Kerri Maher wanted to explore reproductive justice from a variety of perspectives, so she wrote "All You Have to do is Call".
What was your inspiration behind your most recent book?
I have a soft spot for underdog stories. So in 2018, when I heard a news story on NPR about the women of Jane in 1970s Chicago, I was captivated. This was a group of real-life women just like me—housewives, mothers, college students—who had boldly taken matters into their own hands when the law did not support women in their hours of need. After years of referring women to other providers with mixed results, these women learned to give safe abortions to other women, illegally, affordably, and with dignity. I was amazed and inspired and immediately knew I had to write a story based on them.
What does "Reading Rainbow" mean to you?
It means reading whatever your heart desires, without apology. If that’s bodice ripper romance, go for it. Slasher thrillers? Fan fiction? Comic books? It’s ALL GOOD. Reading is reading just like love is love.
Why do you feel representation of a variety of people is so important when it comes to writing books?
Reading has been such an important source of learning for me, about individuals, cultures, and events. And at the same time that books have shown me the world, they have also reflected myself back to me, and encouraged me to grow. Studies show that reading enhances our human capacity for empathy—and by extension, I hope and believe it can also change hearts and minds. All of that is why it’s so important for books to represent, on every level, so that a white woman like me can learn from Brit Bennet, Michelle Zauner, and Alexis Hall, as much as so that Black, Korean, and LGBTQ+ readers can see themselves in those books.
Tell us a little more about the book and why you decided to write it.
Reproductive justice is such a complex issue, so I wanted to look at it from a variety of perspectives. The only way to do that was to get into the minds of many characters, which is why I braided together 3 main character points of view, and also deeply explored the stories of the secondary characters. When the going gets tough, these characters all believe in themselves and each other. They are truly there for each other when one of them needs it—all they have to do is call.
Also, as the political situation in this country became more and more divided while I wrote the book, paradoxically I wanted to write this novel in a way that might bring people together on one of the most polarizing issues. As I say in my Author’s Note, “there is no ‘them.’ It’s all ‘us’ here,” and if readers on both sides of this issue can look up from the novel with that message, I’ll feel truly grateful.
What can fans expect from your book?
Although All You Have To Do is Call has themes in common with my previous novels—like strong, independent women making their way in the world, against the odds—this book is also different in some key ways. Instead of writing from the point of view of one real-life woman, I’m writing from the perspectives of several entirely made-up women. And since the novel covers a shorter span of time than the biographical novels I’ve written before, it has a faster pace. Readers can expect some moments of high drama, and a deep dive into what it means to be a woman—as individuals, friends, mothers, lovers, wives, providers, professors….all the things.
What's up next for you in the bookish world?
I just signed a contract for two more books with my wonderful publisher Berkley, and I couldn’t be happier! I’m in the early stages of researching and writing Summer of Love, a dual timeline novel alternating between the 1960s and 2010s, set in the California wine country and the San Francisco counter-culture revolution.