different abilities.

Ronald McDonald House Super Summer Shindig

Children came dressed as their favorite superheroes as they enjoyed face painting, games, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and their favorite favorite superheroes and McDonald’s characters. There was delicious appetizers by Chef Cynthia Creighton-Jones of Cape Creations Catering, Ghost Coast cocktails, door prizes, and the great networking opportunities in Savannah.

Whiskey Wednesday

First City Network, Ghost Coast Distillery and South Magazine came together for this event at 39 Rue De Jean on the 3rd Wednesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. The mission of First City Network (FCN) is to enhance and sustain the well-being of LGBT individuals and their allies .

The Fabulous Equinox Orchestra -Swingin' Savannah River

The beautiful Westin Harbor Lawn was the perfect setting to enjoy the ultimate July 4th experience on the Savannah River including a patriotic concert with The Fabulous Equinox Orchestra.

JCB Mudrun 2018

As feet hit the wet mud, eyes were set on the trophies and hearts beat with adrenaline at this year’s 7th annual JCB Mud Fest. Nearly 1,500 participants showed up from around the country, making this the most successful event to date. All proceeds benefited the Lady Bamford Center for Early Childhood Development. Participants endured a variety of new challenges, including fan favorites such as the JCB mud lake and the tire field.

Old Town Trolley's 25th Anniversary

Old Town Trolley celebrated 25 years of business!

Red, White & Blue Baseball Night

The Two Hundred Club, hosted by the Savannah Bananas, held a double header evening featuring an exhibition softball game between the local Firefighters & EMS versus Law Enforcement at Grayson Stadium.

2018 Savannah Mile

Hundreds of service members and their families joined with community neighbors and volunteers for this annual One-Mile Run yo support The 200 club of the Coastal Empire. Participants run North on Drayton Street for one mile to nd at the Finish Line on Broughton Street. The 200 club provides resources and financial support for families who have had a loved one killed or injured in the line of duty.

Lowcountry Annie Oakleys Charity Clay Tournament

The third annual Annie Oakley's Charity Clay Tournament and After Party took place on September 29. The event benefited the Dwaine and Cynthia Willett Children's Hospital in Savannah. The day began at 11:30 a.m. with the driven bird flurry contest. Later that afternoon, the shotgun start kicked off the 100-shot tournament. The after party that evening was open to non-shooters alike, where cocktails, drinks and hors d'oeuvres from Cotton & Rye were served.

Savannah Salutes Empower Health After Party

More than four hundred service members representing every branch of the military from all over the country congregated in Savannah to Savannah to provide no cost Health Care to thousands of Savannah residents as a part of the Empower Health Innovative Readiness Training program initiated by the Department of Defense. The Savannah Salute event was hosted on May 20 at the Savannah Civic Center to celebrate the success of the program and thank all involved.