We recently caught up with debut novelist Stacey Lender and chatted about her new book City Mouse in stores now. Order your copy here.
What inspired you to write City Mouse: A Novel?
I was struck by a story I heard at a college reunion about a bunch of moms who go on a weekend away, and everyone cheats on their husbands. I could not stop thinking about what drove those women to that extreme. Were they unhappy in their marriages? Was life that unsatisfying? And how did they manage to keep such a big group secret? With those questions circling, I let my imagination take me on a fictional journey. It went deeper than Moms Who Cheat (which is definitely still in the book…). Instead, it explores the struggle to find your place as a young wife and a mom. I also wanted to write a book that was entertaining and fun. I didn’t want it to be too serious or preachy, but stirred conversation around these real-life issues.
Let’s talk about Jessica’s struggle to find “mom friendships” in her new town, and how her insecurities speak volumes to moms everywhere.
You’d think those high school insecurities about fitting in with friends would finally be behind you by the time you hit your mid-thirties. But Jessica feels pressure as ‘the new mom’ to be friends with a group of neighborhood moms who aren’t a perfect fit. She needs a support system to help her get acclimated, and it feels good to have a social calendar that’s full of party invitations. But Mean Girls in high school often turn into Mean Moms as adults – and because Jessica is too weak to stand up to her new friends, she finds herself in complicated situations that are hard to get out of.
As a working mom, Jessica must find a way to balance work, marriage, and motherhood. How does the relationship with her hubby Aaron help or hinder her plight?
Jessica and her husband are both so busy with work and life and the kids. They don’t have the time (or the energy) to sit and talk about their thoughts and feelings about their big move to the ‘burbs. She’s scared about what he might say if she admits she’s not happy. Also, how that conversation might affect their relationship. But, that fear feeds upon itself and ultimately makes things worse. Busy can be a great excuse for letting important conversations go way too long. I think through Jessica, many of us can relate to the experience of how hard it can be to find the strength to speak up and have an honest conversation with the people we are closest to.
In the story, Jessica and her friends take off on a girls’ weekend. In your opinion, why are these trips so important for maintaining one’s sanity?
Motherhood is a 24-7 job, and a hugely fulfilling one. But it’s also exhausting. Taking a break from the daily demands of attending to everyone else’s needs is healthy for the whole family, and a real luxury. Being away gives you the opportunity to remember that you had a life and an identity before you had a spouse and kids, Also, to enjoy small pleasures like sleeping late and taking a long shower and to reconnect with good friends. It also gives your family the chance to miss you. This story takes a dive into the underbelly of the extremes some moms go to unwind and escape on a weekend away. But, that’s where the juicy fiction kicks in.
And finally, what tips may you share with moms concerning friendship, love, and marriage?
I’m certainly no expert when it comes to any of these topics. I feel lucky to have found a spouse who is warm and wonderful (and still makes me laugh). We are doing our best to raise our kids without messing them up too badly. (Although now that I’ve written this book, they are likely destined for years of therapy). When it comes to true friends – spouses included – it’s all about finding people who accept you for who you are, and who are there for you no matter what.
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