Paula Bomer's Nine Months is a novel about pregnancy, but it is more Ridley Scott than Dr. Spock. In the book, an unplanned third pregnancy provokes a young Brooklyn mother into fleeing her family on an unhinged cross-country road trip, with the bun still in the oven. Along the way, she battles her own sexual desires, her stalled artistic aspirations, and the sheer physical realities that a person has to contend with while carrying another person inside of them. The book feels almost dangerous in its iconoclasm, and Bomer writes about the myriad trials of pregnancy with an honesty that made me want to call to my mom and make sure that she never fantasized too much about murdering me. We spoke about sex, feminism, and parenthood. Click 'read more' for the interview.

1) I feel like the book is a female response to the type of thing we’ve seen before in, say, the first part of Rabbit, Run, with the man fleeing domesticity, which represents for him the death of male freedom, inability to spread the seed, surrender to the mundane, etc. But there’s a distinct lack of stories told from the other perspective, which is of course that “settling down” demands massive sacrifice of the woman too, and a kind of death of her own. What might explain the lack in our culture of the type of story that you’ve written here?

There are a few books about women feeling trapped by domesticity for sure, but rarely do they go on wild road trips, whereas a man is more likely to leave. This is sadly factual, not just in fiction. As far as how to explain this I'd look at the historical possibilities women had, which were few. Women were financially dependent on husbands and the incredible shame and dishonor a woman would suffer if she left her children would be life-ruining. Marriage was the only way out of a family, unless you became a spinster. Men - being a life long bachelor- it's not a bad thing. Just comparing those two words explains it all- spinster vs. bachelor. In the second wave of feminism, durng the 60s and 70s, women fought hard against these constraints and made much progress. Fantastic feminist theory and literature came out then, but it was still a very male dominated arena (still is), the arena of serious literature and theory. I'd also say that understandably during that radical time, a lot of women were just saying fuck all that, whereas Sonia, my character, wants it all.

2) I loved the line about New York parents treating their children like a combination between an art and science project. It’s couched in a rightfully derisive tone, but also actually seems like a fairly accurate way to describe parenting (I’m not a parent, by the way, so feel free to set me straight). What does that approach lack, or why do you think Sonia finds it so disagreeable? 

It puts raising children as a public event before the very beautiful private thing that it is. This of course is my opinion that I put in Sonia's mouth, but I believe it's a problem with living in New York. Children become part of the endless social climbing. I'm terrible at social climbing. And I think using one's kids to further your social status is morally repugnant. My guess is it happens everywhere a little, but a lot more in New York and LA.

3) So few authors write sex scenes as well as you do, and authors who might be otherwise talented often write sex scenes that are borderline unreadable. How do you approach writing about sex? What makes a sex scene suck?

First of all, thank you. I hope I write about sex well, as I do it a lot, although less so these past few years. I think straightforward language is key. My sex scenes are rarely romantic. Guazy language is never a good idea- sappiness can be cringe inducing. I use humor, but the bad sex scenes are ones you laugh at, not with. Sex is an important part of who we are as humans, so I think it should be addressed. 

4) I got a real jolt of feministic appreciation reading this book. What I mean is that I’ve never read anything that so urgently asked me to consider certain things that, as a guy, I might otherwise have never had to consider as vividly, not only about pregnancy but also about being a woman. Is that part of what you set out to do, or just a fortunate byproduct?

I love that you got a "feministic appreciation" reading my novel. It was very much my intention that the readers question and/or experience these huge things that Sonia questions and experiences- pregnancy, birth, marriage, child rearing, what it means to be an artist, a "serious" artist, a good mother, how  having children deeply affects our understanding of ourselves and our daily lives.

5) What will your caveat be to your children before they’re allowed to read this book (if ever)?

Ha- that's funny. My older son is sixteen and when doing some excruciating revisions, I had him read some things out to me. For instance, the Indiana visit- he read that chapter to me while I was working on it. He's also read a few short stories of mine. But there is plenty I warn them away from. Who needs to read their mother's more sexually explicit stuff? Or even the more heartbreaking stuff (I'm thinking of some of my not-funny short stories)? At some point it's out of my hands. I remember reading about Alex Styron reading Sophie's Choice and feeling embarrassed by the explicit sex. Honestly, they aren't interested right now, and that's fine with me.

9/20/2012 07:10:36 am

Excellent interview! Finally, a novel that explores a mother leaving the scene to explore herself! Exceptional questions and answers! Thank you, Paula, for your powerful writing!

8/7/2013 10:11:09 pm

Thank you for another essential article. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a complete way of writing


Paula Bomer is as intelligent as she is amazingly pretty.

11/26/2013 03:45:35 pm

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