Randy Sue Coburn, the author of A Better View of Paradise, also wrote Owl Island, the 2006 novel described by Kirkus as “beautifully realized” and “a perceptive assessment of what women do in love.” A former journalist, her screenplays include Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, a film about Dorothy Parker that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Randy Sue’s film projects and ten-year stint as a writing instructor with The University of Washington subsidized the completion of Owl Island as well as Remembering Jody, the 1999 first novel hailed by Booklist as “a wry and compassionate emotional rollercoaster from a master storyteller.” She was born in Chicago, raised in South Carolina, and now lives in Seattle.
Thank you for this interview, Randy Sue. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
Randy Sue: Thanks for asking me on board! Although it took quite a while for me to work up the nerve to write fiction, I’ve been supporting myself as a writer ever since I graduated from the University of Georgia — first as a newspaper reporter, then a freelance journalist, then a screenwriter. Writing screenplays emboldened me to commit myself entirely to make-believe, and by doing that, I realized why journalism had become so frustrating. When you toss “what really happened” out the window, you can often come in contact with truths much fuller and richer than reality allows.
Do you write full-time?
Randy Sue: I’ve written full-time for the last few years, which I’m sure is why I was able to finish A Better View of Paradise in half the time it took to finish writing Owl Island, when I was teaching. I know writers who are excellent multi-taskers, but I’m afraid I’m not one of them.
You’ve met an old friend from high school and you want to pitch your book to him/her in five minutes or less. What would you say?
Randy Sue: I’d say that A Better View of Paradise is about love, death, and baseball — with a little intervention from Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, thrown in on the side. On a more serious note, this book deals with a woman resolving her relationship with a difficult, demanding father who’s terminally ill. A father who calibrated her to achieve and prepared her better for dealing with life’s harshness than all of its possibilities for love and beauty. He also gave her a template for getting romantically involved with similarly difficult men — another problem she faces head-on in the course of the book.