Cassie and Sid Sunday, once as close as sisters could be, have drifted apart. They live in opposite corners of the world—New York City and Singapore. On a rare family holiday together, inspired by their grandparents’ letters, they challenge themselves to a year of old-fashioned letter writing, with the hope that it will bring them together. Intimate and honest, their correspondence becomes a kind of mutual confessional, changing their lives in unexpected ways when Cassie makes a foolish mistake that threatens to expose their secrets to the world and ruin everything.
Publicist Alice Lewinsky had a chat with author Lisa Beazley about her debut novel, Keep Me Posted, a funny and thought-provoking look at modern marriage, family and social media.
Keep Me Posted centres on two sisters—one who lives in New York and the other in Singapore—who make a pact to communicate exclusively via handwritten letters for one year. What do you think it is about the written word that helps us to feel better connected?
I always feel like I know someone better after I see their handwriting. It’s possible these days to know someone for a long time and quite well before you see their writing, so sometimes it catches you off guard. There’s a unique intimacy to handwritten letters. A letter from someone is a physical connection to them in a way a text or an email can never be. Never mind the whole project that is knowing someone’s address, having a stamp and then remembering to put the thing in the post box—it really does say you care.
Has your personal use of social media and other forms of online communication changed since writing Keep Me Posted?
Well, while I was writing it I was more aware of my social-media tendencies. In fact, one of the things that drove me to write it was this notion of who we share what with and why. I’d love to tell you that I quit all social media and now communicate exclusively by handwritten letter from a little shack in the woods, but now I that have a book to promote, I’m on social media more than I ever was before. Go figure.
Why do you think blogging appeals to so many people, both as readers and writers?
‘There’s a unique intimacy to hand-written letters. A letter from someone is a physical connection to them in a way a text or an email can never be.’
I don’t know, to be honest. One thing that strikes me as attractive about the medium is that there’s not a lot of risk. When you first start a blog, no one is watching, so you can dip your toes in and get comfortable before you start drawing attention to yourself. (In fact, I did just that and discovered that I was a terrible blogger, and quickly took my blog down before anyone noticed!)
Your writing explores modern motherhood with a wonderful sense of humour and insight. Was this something you set out to do when writing the book?
Yes and no. I’m not typically drawn books or films ‘about’ motherhood or where children have a central role. (I’ve got enough of that in my real life, thanks.) I set out to write a book about sisterhood and connection. The sisters were also mothers and that’s something that connects them, so the motherhood theme became unavoidable. When I started the book, I had recently gone from being a working mum to a stay-at-home mum to a work-from-home mum, so I found it handy to be able to draw on my perspective from each ‘station’ if you will. Humour is my main coping mechanism. I can’t do anything without finding some way to laugh at it or make fun of it, and writing is no exception.
Keep Me Posted also deals with the ways in which technology and social media can affect our relationships—why do you think it is important that we take the time to reflect on our use of technology in everyday life?
I think it’s important to save part of ourselves just for us and for our inner circle. I saw a headline recently regarding a study that said that people’s sharing tendencies are becoming less personal. I get that—we’ve all been on Facebook long enough to have cycled through the stages of fun and fatigue, we’ve all learned some lessons and are now a little more measured with what we put out there, I think. Social media is wonderful. I love it—but for real, nourishing connections, I find a back-to-basics approach to be far more satisfying.
You’ve spent many years living in a foreign city, away from friends and family, just as Sid does in Keep Me Posted. How did this experience play into your writing?
In a more subtle way than you might guess. It’s more of a perspective shift kind of thing. Moving to a foreign country, setting up a new life, making new friends while trying to stay connected to old ones—all of these things are what primed me for writing a novel, and they are the same themes that came through when I started writing. I didn’t write about my own experiences per se, but the experiences I had are what allowed me to write fiction that felt true and real.
Which authors have most inspired your writing?
There are so many, but I’ll give you my top two specific to Keep Me Posted:
Nora Ephron’s Heartburn—I love the way she tells her story like she’s talking to an old friend. It’s this intimate, dishy, funny, and startlingly raw story of a woman at her lowest. It’s light and funny, yes, but also deeply honest and heartbreaking at times—that’s a rare combination and one that I attempted to emulate in Keep Me Posted. I even put a brief scene towards the end that’s sort of an homage to Heartburn. I’m still waiting for someone to notice!
Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Reading this was my ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ moment. (See? I can’t help it.) Bernadette is the most charmingly hilarious crazy lady, and this is the story of her family surviving her nervous breakdown and disappearance. It sounds like a real downer, but just the opposite—it is life affirming, clever, fresh, and truly funny. I could sense how much fun Ms. Semple must have had writing it, and I wanted to do that too. I wasn’t sure I could, but it’s the book that got me to try.
What are you working on now?
My next book doesn’t have a title yet, but it’s about a woman who is totally different from Cassie (in Keep Me Posted). Her name is Bo, and she was a young mother and has had a successful career and a strong marriage, but everything gets turned upside down when her second child goes away to college and she and her husband become empty nesters. She finds herself back in her old neighbourhood (a place she’s purposefully avoided for many years), facing up to her past and the person she’s become. It’s about creating your second act in a fearless, free way impossible for most people when they are young. I’ve found it to be a challenge to write a character who is ahead of where I am in life, but it’s been so rewarding to figure her out.
Keep Me Posted is out now. Order online or from your favourite bookshop.