The new novel, “Vegas Girls” by Heather Skyler is a rumination on the nature of friendship, marriage, and parenting. The author grew up in Las Vegas and sets her book in the neighborhoods of our city.
It’s the story of three women - longtime friends Ivy, Jane, and Ramona - who gather in Vegas for one week.
From her home in southern California - Heather Skyler, told KNPR’s Fred Wasser that all three women are at a turning point in their lives.
(Novelist Heather Skyler) Ivy, one of the main characters just had a baby. The baby is just about to turn 1. The other two old friends come to visit, and see her and the baby. Jane is coming from Wisconsin and she is thinking about leaving her husband. And they have two little kids. And she’s just been fired from her job as a reporter because she got caught making out with a co-worker in the cloak room. Ramona thinks she might be pregnant. She’s on the edge of a turning point. She’s also wanting to search for her adoptive son who she gave up in high school.
Where is she living?
She lives in Long beach, California, which is where I live right now, though the character is not me.
Your book takes place during one week. It’s an action packed week, isn’t it?
(laughs) That’s true.
They’re all in confusing relationships with their male counterparts. What do you make of that?
That’s true. I think the late 30s is often an age where marriages get tested. I found that a bit with my own marriage - then. I’m older now. But, when our kids were little, it’s such a stressful time. It’s such a time of joy, as well, because having children can be great joy. But there’s also great stress because it’s just been the two of you, and now you’re trying to raise these two kids. One or two or how many kids you have. So, I think that can put a stress on a marriage. It’s also usually, often, a little further into the marriage so the glow of the beginning has worn off. So, for Jane I think that’s part of the problem. Her kids are kind of wearing on her. And Ramona, the musician from Long Beach, is not married but she has a boyfriend. And you’re right, she’s kind of in flux as well. Ivy, the one they’re coming to visit, she does love her husband, but she has an ex-boyfriend who appears in the book who’s trying to lure her back. So, you’re right. They’re all in that state. But it is an age when a lot of women, perhaps men – I can’t speak for them as much – there’s kind of a pressure on the marriages or the relationships they’re in - a lot of times because of having had kids.
In this novel, “Vegas Girls,” the characters seem real to me. How do you make that happen as a fiction writer?
These aren’t based on particular people. But they’re probably all parts of myself and other people I’ve known or know, and a lot of details I kind of pick out. They’re made up, but they’re also creations of people I’ve known. I think of the details I notice in people, and the details I notice around me and try to fit those into the fiction, and hope it feels real.
I think I’m going to know the answer to this, but I’ll ask it anyway. Sometimes when I read a novel, I think: fascinating characters, but there’s no way I’d want to meet them if they were real. But you’d want to meet these characters, wouldn’t you?
Yes, I would. I like the characters. That was another thing I was working with, though: thinking about, making a character like Jane – someone who is kind of a jerk sometimes, but you still like her. I hope.
This is the second of your novels (set in Las Vegas) – you’ve finished a third. Is that set in Las Vegas, too?
Yes, it is.
What’s the advantage of setting a novel in Las Vegas?
I think growing up (in Las Vegas) – at least for me - it has made it much more vivid than the other places I’ve lived. I also lived in Las Vegas the longest of any of the places I’ve lived. I have moved around a bit. I think it’s also a place not many people write about as a regular place, and I like that idea. It was a regular place to me. My parents were both teachers. I worked on the Strip sometimes, and sometimes we went out there. But, otherwise I was in the regular neighborhoods and schools. Then we’d go on a vacation and someone would say: What? You live in Las Vegas? Or, I’d go to college and people were shocked, and I started to realize how odd it was. It interested as a place for that reason, too.
Did you work on the Strip while you were in school?
I did. I was a lifeguard at several different hotels. In my first novel (“The Perfect Age”), the girl is a lifeguard at The Dunes, which was actually my first job. That one was more based on my life.
Did you write any of “Vegas Girls” in Las Vegas?
No, I didn’t. I haven’t lived there for quite some time. I was back recently for a reading, but I wrote most of it in Wisconsin and California - kind of half and half, and just remembering details and looking things up on Google Maps to make sure my memory was correct.
Skyler is editor of OC Family, a magazine based in Orange County, California. Skyler also writes a syndicated column about family, life, and parenting.
From Desert Companion: 'Vegas feels so uncharted'
Heather Skyler, author of the novel, "Vegas Girls."
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