This book had quite a twist. Darcy Evans hasn’t talked to her mom in three years (not by choice), but when her future in-laws invite her mother to the wedding, she finds herself agreeing to go on a road trip with her mother in a 1969 Mustang along with her mother’s ‘evangelical’ dog, Helen. When the road trip starts off with Darcy’s biggest problem trying to find out why her mother ghosted her three years ago and ends in a way that neither Darcy nor her mother could ever have expected.
This book is definitely a page-turner and a story that will keep you hanging onto the edge of your seat until the final page. Get an inside look into the novel in this Q&A with author Melissa Lenhardt.
When did you first come up with the storyline for Run Baby Run?
Gosh, it’s been a hot minute! I think it was in 2018 when I pitched the road trip idea to my editor at the time. It went through quite a few different versions before I finally settled on this plot. The storyline, an estranged mother/daughter road trip, never changed.
Tell me about the research process for the book.
I read a lot of travel books and articles, listened to podcasts, attended a travel writing retreat in Ireland (which was awesome), and did my own solo traveling. It was the most fun I’ve ever had doing research, for sure.
What did you enjoy the most about writing the relationship between mother (Marja) and daughter (Darcy)?
All of it, especially the conflict. How stubborn they both are. I have a great relationship with my own mother so writing a relationship so different and confrontational was a lot of fun.
Of the characters in the book, which character did you enjoy writing the most?
Marja, 100 percent. She is a complicated woman and, I confess, I didn’t completely understand her motivation until the very last edit. The ending was a bit of a mess, to be honest, and I was struggling with the “why” of Marja’s actions. The answer was obvious and had been there all along.
I also love Marja because I don’t think I would have been as strong as she is in the same situation. It’s fun to write characters who will do all the things I want to do, or wish I had the courage to do. I also made her look like Charlize Theron because who doesn’t want to look like Charlize Theron?
What was one of your favorite scenes from the book?
I’m going to choose a scene that I’m sure no one else would because it’s a little ridiculous: Darcy monologuing to the horse. I showed American Quarter Horses when I was a youth and spent A LOT of time with my horse, Stella. That is an incredibly autobiographical scene, though my conversations with Stella weren’t nearly as interesting. She was a great listener, though.
If the book was turned into a feature film. Who do you imagine playing Marja and Darcy?
I have two sets of choices for this question. The first are actresses who I pictured in my head when I was writing. The second are queer actresses since these are queer roles.
Head Marja – Jennifer Anniston, for sure. I think Jennifer Anniston is a great dramatic actress, in addition to being a great comedic actress. I kept thinking of her performance in The Good Girl when I wrote the book. Seeing her in Cake solidified my choice. Marja would be a great character for her to show her grittier side (I believe she has one) as well as show her amazing comedic timing.
Dream Marja – Gillian Anderson, awakening queer women since 1992. I’d love to see her play Marja’s queer awakening.
Dream Marja, part two – Charlize Theron. I have no idea if she’s queer or not, but she’s definitely played queer icons over the past decade and no one has seemed to mind. Plus, see Chapter Two of Run Baby Run.
Head Darcy – Emma Stone. Yes, because of the red hair. But also because she’s great.
Dream Darcy – Aubrey Plaza. She would absolutely kill as snarky, angry Darcy in the first part of the movie.
What was the most exciting part about meeting your readers?
They’re all so lovely. It’s humbling when I hear that my story or my characters have touched a reader or helped them through a difficult time. It reminds me that the reason I write isn’t for the money (though a bit/lot more of that wouldn’t hurt) but to entertain and empower.
Are you working on your next novel and if so, can we get a sneak peek?
I have a couple of ideas for my next Melissa Lenhardt book, but nothing on the page yet. Soon!