Exclusive interview with Elizabeth Nobel and her novel that traces the lives of reseidents of a building in New York *** 3 Stars
by Gabrielle Pantera
HOLLYWOOD, CA (Gosh!TV) 11/26/2009 “The idea for The Girl Next Door really began germinating as soon as I moved to New York City in 2006, into a pre-war co-op apartment building on the Upper West Side,” says The Girl Next Door author Elizabeth Noble. “I’d never really lived in an apartment before. I was struck by the obvious fact that stories and secrets lurked behind every closed door. It’s a great way to bring together a cast of characters from completely different backgrounds, of all ages and all circumstances.”
The Girl Next Door includes the New York City apartment building as a character in Elizabeth Noble’s novel. Ed Gallagher gets a promotion so he and his wife Eve move to New York. Eve finds them a wonderful apartment not to far from Ed’s job and in a good neighborhood. Ed’s occupied with work and friends, but Eve can’t work without a visa. She’s not as confident as she could be.
Eve is befriended by Violet Wallace, an 82-year-old fellow Englishwoman, who’s lived in the building for a long time. Jackson Grayling III is a ner-do-well trust fund baby who falls in love with Emily Mikanowski, a gorgeous girl who doesn’t realize how pretty she is. She’s friends with Charlotte a librarian, who’s a bit frumpy. Then there are the Kramers and Schulmans, each married with kids and their own set of problems.
“This is the first novel I’ve written with an entirely American setting,” says Noble. “My first four books…The Reading Group, The Friendship Test, Alphabet Weekends and Things I Want My Daughters to Know…were all set in the UK. It’s been interesting to see the response of an American audience to a book set here.”
“Living abroad provides a fascinating wealth of material for a writer,” says Noble. “I’m still often very homesick for the UK. Anyone who flies over to visit us is provided with an extremely eclectic list of nostalgia treats to bring…Sherbert Fountains, Squeezy Marmite, Marks and Spencers school tights, Oxo cubes. But, I feel very lucky to be having this experience with my family. One of the greatest opportunities we have is the chance to travel. We’ve had wonderful holidays in Colorado, Hawaii, and Washington D.C. We’re planning a three week trip to California for next summer.”
“I do far less research than a non-fiction, or, say, historical fiction writer would need to do,” says Noble. “Most of my research is observational. I’m a great nosy parker. I have always believed that everyone has stories to tell. I was in the U.S. for three years before I felt confident writing about the city, as well as U.S. colloquial English. Even then, I wrote an English heroine.”
“When people realize you are writing a contemporary novel about their environment, they always assume they’ll appear,” says Noble. “I started to get some funny looks from the other residents in my building once it became known what I was writing. The truth is that I’d never do that.”
“There are no current plans to make The Girl Next Door into a film or TV series,” says Noble. “That really is the Holy Grail for a novelist, so I keep my fingers crossed.”
The Girl Next Door’s interwoven stories make a great concept. However, with so many characters clamoring for attention, the emotional connection to Ed and Eve was diminished. And, it would have been nice to know more about the building, not just the people in the building.
Noble has a sequel in the works. “My next U.S. novel, which will come out in 2011, is a sequel to The Girl Next Door,” says Noble. “I take up the stories of some of the residents as told in the first novel, but the beauty of having a building in a starring role is that I can move some great new characters in.” Noble is currently working on a novel to publish in the U.K. in May 2010.
Elizabeth Noble was born at home in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. Noble lives with her husband and two daughters in New York City. Her website is www.ElizabethNobleBooks.com.
The Girl Next Door: A Novel by Elizabeth Noble
Trade Paperback, 352 pages, Publisher: Touchstone, December 22, 2009, Language: English, ISBN: 9781439154830 $15.00