Claudia Riess bounces back and forth between Remsenburg and New York City to find inspiration for her novels. Although the author and ex-New York Times editor has mostly focused on children’s books, she has pushed her boundaries over the last few decades, beginning with “Reclining Nude” in 1982 followed by 2015’s “Stolen Light” and 2016’s “Semblance of Guilt,” and this past June, the complex, romantic novel “Love and Other Hazards.”
The story follows Glenda, an independent and fierce single mother, and Eugene, who is timid and apprehensive after his divorce left him heartbroken. Opposites attract in this love story when the two cross paths in an awkward encounter and eventually find their way back to each other a second time. Except this time, feelings start to surface.
The novel is a long-awaited reaction to “Reclining Nude,” Ms. Riess said.
“‘Reclining Nude,’ a single woman’s psycho-sexual exploration written in first person was not an autobiography, but a kind of experiment to test my ability to create a direct line to my imagination and allow a raw freedom of expression,” she said. “Subsequently, I really wanted to expand my focus to include the male’s POV, so in ‘Love and Other Hazards’ I took a subjective dive into the tensions and conflicts of a single father and juxtaposed them to a single mother’s.”
The book isn’t a typical romantic-drama—Ms. Riess likes to spin in some laughs to keep things lighthearted.
“It’s not that I set out to be amusing or exaggerated in depicting scenes or exchanges between characters, but in retrospect I see that I do tend to put a comedic twist on things. But—and it might seem contradictory—to highlight the core reality of the underlying plot and character development, even the most serious aspects of it. Also, if the characters have a sense of humor, they kind of converse on their own, while I serve as referee,” she explained.
A common theme in all characters throughout Ms. Riess’s novels is developing characters who face an internal conflict as well as an external conflict. Her characters experience strife with one another while they also go through dynamic changes or realizations within themselves.
“A prominent issue in ‘Love and Other Hazards,’ and perhaps in all my novels, is the conflict of self-determination and yielding of self,” she said. “The conflict between staunch independence and romantic love, which is submissive either by nature or indoctrination, seems to be both a philosophical and evolutionary subject to grapple with. I like to deal with the issue head-on by putting characters in situations where they are struggling to define themselves at the nexus of this conflict.”
Claudia Riess will have a “Meet the Author” session, where she will talk about her second book, “Stolen Light,” at Hampton Bays Library on Saturday, August 19, at 1 p.m. Register by calling 631-728-6241.
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