Andrea Weir Estrada is a Santa Barbara-based journalist whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the country and around the world. In her debut novel, A Foolish Consistency, former lovers reconnect by chance in a hospital emergency room and find themselves struggling with their own personal histories of love and loss while also navigating the complex emotions of two children who are grieving the death of their mother.
When parents fall in love with someone other than their children’s mother or father, it can be difficult for everyone. How does your new novel A Foolish Consistency handle that theme?
With honesty. For children dealing with “replacement” parents the pain can be excruciating. They don’t have control over what’s happening in their lives and they don’t understand a lot of it anyway. Children often have difficulty putting their feelings into words, and that’s what I tried to do with A Foolish Consistency — take those feelings and put them into words adults can understand.
I’ve heard you say that while the book is a love story, it is emphatically not a romance novel. Talk a little about that distinction.
A Foolish Consistency is a complex story about love and loss and the feelings that go with them. It most definitely has a romance component, but romance is not the primary element. The love story gives me the circumstances through which I can explore the children’s grief — as well as that of other family members — and how it is manifested in different areas of their lives.
A novel is such a complex undertaking, yet I understand you wrote the book without an outline. How did you manage that?
When I started writing the novel I didn’t have a storyline. I knew I wanted to explore particular themes and then I created a storyline around them. I had to put together a basic structure — two adults, one divorced, one a widower. And because I wanted the main female to have experienced the loss of a parent as a child and then be put in the position of becoming a stepmother (after a while), it was clear that she had to be divorced and the main male character had to be a widower with children. Once I had that structure, the rest developed very organically with one small section and then another and then another.
There are so many novels being published every year, it’s easy for a new one — especially if it’s a first book like yours — to get lost in the shuffle. How do you plan to help the book find its audience?
That really is a challenge. But in some ways the book sort of finds its own audience. I’ve found it very interesting that many people who’ve commented on it have indicated some aspect that resonates with them, and it’s often very different. One gentleman said the couple reconnecting after 25 years reminded him of his experience with his wife. Another person was reminded of her own childhood, and someone else, the loss of her husband. The book incorporates universal human themes that a lot of people can relate to. It’s been recommended as a great book club read, and word-of-mouth is proving to be huge.
Any other strategies?
I’d love to partner somehow with organizations whose work in some way relates to the themes in the book. For example, the genesis of the novel goes back to my time as a mentor with Hospice of Santa Barbara’s I Have a Friend Program. It’s a phenomenal program that’s hugely beneficial for both the children and the adults, and I’d welcome the opportunity to bring more attention to it.