Listen to Allison Pataki’s first Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books interview as she talks with Lynda Loigman about her latest book, The Matchmaker’s Gift, which was inspired in part by her “bonus daughter” who stayed with her family during the pandemic. The two discuss how Lynda developed her characters by thinking about them so regularly that they became real to her, why she wanted to include a touch of magic in the story, and who in Lynda’s life serves as inspiration for her next book.


Allison Pataki: Hi, there. I’m Allison Pataki. I am joined now by Lynda Cohen Loigman, author of the beautiful new book The Matchmaker’s Gift. Lynda, thank you so much for joining today.

Lynda Cohen Loigman: Thank you , Allison.

Allison: Hi there. Welcome. Welcome. This is your third book. It is a beautiful book. It is a gift. It’s being called a gem for readers. Will you just start with telling us the how and the why behind this book and how you came to write it?

Lynda: Absolutely. Like so many books that are coming out this year, this book was written during the pandemic. of March of 2020, my daughter was sent home from school because she was a junior in college. She actually brought home her friend and roommate, who just added so much to our household. She was really such a blessing for our whole family because families went through a lot in the pandemic. She was sort of our buffer. She brought all of us together. It was a really wonderful experience having her. Having her and my daughter home added to the female energy of the house. Before that, it had just been my husband and . different topics. We were talking about what the young women at the table were studying in college, because they were in the middle of their college , about different issues that they were facing in school, issues that they were concerned about entering the working world. At the same time, we were binge-watching a show called Indian Matchmaking on TV, on Netflix. my daughter’s roommate said, “You know, my grandmother used to be an orthodox Jewish matchmaker.” There was actually a New York Times article . When she told me that, something just sort of clicked in my head. I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to write a lighter story about women and about a matchmaker and her granddaughter? I asked Adele if she . The inspiration came from that. Those were the first seeds of the story. There were a lot of that had to be made, tone and era and all of that, but that was the beginning of it.

Allison: What was her reaction when you asked her? How did she feel about that?

Lynda: She was excited about it. I said, “I’m kind of thinking this would be a great story. write it.” She was excited. She was a philosophy major. philosophy. That’s amazing. She’s a great thinker. and just being creative with them. I think she was really excited about that.

Allison: What an exciting pandemic quarantine for her. She comes home with her friend. Then her friend’s mother is this beloved author who ends up writing a book about her. Inspired by her.

Lynda: weekend. My daughter was home with her boyfriend and with her roommate, with Adele. The three of them all came to visit. We’ll see her again at Thanksgiving. She’s like our bonus child. She’s like our bonus daughter. It’s very special. I dedicated the book to them, to the two young women. They really made the pandemic special for all of us, so it’s dedicated to them.

Allison: I’ll say so, for all of us, for all your readers who get the book as a result, this unexpected windfall of your quarantine.

Lynda: You’re very sweet.

Allison: So, so good. How early in the process did you let Adele read the book, then, or a draft of the book? Has she read it yet?

Lynda: Adele is fluent in Yiddish. She had the Yiddish knowledge, so she helped with phrases. She comes from a religious home, so she was able to help me with a lot of . Although, I had so many people helping me with research. That was one of the really nice things about this book. Someone even from my law school to tell me that her PhD thesis had some relevant things about it because she was writing about marriage and divorce in the . People chipped in from a lot of different places to offer me their insight. It was a community effort in certain ways, which was really nice.

Allison: It was the book that you were meant to write in this moment, that was meant to be written by you. That’s so beautiful.

Lynda: I feel that way. My other two books were much more dark, but they were much more serious. This book has a joy to it. It seems very strange to say I wrote my most joyful dark of our collective shared history with the pandemic with so many people suffering, but I did find that people have responded to that now. Now that we’re coming out of that, people the light and searching for some joy. That makes me feel good.

Allison: It’s full of love. It’s full of relationships and family dynamics. One thing, Lynda, I will say that you so clearly poured into this book and that you have such a gift for — I find that you are sort of on your own level when it comes to this — is character development and world-building with your characters. Lynda, they jump off the page. You just imbue them with such life and spirit and individuality. As you said, this in particular is a grandmother-granddaughter tale. Can you talk about how you build your characters and how you build your worlds? You just make them such a rich experience for the reader.

Lynda: Thank you. That’s so nice coming from you because I admire everything that you do with your characters. For me, I’m a very slow writer. This book was actually the fastest I’ve ever written a book. characters for a long time. I need to really get to know them. That makes them real. I know some people have exercises they do. If you take a writing class, they’ll say, from to their mother, or whatever kinds of things. I don’t do things like that. Especially with this book, I say goodnight to my husband, and then I turn on my side and I think about my characters. I fall asleep thinking about them. One minute. Not all the time. When I’m really in the middle of drafting and I’m really in the middle of developing who they are, that’s what happens. You about them all day long because we all have lives and things that we have to do.

I go . I stay up for a while thinking about them. It’s a constant what-if. What would they do in this situation? What if this? Just really sink into them. I think maybe that’s part of it. I guess I probably dream about them, even though I don’t remember those dreams, but they’re the last thing I think about before I go to sleep, especially with this book. It’s because we go. There was no other stimulation. There wasn’t, you had those stimulating anecdotal moments with strangers that we all sort of craved during the pandemic, like just or saying something to somebody at the grocery store or a little small act of kindness like holding a door open for someone. All those things that make us part of a community were lacking. My community, especially at that time, were these characters in my head. I was having my little interactions with them.

Allison: You lived with them. They became a part of the fabric of your subconscious. Maybe that’s why they feel so deep and rich with their own flesh and subconscious identities as well. You did an amazing job. One of the things you joke about in your author’s note but also that the characters in your book talk about is that for a lot of us, the primary and only concept we have of a matchmaker is this yenta sort of inspired by Fiddler on the Roof. Your characters are talking about a very different take on this matchmaker. Can you talk a little bit about how you dealt with that as well and how you fleshed it out for your characters of Sara and Abby with the book?

Lynda: As I was saying, when the girls came home, we were talking about women’s issues. That was a lot when I was writing this book, which sounds strange. There was that whole other layer that I was thinking about when I was writing it. Yes, it’s a story about a matchmaker. Yes, it’s a story about love and finding love and soulmates, but this layer that I feel like is really relevant to working women today. Here is this young woman. The book starts in . She’s ten years old. What I found during my research was that there were hundreds and hundreds . On the Lower East Side alone, hundreds and hundreds. This was according to The New York Times and other The New York Times, which you wouldn’t think would be writing about Lower East Side immigrant matchmakers, but they were. That was really one of the reasons I picked this time period. When I was researching and when I was trying to decide what era the grandmother would live in and what era the granddaughter would live in, I had thought it was going to be a Mrs. Maisel sort of vibe.

When I started researching and I found this earlier era, it all became so rich and so fascinating to me. At that time, most of the matchmakers were men. They weren’t only men. Women were allowed to do it. these religious modesty rules. I talked to modern-day matchmakers too. It still is the case because there are married. You’re not allowed to be a matchmaker if you’re not married. You don’t know about marriage. There’s also this modesty with an unmarried woman hanging out with an unmarried man. What could happen? You can’t be an unmarried . That was something that was fascinating to me. Of course, if I have this young woman doing this who isn’t married and maybe doesn’t even want to be married, . Then I also found, not in the US, but I found an article about a matchmakers’ union in Poland. Of course, if there’s a , it’s fiction. I can create this cabal of matchmaking men on the Lower East Side who are going to be very annoyed that this young women who is unmarried is flying in the face of their tradition, that she’s them because she’s making these love matches. She’s going to have to fight against all of that. That’s the feminist , which I do think is completely different from the yenta, from the Fiddler on the Roof, from all of that. It’s a very, very different from those traditional matchmaking tropes that you think about.

Allison: Yeah, and that we all think about, probably. What is your process like? If such a thing exists, what is your typical day like as a writer? What does it look like behind the veil in the life of Lynda, the author?

Lynda: It really depends where I am with a book, as I’m sure it does for you. There are days I try to write. When I say write every day, it doesn’t always mean sitting and writing. Sometimes it’s just outlining or researching or thinking, sitting and thinking and figuring out a plot point, just sitting with my story. I find that if I’m away from a story for too long, it takes reinsert myself. I don’t really like too many days to go by without having a touchpoint, having . Then I get a little bit lost. I like to be in it as much as I can. With The Matchmaker, I wrote every . I wrote it from September to April. Then it was done. That was . usually at least to write a book. That was just crazy fast, but again, we were trapped at home. I wasn’t going anywhere. It came quickly. My kids are older, so I have time. You have young children who physically are exhausting. I have older children. It’s a very different thing. I have a lot more time in my day.

Allison: Then are you looking forward to — in the post-pandemic-ish era, you’re going to be able to go out and be with readers and do in-person events and actually get out of your home, right?

Lynda: I am so excited about that, yeah. I have a real mix of virtual events and in-person. I am so excited to talk to readers and to be in person. There’s an energy that comes that you can’t get on the screen, as you know. You just had your book come out. You know that. It’s special to be able to sign a book for someone and hand it to them. That’s a special connection that you have. Virtual events have been and gotten us through. I do think that there will always be a place for them now because so many people can’t leave their home. They’re far away. and get to touch a reader’s hand, just be with people.

Allison: Lynda, there is some magic in this book. I mean your writing, but also in the way the book takes shape and for the characters. I loved how you handled that because it was so beautiful and so delicate. Can you talk a little bit about that and the suspension of disbelief that you’re taking readers on this journey and how you decided to deal with the magic of what the matchmaker’s gift actually is?

Lynda: Sure, that’s such a good question. I have always loved books with a touch of magic. Alice Hoffman is . Huge Alice Hoffman fan. I don’t even know what you would categorize — I guess historical fantasy, , which was just a fantastic — so much rich history, but then you add in a magical element. I had never done it before. I was nervous about it. I was nervous even about how my editor or my publisher might receive it because changing — it’s still historical fiction, but adding that element was something really new for me. It felt . I don’t really know how else to describe it. I just knew immediately what it would be. I knew what it would look like. How to describe it properly, that was probably the part of the story that process. You have a day where you write a thousand words or two thousand words. You have a day where sentence. days when I was sentences, when I was sitting and staring at my screen and writing a sentence and coming away and just coming back and rewriting the sentence, trying to figure out — in my head, I could see it, but it took a lot for me to describe it in a way I’m happy with where I felt like somebody else could see it. That was a painstaking process. I just love a good old story. I don’t know how else to say it. I just love a story that you can get lost in in a chair with. I wanted to write that kind of story.

Allison: You succeeded. It might have taken you days to get the sentences down, but you nailed it. How did your editor feel? How did the publisher’s response come across?

Lynda: She was really happy with it. When I read her editorial letter, I cried. She wrote an editorial letter when I sent her the draft. She’s so smart, Sarah Cantin at St. Martin’s. She’s so smart. She’s just so in touch with words. She’s such a lover of words, which I appreciate so much. She wrote a very beautiful editorial letter. I just cried . That feeling of really feeling like someone understands what you’re trying to do with your words, there’s nothing more satisfying than that as a writer, to feel that. That’s how I felt when I read that letter. I’m tearing up now thinking about it. It was such a great day. You know. When you set out when it’s a book. You don’t really know when you start, what you’re setting out to accomplishment. Then as you write it, you come up with your themes. You come up with what it is that you really want. What are you really driving at? When someone sees that and writes you a letter to say, “I saw what you did here,” it’s so special.

Allison: You and she are a perfect match, then, to use your book as inspiration, it sounds like. That’s so great.

Lynda: Yeah, that was special.

Allison: What’s something you find challenging about the whole publishing process as a writer? One thing.

Lynda: You know this, too, as a writer. You want to build readers. You want to build your writing life. You want to expand it. You , but sometimes to do that you have to stay in one lane. Staying in one lane is really hard for me. It’s very difficult. This story, it’s historical, but I went a little bit into magical realism. I’m constantly getting thoughts, too many thoughts. I have so many thoughts for stories. When I this book, I had another book that I was working on too. I thought that would be the fourth book. Then I realized that fourth book, that’s not a good fourth book to follow . I want to do this kind of thing again. I want to have a touch of magical realism again. They’re always shifting slightly. I am always shifting slightly and trying to keep my focus on things that are going to be satisfying to readers for the next. I guess I could . I just wouldn’t. You have to slowly figure out what direction you’re going in. That is challenging for me, to keep myself on track and to find the book that’s the right book to follow each book.

Allison: How much can you tell us about what’s coming next?

Lynda: The next book, it’s very fun. I think if people like The Matchmaker’s Gift, they will like the next book. It’s inspired by my husband’s great-grandmother, who was a pharmacist. She graduated from pharmacy school in 19, which is so cool to think about a woman doing that. It’s a young female pharmacist. There may or may not be some magical chicken soup. Her father’s a pharmacist. more of old-world remedies for things. It’s sort of the struggle between that. It’s a really fun story. It’s also historical. This one is going to take me back to Brooklyn where my first book was .

Allison: That first book, it’s so beautiful. It was you who told me that chicken noodle soup, when you’re sick, is called Jewish penicillin, right?

Lynda: Yes. I was thinking about that and that idea of medicine. I’ve always heard the stories of my husband’s great-grandmother. She practiced well into . her certificates so that it looked like she was younger than she was. That element is kind of in my story too. That seems slightly dangerous, but I guess she got away with it.

Allison: Amazing. Love it.

Lynda: is the main character. Her name was , but people called her Goldie. The character in the story has the same name, which is really nice.

Allison: We will look forward to that, Lynda. What piece of advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Lynda: Keep writing. You really have to just keep writing. You can’t stop. You can’t quit. Sarah Lawrence College in The Writers’ Institute. It was more like a workshop than really pages and sat around the table and read it to each other. One of the things that the professor would say, or someone — I’m pretty sure he said it. The difference between a published author and someone who writes for their own enjoyment is just that you don’t . You keep trying. You keep submitting and submitting and trying. There are so many stories of so many people who had rejections. Then one day, something hits. Somebody sees what they’re doing. My editor, she really saw what I was trying to do. You just hope that there will be someone who will see what you are trying to do and appreciate it. That’s just sort of .

Allison: Absolutely. What is one thing that you want readers to take away from this book or to take away from speaking with them now? What is something that you really feel like you’re putting out into the world with this book and with these characters?

Lynda: There’s a lot of joy. There is a lot of joy. I hope people feel that when they . There’s also just this sense of tradition, of passing something on, of feeling connected to the past and connected to people in our past and the gifts, no matter what they are — the gift in this book is a literal talent. The idea that there are so many gifts that our ancestors, that especially our grandmothers, our female ancestors passed to us, whatever they might be, whatever traits, whatever words of wisdom, whatever lessons that they’ve given us and to connect to them — I think the joy is really a big part of it. The same way when I say that the whole feminist line of Sara’s career and what she endures is very relevant to today, so too are all of — the past is so relevant. It’s always relevant. What our grandmothers, what the people before us went through, we’re all still continuing . It’s that sort of tapestry that I hope people walk away with.

Allison: So beautifully said, not surprisingly coming from you, Lynda Cohen Loigman, author of The Matchmaker’s Gift. Speaking of connection, how can readers connect with you? Can you share your website and your social media and anything we should know about how to find you?

Lynda: I’m all over the place. just my full, I’m on Instagram. If you google Loigman, you’ll find me because there aren’t very many Loigmans. I’m on Facebook. I’m on Twitter, @LyndaCLoigman, I think is the . different. @LyndaLoigman on Instagram. On Facebook, it’s Lynda Cohen Loigman, Author. I love to . Please follow me. I’ll be announcing all of the different events, virtual and in person.

Allison: Amazing. The book, again, is The Matchmaker’s Gift by Lynda Cohen Loigman. Such a beautiful book, being called a gem by Kate Quinn. Really, it is. It’s a gift to readers. As you said, it’s a beautiful, joyful, magical, historic experience of family and love and life and womanhood and friendship. Thank you so much for giving it to us all to enjoy and savor, Lynda. Congratulations again.

Lynda: Thank you, Allison. Thank you so much for speaking with me and being such a thoughtful reader and thoughtful asker . I appreciate it.

Allison: It is I who thanks you. Thank you, Lynda. The Matchmaker’s Gift, a beautiful book. We know this will be one that readers will be savoring until the next one comes along, Lynda. Thanks again.

Lynda: Thank you. Take care. Bye.

Allison: Bye.



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