Q&A with Victoria Helen Stone, False Step
The main character in this novel, Veronica Bradley, has an exterior life that’s completely different from her interior life; the way others see her is not at all how she sees herself. What drew you to a character who embodies such a contrast?
I’ve always been interested in secret lives. I’m sure the roots of that started with my small-town Midwestern origins. There are all these tidy little communities where everyone knows each other and yet… life keeps happening. Divorces and affairs and quiet dreams that no one else knows about. I’ve had the same experience as a suburban mom. When my kids were young, I used to sit at the park and wonder what the other parents were thinking about. Because surely it couldn’t just be soccer.
Your novels typically feature complex female protagonists (Veronica is no exception), and you’ve been praised for telling the kind of stories about women that don’t exist elsewhere. Is this something you consciously set out to do, and if so, why?
I absolutely set out to tell stories about complicated women, because these are the women I know and love in my own life. It’s funny to me that we can treasure our sisters and our friendships with truly flawed women and want the best for them, but so often when we’re reading we want the female protagonists to be above reproach. We want them to be perfect so we can know they are worthy of happiness. But we complicated women are lovable, too. When I started writing, I desperately wanted to see women I know on the page, so I make an effort to write my own protagonists in that vein.
Central to this novel is the joy and heartbreak of motherhood. The book would be a very different one without the presence of Sydney, Veronica’s daughter. How do you think being a mother affects Veronica’s perceptions and her decisions in False Step?
Veronica feels she has an obligation to preserve her marriage for the sake of her daughter. She’s past the point of feeling she owes her husband anything, but she can’t bring herself to dismantle the life she’s build for Sydney. But of course, there are trade-offs.