Stuck in the Middle: A Conversation with Ann Garvin

I Like you Just Fine When You Aren't Around by Ann Garvin captures that in-between place so many people find themselves in today where carrying for aging parents collides with creating your own family and tending to your career. Her unflinching look at the challenges with a liberal dose of humor and a touch of romance raises the important questions about this in-between time and helps us to enjoy thinking about the answers.

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What inspired you to return to Tig Monahan's character from your second novel, The Dog Year? How did this story come to you?

My favorite thing to write about is when good, strong, balanced people lose their nut. The Universe hands them the very thing that they can't manage and all of their past coping skills don't seem to help.

Tig Monahan, in The Dog Year, was Lucy Peterman's therapist and worked to help Lucy see that shoplifting and stealing hospital supplies is not a good strategy for coping with loss. Tig was a good therapist for Lucy she was balanced, supportive and strong. In I Like you Just Fine When You're Not Around, Tig is forced to face facts about liking someone versus loving someone and what happens when you have done everything you can and it's still not good enough. I think wise, helpful people are just as flawed as the rest of us and maybe that is what makes them so wise and helpful.

The Story Origin: My mother has Alzheimers; it began when my children were very little, and I was a single mother. I know what it's like to be pulled in a lot of directions. My biggest mistake during that time was thinking that if I wasn't in the equation things would fall apart. I was both right and wrong. I wanted to explore both, I wanted to acknowledge that while we are important to the world, if we ask for help life can be manageable and we still all have value.


Tig is forced to make some tough choices about her career, her love life, even her sister's life. What do you hope her experiences show people about living?

Life is all about making choices and so often the toughest choices leave the greatest dividends behind. But, you have to be willing to make the hard choice. The times in my life where I've tried to make an easier choice instead of dive into the thick of it, are the times that I just put off the inevitable. I've come to learn that being courageous about making choices is something to invest in. We should all take college classes on making choices.

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Tig takes to the airwaves to dispense advice. What would your radio show be about?

Oh, that's a good question. If I could pick a Radio Show it would be called Ann Garvin's Be Nice To Each Other Hour where everyone would call in and air a particular kindness that they have done or someone had done to them and there would be prize money a public motivators to participate.

One of the best things about your writing is the humor. How did you get to be so funny? What sources of humor do you turn to in order to refill your well?

I seriously don't know where my funny comes from. I just see everything through a glass of hilarity. Well, not everything--there are certainly things in the world that are decidedly not funny. It's both a blessing and a curse. I rarely am serious which can really piss people off and funny people are often thought of as less, shall we say, academic or literary. Take for example the Oscars. When was the last time a funny film took high honors?

I believe that drama and comedy live in the same domain, meaning there's got to be something serious going on for people to laugh. We imagine ourselves in a similar place, we wonder how we would deal with it, then we see a character, who we care about, fall and we respond to the embarrassment. The reader nods in recognition of the moment and laughs in relief and sympathy. I guess I see those stakes everywhere. I see the possibility for embarrassment everywhere, which tells you a lot about me.

You also write a great newsletter about health and wellness. Do you have any advice for people in the sandwich generation for protecting their health and wellness as they navigate caregiving?

I do have some advice and once I reveal it, you will really get to know me. If you are a loyal sort of person who works hard to treat people in the best possible ways you must make sure you understand the difference between helping and when helping becomes co-dependence. What I mean by this is, if you are helping someone because you want to ease their suffering that is a wonderful trait. Make sure that you get enough sleep, try to eat a fruit or vegetable once and awhile and try to stay physically active even in the smallest of ways. You can't help another person if you get sick too.

But, if you find yourself caring for someone to gain points in the universe or prove a point or in the hope that you will get love in return then it's time to step back.

And how can people sign up for your newsletter?

For this and other nosy advice about all things health, nutrition, and stress management related go to www.anngarvin.net and sign up. I only send out an email once a month!

This interview first appears on Women Writers, Women's Books.