Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Interview with S. B. Lerner, Author of In the Middle of Almost and Other Stories (Book Review Included)

S.B. Lerner worked as an attorney in Manhattan for many years, and in the evenings she wrote and published short stories. They are now available as a collection, called In the Middle of Almost and Other Stories.

After getting married and becoming a mom, she was struck with the importance of knowing family history, so she researched and wrote the story of her father’s fascinating life. It was through learning about his early passion for a Zionist youth group in Poland that she became interested in the subject of her first novel, A Suitable Husband, which is set in prewar Poland.

S. B. loves to read historical fiction and novels set in other times and places, as well as to travel and meet people. Travel time is limited, lately, but she teaches an ESOL class and learns about other cultures through her diverse group of students. When not teaching, doing ‘mom’ things or playing with the puppy, she is at her desk working on another novel set on a college campus in New York.

You can visit S.B. Lerner’s website at, and read her blog ‘Novel Thoughts” through a link on the website. You can find Susan’s book on Goodreads at

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I recently went to a high school reunion, and when they took a group picture. I ended up in the front row, and said to the guy sitting next to me, “Oh no! Now everyone will see me!” He laughed and said that I always was like that, always wanted to hide in the back. So I guess you might say I’m shy, or perhaps just wary. But over the years I’ve learned to put on a good act and if we met, we’d probably have a long, interesting conversation. I find people fascinating and love to hear their stories. I prefer that to talking about me, which is why I have a hard time answering this question and have been rambling. Tell me about you!

When did you begin writing?

I kept diaries when I was young, and in my college years I wrote lots of letters. That was before email and Facebook and I still have long, heartfelt letters written by friends and boyfriends, where we tried to unravel all the complicated emotions that define that time of life, before you worry about your kids more than yourself, and are trying to figure out where and with whom you belong.

I wrote a lot of essays and papers in college, and then went to law school. When I was working as an attorney in e NYC I discovered some wonderful writing classes and workshops that I attended in the evenings. That’s when I started writing short stories. I got great feedback and encouragement, and loved sharing my work and reading the work of my fellow classmates.

What is this book about?

This book is a collection of short stories and memoir. The stories are mostly about young women who are busy but lonely, and, as the description says, look for men in all the wrong places—the garage attendant across the street, the stay-at-home dad in the park, the younger man at the diner counter—with both funny and poignant results. The memoirs are sketches of my early life and how my parents’ experiences in the war ultimately affected me.

What inspired you to write it?

The memoirs came about because I knew little about my parents’ early lives and spent a couple of years researching and writing books about them. The memoirs are extracted from those books, which were written primarily for family, and frankly, so my son would know something about his grandparents.

Some of the stories came from the period in my life when I was single, working in New York City, dating, and finding it all a bit overwhelming. I would get together with my friends and we would discuss our experiences in ways that were both entertaining and therapeutic. Writing gave disparate events structure and enabled me to find meaning in them, as well as a kind of emotional release. Short stories are the perfect literary form to explore a single emotional arc. But the stories aren’t specifically about me and my experiences (really!). They were often what I imagined might have happened if I’d followed through on an impulse. In other words, the stories allowed me to experience what I was too chicken to do in real life.

Who is your biggest supporter?

Definitely NOT my son, who thinks the name of my book, In the Middle of Almost, is pretentious. He makes jokes about it. They are kind of like knock-knock jokes…I won’t go there. Diametrically opposite is my husband who admires my writing and hands out the little cards with my book information to everyone he knows and shows them the book on his iPad. It’s a bit embarrassing but I’ve gotten some sales from his efforts!

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

Glad you asked! It is only available as an ebook, but it is available on most e-readers, including, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple iPad/iBooks, and Sony Reader. It is available at the Smashwords site, too.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?



Facebook Page:

What is up next for you?

A terrific small publisher is interested in my novel, A Suitable Husband, but he’s asked for revisions, so that will be my next project. I’ll keep you apprised!


In the Middle of Almost and Other Stories is an intriguing selection of short stories about single life and the challenges of working and dating in New York City. We meet Jennifer who is tired of sitting home alone on Saturday nights sipping Merlot and smoking while reading. When she opts to visit an old-fashioned matchmaker who promises to get her "married soon," she wonders if she made the right choice. An order of French Fries leads to some interesting results.

Then there's Jessica, an attorney living in Manhattan who feels a bit out of place among her colleagues. Sitting on a ledge enclosing the front of her apartment building, a relationship is struck with the gas station attendant across the street.

Then there's the young mom in the park with her son. Tragedy had changed her life forever. Could a chance meeting with a dad at the park make a difference?

Also included are "Witty Girl" and "Phantom Arms," and the memoirs: "The Terror of Field Lane" and "Memories in a Desk Drawer," along with an excerpt from the novel, Familiar Stranger.

It's been a while since I've read a short story collection. What holds this one together nicely is that the women in it tend to have something in common. Many are professional single women trying to navigate the world of career politics and dating--sometimes with disastrous results. Some are dealing with cheating boyfriends. The memoirs deal mostly with family memories. The last one, "Memories in a Desk Drawer," being perhaps the most moving part of the whole collection.

Lerner does an excellent job of painting pictures for her readers. I've been to NYC a few times, so I felt in familiar territory as the author dropped in descriptions of setting and weather. What I feel Lerner does best, however, is reach women where they are or where they were at some point in their lives. I don't think a woman out there can't relate to at least one of these characters.

I look forward to more from this author.

Publisher: Samson Books (September 13, 2011)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B005MZ829Y
SRP:  $1.99

I received a FREE Kindle edition of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinions. The author paid me to promote this book with a virtual book tour through Pump Up Your Book, but that fee did not include a review. I received no monetary compensation of any kind to provide my opinions.


susan said...

Thanks for featuring me and I'm honored you choose to write such an insightful, thoughtful review. I think you're right, people relate to the characters in the stories.But the fact that you found the memoir most moving means a lot to me.

Cheryl said...

Thanks for the great interview, Susan. I'm glad you liked the review.

Wishing you the best,