Questions and Answers:  Diana Lively is Falling Down

1. Where did you get the idea for this novel? 

Please read the Real Life Roots of Fiction page.

2. This Vile Husband Contest:  are you a husband-bashing, man-hating, feminazi?

Not at all.  Ask my husband, son, brothers, father, nephews and many male buddies.  I totally adore the testosterone set. Please notice that all the male characters in the book are sympathetic except for Ted Lively.  And here’s where I explain that my husband, who is a professor, is not at all like Ted.  He’s supportive, generous, nurturing and funny.  See the back cover photo if you need more information. 

3. Speaking of gender, what’s with Humphrey?  Aren’t you being politically incorrect?

I have a hard time believing that when God invented men, he said, no man will ever like pastels without a particular genetic preference in his DNA.

4. Can we stay on the politically incorrect vein for just a minute?  What made you come up with Wally?  Are you some NRA nut?

Yes on being a nut, no to the NRA.  When I was a wee one, I used to believe in absolutes.  I’m still in dogma-recovery, but whenever I declare something to be true, I find myself shortly thereafter eating humble pie. Wally’s character came to me after a particularly awkward night among some pretentious British academics. I could tell what they thought of Americans and I suddenly felt defensive about the very things I’d criticized back home. Let’s introduce them to a guy named Wally, I thought, let’s make him do something they’d find simply unbearable, and let’s make him a nice guy, despite it all.  And so Wally came to life.

5. It was hard to tell from reading your book what you thought of the environmental movement out West. Are they flakes, blow-hards or saviors of the modern world?

All three. I’m a rabid environmentalist myself: at the same time, I loath camping, avoid the outdoors at all costs, and, if allowed, would bring an air-conditioner with me to a desert island. What I would like is for this country to get back to our roots in thrift and throw ourselves into preventing waste. Did you know that about half the water use in this country is due to leaks?  Did you know that conservation technologies alone would be a win-win towards energy independence? Don’t get me started.  Go to the NRDC website, or the Sierra Club or The Nature Conservancy. But remember, the people who react against environmental regulation almost always have a vested interest. As Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has said so eloquently, “You show me a polluter, I’ll show you a subsidy.”   What he means by that is simple. If you don’t clean up after yourself, then the taxpayer has to. Which means we’re helping that business pay the cost of its enterprise. How could it be any more simple than that?

6. Are you a believer?

In God? Yes, and  I think we all know, deep within us, what’s good. We have to trust ourselves to do what’s right.

7. So the signs Wally was getting, were they real?

Of course.  He was opening himself up to belief, which allowed him to intuit what to do.  And the love he felt for and from his dead wife was a powerful messenger. 

8. Nostalgia plays a large role in your novel, fueling everything from Wally’s memory of his wife to the way in which the younger children imagine Humphrey’s father as their hero. It’s never clear how much of their perspective is fueled by sheer hope rather than reality.

I love the notion of reality. It’s so quaint. I think what I’m trying to say is, if we wear rose-colored glasses, we might just be preserving the best in something or someone, and there’s a truth in that positive vision that’s akin to love. In Star Wars terminology, that rosy glow can help sustain the “good force.” 

9. So, are you saying something doesn’t have to be true as long as you believe in it?

There’s a truth to believing that can turn reality on its heels. | Penguin, USA, July 2005