Finding Comfort in a Lonely Pursuit

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Living in the shadow of a bestselling author can’t be easy — particularly when you’re in the book business yourself. But for Victoria Lustbader, wife of novelist Eric Lustbader, it has turned out to be a very happy union indeed.

For years, Lustbader, who divides her time between New York City and Southampton, worked as a book editor specializing in science fiction. Her foray as a writer has come later in life, largely thanks to the urging and support of her husband.

 “He was my biggest fan and biggest booster,” says Lustbader. “He kept encouraging me and was frustrated when I wasn’t doing it. He’s doing well. Being married to a successful writer is a good thing.”

Lustbader’s first book, “Hidden” was a historical novel set in New York City in the 1920s. While she enjoyed working in historic details of the period, ultimately, it is the theme of emotional truth that defines the book.

‘”Hidden” is about repression, hiding who you are and what you really feel and believe,” says Lustbader. “It took me until I was 55 to write my first book. I was repressing my own voice.”

“When I got ready to write my second book, I realized I was ready to write a book where I couldn’t keep an emotional distance.”

Lustbader’s new book is “Stone Creek” and tonight, Thursday, July 24, at 6 p.m. she will be at Alison Restaurant in East Hampton to talk about her work in an Author’s Roundtable Dinner offered in conjunction with East End Books.

Set in a small rural town upstate, “Stone Creek” tells the story of Danny, a young widower raising a five year son, Caleb, and Lily, a woman who has left her workaholic and emotionally unavailable husband, Paul, behind in the city to come spend summer in the country.

Though she is 10 years his senior, Lily and Danny feel a bond that is strengthened through their mutual interest in Caleb. For Danny, Lily provides Caleb with a much needed motherly touch. For the childless Lily, Caleb and Danny represent the fulfillment of the family that she has always wanted.

Novelists are often asked how closely their books mirror their personal lives, and in “Stone Creek,” Lustbader acknowledges there are details that reflect a certain reality.

“It did come partly from my own experience. On an emotional level I find all my books do,” explains Lustbader. “Ideas come from all over. Mine is an emotional hairball that gets caught in the throat — being a woman at a certain age with a husband who’s successful but no children.”

“It was a loss,” she adds. “But I realized I can’t define myself this way. It’s also about reaching that point of happiness with what you have and what you don’t have. I knew if I could write this authentically everyone could find something in it.”

Finding those larger life themes has been the key for Lustbader in her writing. Even if readers don’t recognize themselves in the characters, she notes, they will recognize issues such as loss, regret or repression. She feels that all of her years as an editor have paid off when it comes to writing her own books. It also helps to have a supportive husband who understands the process.

“Writing is a frustrating and lonely thing to do at times,” says Lustbader. “Having both of us doing it in same house down to the cellular level is a blessing. When he was writing, I would be lonely. He’d disappear for months on end. Emotionally and intellectuality I understand it, but it’s hard.”

“Now that I’m writing too, we both disappear,” she adds. “I understand totally where he goes. As long as I’m writing, it’s fine if I don’t make dinner.”

Tonight’s Author Round Table Dinner with Victoria Lustbader at Alison Restaurant (207 Main Street, East Hampton) is $39 and includes three courses. To reserve, call 324-5440.

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