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Taylor Hahn Writes Comedy From a Place of Tension
Crystal Hana Kim interviews Taylor Hahn about her new novel, learning to write in law school, and subverting the jokes about the swinging lifestyle.
Crystal Hana Kim: begins with Georgina, a lawyer at a big firm in New York City, walking in on her husband cheating. Interestingly, Georgina’s decision isn’t to suggest couples therapy or divorce, but swinging. How did you come up with that premise?
CHK: I love that you bring up shame and exploration because your novel is so much about women owning their sexual desires. It’s sex-positive and feminist. Specifically for Georgina, swinging brings a sense of empowerment and makes her realize what’s missing in her life.
CHK: Is “the lifestyle” synonymous with swinging?
CHK: Your novel is also a retelling of Jane Austen’s . How did that come about?
That’s not going to happen to me. I know better.Emma
CHK: One thing I loved about Georgina is how she treats Meredith, the junior associate she catches her husband, Nathan, with. I appreciated how you didn’t pit the women against each other. How did that relationship storyline come about?
CHK: Right, which is what often happens in real life.
CHK: While reading, I kept thinking, Your novel is full of humor and love and warmth. Did you always want your book to be a comedy?
CHK: This is also a book about friendship, with an ensemble cast. It’s not only Georgina and Nathan who join the lifestyle—Georgina’s friends from law school and their respective partners join too. Since there are six people involved, a lot of chaos and high jinks ensue.
CHK: Thinking about craft a little more, for each character, there’s an arc or revelation by the end of the novel. For six characters, that’s a lot to hold in your mind as a writer. How did you keep track of all these storylines?
CHK: I love that even someone like Meredith, who maybe in a shallower book would just be the woman in the opening cheating scene, has her own arc. Switching gears, I wanted to talk about your life as a lawyer. There are so many specific details about lawyer life—mentions of structured finance and associates and whatnot—which I found fun since I’m so unfamiliar with that world. Like the characters in your novel, you are also a lawyer. Beyond the details, does your lawyer life influence your writing in other ways?
CHK: You were a teacher before, and then a lawyer, and now you’re a published author. I’m curious about your journey to becoming a published author because it is “atypical” in some ways.
Crystal Hana Kim is the author of If You Leave Me, which was a Booklist Editor’s Choice title and named a best book of 2018 by over a dozen publications. A 2022 recipient of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award and a 2017 PEN Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize winner, she is also a contributing editor at Apogee Journal.
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To write her book ‘If You Leave Me,’ Crystal Hana Kim used research to be true to Korea, down to its roots.