By Seija Rankin
December 07, 2020 at 12:00 PM EST
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Credit: Elisabeth Caren for EW

Lisa Taddeo's new novel was borne out of pain. But, that doesn't mean the material is autobiographical — although it's commonplace for authors to weave fiction out of their own personal traumas, Animal is a byproduct of the pain she witnessed while reporting out her blockbuster debut that followed the inner lives and desires of women. It follows Joan, who has fled New York City for Los Angeles, where she begins to make sense of a horrible event she witnessed as a child, and eventually deciding to take matters into her own hands. As if that weren't an intriguing enough synopsis, the first line of the novel should pique you interest:

"I drove myself out of New York City where a man shot himself in front of me."

Animal is set to hit stands on June 8, 2021, and Taddeo spoke about it for the very first time to EW, in addition to sharing the book's cover — read on for more.

Credit: Avid Reader Press

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: To start, what can you tell us about Animal's plot? Do you have a log line for it yet?

LISA TADDEO: With Three Women, it took me like six months to get a log line down [laughs]. For this book, I would start by saying that the governing principle behind it is that we are more comfortable in diagnosing madness in women — saying she's "crazy" — than we are examining where she’s coming from and why she is the way that she is. Another major theme is the way that mothers, specifically, can just affect every single part of someone’s life.

What I'll also say is it’s about a woman who has been wrecked in the past, first by a very specific event and then others to follow. She is owning the fact that she has been traumatized and that it’s okay to be traumatized: "I’m going to do something about it, and I'm validated in doing something about it." For me, the essence of the book is about more than the plot, I think about the book in terms of the bigger motivations behind it: How difficult it is for me that people aren't okay with other people's trauma.

EW: When did you write this book? From the outside, it almost sounds like a novel that could be the fantasy ending for one of the women featured in Three Women — that they've been treated so poorly and decided to sort of take their life back. 

LT: I wrote Animal before Three Women was turned in as final — it was near the end, while I was getting the last elements together. I find that writing fiction and nonfiction at the same time helps me to remember to keep the facts in the fiction, and the openness in nonfiction.

EW: Do you think the book was a direct reaction to what you experienced writing Three Women?

LT: Since that book took up 10 years of my life, it’s hard to say what was part of my life and what was part of the book. But Animal was affected by some of the women I spoke to, who either didn’t make it in or want to be in the book. And, a lot of it was inspired by what I saw across the country. Some of the criticisms of Three Women are that the women are victims and everyone’s sad. First of all, I didn’t’ think they were victims but there is a lot of sadness out there. A lot of times nobody wants to hear about awful things from someone's past, to the point that when I was writing Three Women I felt I had to not include something about a person — like a mother who wants to commit suicide — because in our society we can no longer sympathize with her. It was borne out of that feeling of pain. And you cannot take the fact that the pain exists away from a person’s story and just say you don’t want to hear it — that’s a denial.

EW: Wbat is the significance to setting the book in New York and Los Angeles?

LT: I lived in many of the places in the book — Los Angeles, out of all the places I've lived, felt the darkest for me. There's something gothic about it, or at least my experience of it. New York has always been very known to me, and I liked going from the known to the unknown in the book.

EW: Did anything else specifically inspire this novel?

LT: One of the things I really like about Gone Girl is the sense of reclaiming power. There have been so many conversations about that story, of people saying oh she's crazy. But no, she's not! This guy f--ked up her life. Why are we just saying she's crazy, why are we not looking at what he did. He moved his wife out of New York to this place she doesn't want to be and then she has to see her husband with Emily Ratajakowski. It's the same with the astronaut, the woman who drove across the country wearing a diaper: Is it wrong? Yes. Is it crazy? Not necessarily. I felt the same writing Animal, that there's this idea of a woman taking the power back and not giving a f--k what other people think.

EW: As you look ahead to the publication this summer, what else is up next for you?

LT: I'm actually working on the adaptation of Three Women, with Showtime, and trying to write my next nonfiction book. I’m such an anxious person that I need to fill my brain with a million different things. But the writer's room [of Three Women] has been lovely. It's myself and four other women and it is very calm and quiet and we’re just working in a vacuum — on Zoom. We’re incredibly lucky that we are able to continue to work unlike a lot of other people, especially from home and making up stories. It’s been really great.

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