Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

Q&A with Author Adrienne Brodeur, Little Monsters

January 28th, 2024
Books & Authors

 I caught up with bestselling author Adrienne Brodeur to discuss her latest novel Little Monsters. It’s a captivating tale of sibling rivalry, damaged people, ambition, long-buried secrets, all set in gorgeous, moneyed Cape Cod over one summer in that eventful election year, 2016.

With echoes of Succession, and based loosely on the biblical tale of Cain and Abel, Little Monsters is told from each character’s perspective as the plot catapults towards the climatic 70th birthday of the family patriarch.  I interviewed Brodeur nearly two years ago about her gripping memoir Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me. Suffice to say that Brodeur excels at dysfunctional families, suspenseful plot and gorgeous Cape Cod.

Can you tell us how the idea of the book came to you…  And what the book is about.

For me, inspiration requires patience and consistency. I start by paying close attention to where my thoughts go and try to notice what I notice. When I do that, I’m struck by how my mind is nagged by a specific situation, place, or character. Then I try to figure out why that situation, place, or character is compelling to me. In the case of Little Monsters, my mind kept returning to a fraught adult sibling relationship and the charged summer of 2016.

Little Monsters examines a family on the brink of imploding under the weight of its secrets and resentments during a larger cultural implosion.

Not only are you brilliant at developing character, but you excel at plot and creating suspense. Everything is moving towards Adam’s crowning 70th birthday. Which comes first plot or character?

I find plot and character intertwined, so neither comes first exactly. Writing a novel is a bit like putting together a complex jigsaw puzzle without having seen the image. Most of us start with the edge pieces if only to create some boundaries (and in that way, I knew Little Monsters would be a contemporary novel set on Cape Cod and about a family) From there, I feel my way along and write into the mystery.

E.L. Doctorow put it best: Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Your book takes place when Hillary Clinton was running for president, which seems like a lifetime ago. The idea of having a female president made a lot of Americans uncomfortable. At one point you write, “Abby felt her success might derail the men in her life, who were accustomed to getting the lion’s share of attention.” While your book isn’t political, there are observations to what was going on in the world at the time.  

I’m interested in the next generation… You have male chauvinist Ken having two whipper snapper teen daughters who give him a hard time. And both the two feminist characters Abby and Steph have newborn sons. I wonder if you chose to do this, as a way of gently implying that the next generation might be more evolved, more compassionate than some of the characters in this novel.

I love the way that teenagers keep all of us on our toes, pointing out adult shortcomings and out-of-date views and perspectives. As far as I can tell, this is the way it has always been and always should be. Hopefully, each generation will become more evolved and more compassionate.

The rest of my Q&A with Brodeur can be found here on 26. And the Wild Game Q&A can be found here.

January, 2024

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