Ten Minutes With Lauren Acampora
A best-selling author
photo by Sally Green
Lauren Acampora, who upon discovering Katonah knew it would be “home,” has authored her stunning debut, The Wonder Garden, which Amazon included in its Top 20 Picks for Books of the Year. This brilliantly written, thought-provoking, and somewhat unnerving collection of 13 interwoven stories is a must-read. Upon completion, you may just find yourself looking a little more closely at your neighbors.
What’s it like to have such a successful first book?
Oh, it’s a whirlwind rollercoaster right now, I am so thrilled to even have a book published, let alone that it is successful. Being a parent helps, as you realize the book is not the center of the universe.
The stories are set in a town very similar to ours. Was this done on purpose?
A lot of the book was inspired by Bedford or perhaps a hybrid of Bedford and Darien, where I grew up. People are sequestered in their houses, there are these community standards—you try to keep the house up. We didn’t know what the heck we were doing when we bought a house, but we did know we were going to rake. I didn’t want the neighbors to wonder who these slobs were who just moved in!
Are any of the characters based on real people?
No, all of them are figments of my colorful imagination. However, I do love the juxtapositions in this area; you look around and see the beautiful perfect suburban paradise and houses, and then I can place someone completely unconventional into the setting, like a new-age healer in a tree house, and you wonder whether that person might be shunned or celebrated.
Each story is filled with rich detail. How do you know about so many different things?
I’ve always loved researching and also always felt I was a bit of a dilettante with lots of different interests. For instance, I love neuroscience but wasn’t up to being a neurosurgeon! Writing fiction allows me to dip into all these different things.
Which was your favorite story in the book?
Well, my most fun one to write was “The Virginals”—the family steeped in all things Revolutionary. I did a lot of research for that one, and the idea came from visiting my parents in Wilton. There is a strip of houses along Route 33 that has the most immaculately kept, historic, old Colonials, one after another. It made me wonder about these people; was there some unspoken agreement—or even spoken?—about how the houses must be kept?
Will you continue with the short-story genre?
I definitely love short stories. Novels are big, and they’re scary—an investment that you have to hope works out. I am happy to say my publisher has already bought my next two novels. One is written, and the other is in progress. The first is a little dark, which makes me nervous, as I don’t know how people will react to it.
Any last thoughts?
Just one I will secretly tell you, which I guess won’t be so secret now, and that’s that I love this magazine. My husband is not allowed to throw them away. He recycled one once, and I got so mad at him. I told him, “Let’s make this a rule: No Bedford Magazine is allowed to leave this house!”