Examiner Dorri Olds landed an exclusive interview with Amy Koppelman, author of “I Smile Back,” on Nov. 7 after a previous private Q&A on Oct. 29.
Koppelman has been on an adventure since Sarah Silverman took on the role of main character Laney Brooks. The writer teamed up with partner Paige Dylan to adapt the novel into a screenplay and Adam Salky (“Dare”) directs.
The movie, now playing in theaters and available on demand, won Official Selection this year at Sundance, Toronto International, and Chicago International film festivals.
Now Koppelman is onto something new; her third novel “Hesitation Wounds” was just released and it is another deeply moving tale. The characters are rich and vivid, the story is gripping, the prose is elegant and the ending, although not tied in a neat bow, is hopeful.
The author’s husband is screenwriter Brian Koppelman (“Ocean’s Thirteen”), creator of the Showtime series “Billions,” airing in January 2016.
Koppelman spoke candidly about herself, her husband, her new book, and Sarah Silverman.
Dorri Olds: How much of you is in your characters?
Amy Koppelman: Everything I write is personal — feelings of self-loathing, doubt, insecurity, fear — but I don’t do the things my characters do. Unlike Laney, I never cheated on my husband. “Hesitation Wounds” has the most me in it. I really care about these characters, when I think about them I start to cry. I miss them. Psychiatrist Dr. Susanna Seliger is the last stop on the crazy train and specializes in treatment-resistant depression. She does a lot of electroshock therapy.
DO: Thankfully, she’s nothing like Nurse Ratched.
AK: [Laughs] No, Suze gets a patient named Jim who is about the same age her brother Daniel would’ve been but her brother died. She’s treated lots of patients before but Jim gets to her and she realizes how much of her life she’s lived in fear of becoming vulnerable and being hurt the way she was hurt when Daniel died.
DO: Why the title “Hesitation Wounds”?
AK: I heard the expression and looked it up. It can be the cut you make right before or after you try to commit suicide but not a fatal cut. I think we all, even people who never bring a knife to their wrist, make hesitation wounds. We hurt ourselves when we hold back from living, when we’re afraid to risk anything.
DO: Why did you choose Sarah Silverman for “I Smile Back”?
AK: Sarah was on Howard Stern, talking about her memoir “The Bedwetter.” It’s about wetting her bed till she was 16. There was something about the tone in her voice and her talking about depression.
DO: What made you get help with depression?
AK: I was 24 when my husband called and said Kurt Cobain killed himself. I turned on MTV News and thought I had all the same symptoms. I finally called a psychiatrist.
DO: What is your husband like?
AK: I think writers and human beings in general all want to be seen and understood. No one understands me better than my husband. Brian is my best editor. It must be precarious for him at times because things I write are sad, brutal even. There’s that weird dichotomy between what I write and then I’m like, “Hi everybody! Want some dinner?”
Amy Koppelman’s upcoming events:
Nov. 15, 7:00 p.m. at Barnes&Noble, 82nd and Broadway
Nov. 17, 6:00 p.m. at NYU Bookstore, 726 Broadway
“I Smile Back” is playing in theaters and available On Demand and DVD. Addiction drama. Rated R. 85 min.