Gays Reading

Holly Gramazio (The Husbands)

April 09, 2024 Jason Blitman, Brett Benner, Holly Gramazio Season 2 Episode 47
Holly Gramazio (The Husbands)
Gays Reading
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Gays Reading
Holly Gramazio (The Husbands)
Apr 09, 2024 Season 2 Episode 47
Jason Blitman, Brett Benner, Holly Gramazio

Jason and Brett talk to Holly Gramazio (The Husbands) about how her life was changed by a misfiled library book, her strong convictions about jewelry, five finger shoes, and High School Musical 3

The Husbands is April's Read with Jenna book club pick.

Holly Gramazio is a writer, game designer and curator from Adelaide, currently based in London. She founded the experimental games festival Now Play This, and wrote the script for the award-winning indie video game Dicey Dungeons. Her recent projects include New Rules, a zine collecting essays about play during the pandemic, and a collaboration with artist Lawrence Lek on a game for his exhibition NOX. She’s particularly interested in rules, play, cities, gardens, games that get people acting creatively, stories that buy into a ridiculous premise and then really commit to it, and art that gets people interacting with their surroundings in new ways. The Husbands is her first novel.

**BOOKS!**
Check out the list of books discussed on each episode on our Bookshop page:
https://bookshop.org/shop/gaysreading | By purchasing books through this Bookshop link, you can support both Gays Reading and an independent bookstore of your choice!

Join our Patreon for exclusive bonus content!

Purchase your Gays Reading podcast Merch!

Follow us on Instagram
@gaysreading | @bretts.book.stack | @jasonblitman

What are you reading?
Send us an email or a voice memo at gaysreading@gmail.com

Show Notes Transcript

Jason and Brett talk to Holly Gramazio (The Husbands) about how her life was changed by a misfiled library book, her strong convictions about jewelry, five finger shoes, and High School Musical 3

The Husbands is April's Read with Jenna book club pick.

Holly Gramazio is a writer, game designer and curator from Adelaide, currently based in London. She founded the experimental games festival Now Play This, and wrote the script for the award-winning indie video game Dicey Dungeons. Her recent projects include New Rules, a zine collecting essays about play during the pandemic, and a collaboration with artist Lawrence Lek on a game for his exhibition NOX. She’s particularly interested in rules, play, cities, gardens, games that get people acting creatively, stories that buy into a ridiculous premise and then really commit to it, and art that gets people interacting with their surroundings in new ways. The Husbands is her first novel.

**BOOKS!**
Check out the list of books discussed on each episode on our Bookshop page:
https://bookshop.org/shop/gaysreading | By purchasing books through this Bookshop link, you can support both Gays Reading and an independent bookstore of your choice!

Join our Patreon for exclusive bonus content!

Purchase your Gays Reading podcast Merch!

Follow us on Instagram
@gaysreading | @bretts.book.stack | @jasonblitman

What are you reading?
Send us an email or a voice memo at gaysreading@gmail.com

Jason Blitman:

There are so many books out today.

Brett Benner:

So many, I know so many

Jason Blitman:

Some that I've read, some that I haven't read,

Brett Benner:

do tell

Jason Blitman:

Okay, the one that I read is A Better World by Sarah Langan. The one liner is, a devious thriller about a family seeking refuge within an exclusive enclave. Only the smiles and manicured lawns come with a price. Super good. And Sarah Langan was a part of the Palm Springs Readers Festival that I produced, and she's incredible so I'm so excited for her in that book. And then I can't wait to read The Age of Magical Overthinking by Melissa Montel because I am an overthink, a capital O overthinker. In fact, I'm probably a capital O V E R overthinker. And I just feel like she wrote this book about me and it's light so

Brett Benner:

it's speaking to you.

Jason Blitman:

it's speaking to me. Notes on Modern Irrationality.

Brett Benner:

Interesting. I loved her last book.

Jason Blitman:

And then the other one that I am so stoked to read is There's Going to be Trouble by Jen Silverman. And Jen, Their book We Play Ourselves, came out a couple years ago that people really loved. And Jen is also a playwright. There's Going to be Trouble. A woman is pulled into a love affair with a radical activist, unknowingly echoing her family's dangerous past and risking the foundations of her future in this electrifying novel. The course of your life can change with one split second decision.

Brett Benner:

That sounds great.

Jason Blitman:

I know, right? And we are gonna do a giveaway for multiple copies of this book. So make sure you're following us on Instagram, at Gays Reading, so that you can see when that happens.

Brett Benner:

That's great. Also, our next week's guest, Yulin Guang's book comes out, How to End a Love Story. It's really great. And we had such a great conversation with her next week. And then two other books that I had that came out today that look both interesting. I know one was very interesting to you was The Prospects by K. T. Hoffman,

Jason Blitman:

Yes.

Brett Benner:

Which is a joyful, heartfelt debut rom com revealing what's possible when we allow ourselves to want something enough to swing for the fences. It's a rom com that deals with a trans baseball player, so that looks great.

Jason Blitman:

The editor in their letter at the very beginning of the galley for that book says that within the first few chapters of the prospects, she knew that this book would do for trans storytelling, what Casey McQuiston did for the queer rom com space with the red, white, and royal blue.

Brett Benner:

that's amazing.

Jason Blitman:

I have a friend that read it. Shout out to Ashley. She read it months ago and then wanted to read it again just before pub day so she could talk about it. So has read it multiple times. Loved it so much.

Brett Benner:

That's great. And then the other thing that's coming out today that looks really heartwarming and wonderful is called the Fellowship of Puzzle Makers. It's an extraordinary, gloriously uplifting novel about the power of friendship and the puzzling ties bind us. It is a story about love and family and what it means to find your people no matter what age you are. So this sounds like great in the way that, a good heartwarming story, which we all could use those. And I also saw that the audio book Russell, Toby is one of the readers of it, and I'd love me some. Russell. Toby. oh, And the last thing, which is a big one for a lot of people is the fellowship or the familiar, sorry, by Lee Bargo, which is set in the Spanish Golden Age and her latest thriller, which is getting great reviews and raves from people. So I'm excited to read that.

Jason Blitman:

And there are, again, there are so freaking many books. Also coming out today, The House of Broken Bricks by Fiona Williams. Every marriage has its seasons. It's autumn when we meet Tess, but her marriage to Richard is in a deep, cold winter. A winter so harsh, their union may never see the bright light of spring. Love or relationship drama. Also Rough Trade by Tarina Carrasco, the beloved gender fluid antihero Alma Rosales is back. Rough Trade is a heady feast for the senses that explores reimagined queer communities, the turbulent early days of modern media and medicine, and the pleasures and price of satisfying desire. I just need to pause time so that I could read every book that comes out today because I'm just so excited for all of, I don't think we've ever shouted out this many books.

Brett Benner:

I don't think we have either. And also, like we were talking quickly yesterday and just said, April has been on fire and there are so many amazing books coming out and so many great ones that have already come out that there's just not enough time, but God, there's just this books right now are just fantastic.

Jason Blitman:

Thank you to all of our listeners that keep listening and listen to us babble on about books and who go and buy them to support our authors and just authors in general and local bookstores or libraries, wherever you're getting your books It's wonderful. And if you like what you're hearing, please share us with your friends. We have seen a growth in our numbers, which is so exciting. And that's a testament to you, our listeners. So we're so grateful for that. And if you can follow us. wherever you listen to podcasts, click subscribe because we, some of you might not know this, but we don't get paid to do this podcast and to see numbers grow is what can get sponsors to want to to support us. So if you even just click subscribe it'll bring our download numbers up, which is super helpful. And we're grateful and appreciative of that. You can buy merch, and the link to buying our merch is in our show notes. You could join our Patreon, which is also the link is in our show notes. And all of the books that we talked about both just now and on the episode and on every episode can be found in our bookshop. org page. Also the link in our show notes. Today we have Holly Gramazio. Her book, her debut, The Husbands, was just announced as April's Read with Jenna book club pick.

Brett Benner:

People Are loving this book. People are loving it.

Jason Blitman:

So much fun. Holly Gromazio is a writer, game designer, and curator from Adelaide, currently based in London. She founded the Experimental Games Festival, Now Play This, and wrote the script for the award winning indie video game Dicey Dungeons. Her recent projects include New Rules, a zine collecting essays about play during the pandemic, and a collaboration with artist Lawrence Leck on a game for his exhibition, Nox. She's particularly interested in rules, play, cities, gardens, games that get people acting creatively, stories that bite into a ridiculous premise and then really commit to it, and art that gets people interacting with their surroundings in new ways. The Husbands is her first novel. I'm, I am obsessed with Holly Gromazio. And on that note, I'm Jason and enjoy this episode of Gaze

Brett Benner:

he is reading. Um, okay.

Jason Blitman:

Do not disturb my phone.

Brett Benner:

Oh, good idea. If I can even,

Jason Blitman:

do not disturb phone.

Brett Benner:

Yes. Hello.

Holly Gramazio:

Hello.

Jason Blitman:

Hello! Um, I'm so excited. I'm excited to talk to you, but I'm more excited to say your name. I'm obsessed with your name.

Holly Gramazio:

Incredible. Let's try it.

Jason Blitman:

I'm, I imagine you as a Sopranos character. Hey, it's Holly Grimazio,

Holly Gramazio:

Oh, well done. Nice. Good work. I'm

Jason Blitman:

Which is so stupid, but I'm like, how fun. Are you Italian? You must be

Holly Gramazio:

not my my stepdad, my now ex stepdad was Italian. So he and my mom got married when I was six or seven. She changed her name. I changed my name because I was six or seven. And then they eventually divorced like 20 years later, but I'd grown up with the name. My brothers have the name, half brothers, technically. Want to keep the same name as them. Got used to it. Also, there are nine million people called Holly Matheson, which is what I was until I was six. There are so many Holly Mathesons. I think there's even a minor character in one episode of Cheers called Holly Matheson. And as far as I know, there are no other Holly Grammazios, because it is an Italian name. It's from Benevento. And most Italians aren't called Holly.

Brett Benner:

Holly. You'd be like Tina,

Jason Blitman:

but this is why I said, I'm obsessed with your name. It's

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah. So I get to have this name that's just mine.

Jason Blitman:

and you have an accent to me. So hearing it in the accent, it's like Italian chef's kiss. It's so nice to meet you.

Holly Gramazio:

It's so nice to meet you

Jason Blitman:

I am so excited to talk about the husbands your debut novel. I was saying to Brett, I read the whole thing on a plane the other day and it was just like the most joyful way to spend a cross country plane ride. I know it's terrible to tell authors that you read a book in one sitting very quickly.'cause. You worked on it for a very long time.

Holly Gramazio:

No, I love it. One of my very favourite feelings when I'm reading is that sort of 2am, I really should go to sleep, but I know I'm not going to, I know I'm going to keep reading for another half an hour to an hour and a half, oops, feeling. So I am so delighted when it turns out that someone read it in a huge sort of haphazard, careering rush.

Jason Blitman:

I was stuck on a plane, so I had nowhere to be.

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah, absolutely.

Brett Benner:

but you also, but you do, it's compelling because you have to know who's coming down next.

Jason Blitman:

I know. For our listeners that have not had a chance to read it yet, can you, do you have an elevator pitch for the book?

Holly Gramazio:

Okay, so this is the shortest version that I've managed. It's a novel about a woman named Lauren whose attic starts creating an infinite supply of husbands. So that's a very short version. The slightly longer version is, Lauren gets back one night after her best friend's hen party and she finds that her husband is waiting up for her. And this is Really weird because when she went out to the party, she definitely wasn't married, but his face is a photo on her lock screen. There's a wedding picture up on the wall and also it's 3am and she has been at a party until now, so she's quite drunk. So she just barricades herself in the living room and figures she'll work it all out in the morning. But then in the morning when he, when she goes to talk to him about it, he's yeah, just a second, I just need to change a light bulb in the attic. And he climbs up into the attic. And then when he climbs down, he's a different man. And she slowly figures out that her attic is creating this infinite supply of husbands for her. Each time a man climbs up, a different man climbs down.

Jason Blitman:

so funny. That premise alone is just, I like, couldn't wait to read the book. It's obviously very Groundhog Day adjacent. Have you always been drawn to those, that like style of story?

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah, I really, I've always loved the sort of story where it's essentially realist, maybe a comedy, but there's just one big thing that's different about the world. One thing that kicks a story off.

Jason Blitman:

It's funny you say that because my husband was like, you love magic realism. And I was like, I don't actually love magic realism. I love when a world is for the most part normal, but there's a hint of something that's unexplainable. And I think that's, Essentially a Groundhog Day style story as, and the husband style story. That's what this is going to turn into. We're not going to call it Groundhog Day anymore. It's going to be the husbands.

Brett Benner:

Husband's day.

Jason Blitman:

you, I'm obsessed that you're a game designer and

Brett Benner:

what kind of games? She's

Holly Gramazio:

Sometimes I am, one of the reasons I'm so excited about having written a novel is that I can now at parties just say, Oh, I'm a novelist and not have to try to explain my incredibly complicated games work, which involves making games often for festivals or museums or art galleries, sometimes for events. Sometimes they're a one off thing that happens. Sometimes it's a physical installation in a museum. I've also done card games and other tabletop games. I've done some little digital work. I've written the script for a couple of video games. Essentially anything that's about play and interaction and words and places and in some sort of combination.

Jason Blitman:

And how, what was the journey? Clearly you're creative. You're coming up with these stories for the games. You said you wrote, you've written scripts for video games. Is that sort of how the transition into writing a novel came? Have, did you always want, you clearly always wanted to write a novel.

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah, I definitely always just assumed that I would eventually get around to writing a novel at some point and, maybe it wouldn't get published, but at least give it a good go and see how it happened. And then I realized that unfortunately it wouldn't just happen without me doing anything. And I would have to actually sit down and spend a whole bunch of time on it. Otherwise, I would get 80 and go, now would be the time when I magically turn out to have written a novel.

Jason Blitman:

How convenient would that be if that was the magic realism part of your life? You just thought about a book and it appeared.

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah. Ah, no,

Brett Benner:

that moment now. I know she really went there. She was like, there was her sliding door. Also, in a way, you've created this choose your own adventure book, which is

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah, there's definitely a little bit of game thinking that's gone into it. I think there's something when you're designing a game, quite often you're trying to figure out what will people be thinking at a particular time? What might they try to do within the game? And as a player, it feels really good if the game responds to you, if it sees what you're doing and gives you some sort of reward. So a lot of the structuring of The Husbands was me having that kind of, of thoughts about it. I, what, if I were reading this, what might I be wanting Lauren to try? What I, what might I be wondering about how the whole system works? What might I be making up in my head and going, I wonder if this is going to happen? So I'm trying to, I'm trying time the events and experiments and revelations to run hopefully roughly alongside what people are thinking, maybe sometimes a little bit sooner, sometimes a little bit later, but roughly have Lauren's realizations and experiments keep pace with when the readers are going, Oh, but what about this?

Brett Benner:

Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

you've talked about is that different versions of your life are sometimes quite nearby, and that's something that you played with a bit in The Husbands. Are there things in your life that you've experienced that you could point to that are, that you can give as examples of that?

Holly Gramazio:

Oh yeah, absolutely. My whole Game design work is essentially the result of a really elaborate series of events that goes back to a misfiled book in a secondhand bookshop in Adelaide in South Australia, which is where I'm from, where I grew up. I live in London now. But, yeah, I went looking for some Latin poetry with parallel translation to English, because that's the kind of slightly unbearable teenager I was.

Jason Blitman:

Wow.

Holly Gramazio:

and I found, misfiled in the like foreign language poetry section, a book called Metamadridia. called Themis by Douglas Hofstadter, which is this collection of early 80s columns from Scientific American, where he just plays with different ideas around language and games and writes these very long, fun, discursive essays on them. And I went, this sounds like fun. Okay. Why not? Bought that read it and found a chapter about a game called Gnomic, which is a game where you vote to change the rules during the course of the game, so the game vaguely evolves as you play it. I thought that sounded great. Eventually I found some people playing it online and I joined in with a game of that for a while. really actually loved playing it, but made friends with some of these people, continued to play games with them, started messing around with the idea of designing games and thinking about that as something to actually do on a, on an ongoing basis rather than an occasional weekend hobby. And from there, basically everything else, my current work, all of my friends where I live, the kittens, all of these things traced back to this one misfiled book.

Jason Blitman:

I am obsessed with those sorts of stories. And I feel like, I'm very grateful that I have, happen to have stories like that in my own life, but even something as simple as you were just talking about a song with somebody and you walk into a coffee shop and that song is playing that has happened too, and I think, it's fun when we really, think about and pay attention to our surroundings and see the little nods from the universe, little winks from the universe saying you're doing the right thing or we're paying attention or whatever. It's, I love that.

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah.

Brett Benner:

Now, when you went into this, did you write out a prototype? Did you have ideas for many of these husbands? Did they begin to reveal themselves to you as you went through it? How did that work?

Holly Gramazio:

Oh, you know the thing that some writers say about how the characters come to them fully formed and then they try to start capturing the characters? That is not how it works for me, even a little bit. Obviously I've written one book, so who knows? But what seems to happen, and this is how a lot of games work, works as well for me, is that I start by thinking about, situations and moments and just a moment of emotion and then try to form everything else around it and go I know I want to have this moment. I want to have this visual image. I want to have this emotion. What might fit around that? So for example, the husband descending from the staircase, like standing in a hallway, looking up at an attic, waiting to find out who's going to climb down, was one of those key things. And it's similar with characters as well. Think about what they're going to be doing, what situations they're going to be in, and then what sort of person they would have to be for that to make sense. And then once I start writing them, I figure out more about them through that process. But it's definitely a kind of like functional, thing. So Lauren, for example, is very bad at making decisions. I'm also quite bad at making decisions. So this is definitely something I've clawed out of myself and formed into the financial claim model of Lauren, right? But But the specific way she's bad at making decisions is just being afraid of getting things wrong, not wanting to commit to stuff, avoiding making a decision in case it's not the right one. And she's like that because that's the sort of person where it makes sense for her to have this particular type of magic attic, right? She has to be someone who would broadly go along with things. These husbands are going to climb down. She has to be someone who would live in a place and kind of continue to live in it by habit, because otherwise she wouldn't have that many lives where she's under this particular attic, right? She'd have a bunch where she's off in Spain or Australia or South America or wherever it might be. She had to be someone who was quite static in that way. And that kind of gives me a sense of who the person is. And then I start writing and find out more from there.

Brett Benner:

And did you ever with these again with these men, because I almost think you could write one, write another one and then piece them together in terms of how you want them to appear.

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah, absolutely. What happened? I wrote maybe, but the final novel is about 100, 000 words long, but I've wrote maybe 150, 000 words of just disconnected scenes, mostly bits and pieces and jokes and scenes and chapters and husbands and long lists of men who might exist And then just had this huge pile of words to work with. And

Jason Blitman:

men, you could say

Holly Gramazio:

yeah, of men, this huge pile of men and then began shaping them and getting them into a line and seeing how that worked. People talk about whether the writers plan things in advance or just start writing and see where it goes. And I'm this this very inefficient third thing where I write a bunch of stuff and that's created the lump of clay that I then use to, to plan

Jason Blitman:

That's amazing. I know I, my husband and I have been together for a little over 10 years, and we first moved in together like nine months after we started dating. And when we were looking for our first apartment he has a science background. He works in technology. He's a very smart man. But he, as we were talking about deciding on an apartment, He taught me about optimal stopping and this book is a book this literally is a book about optimal stopping That's what this book is

Holly Gramazio:

it is, and there's a whole little lecture

Jason Blitman:

Yes, but you don't use, you don't use the terms optimal stopping, but the 37 percent is literally the optimal stopping algorithm. Basically the idea and our listeners, the idea is let's say you're trying, let's say apartment hunting. I was apartment hunting. If we were, we put together our list and then let's say we're seeing 10 apartments. Once we hit 3. 7 apartments. And once we see 3. 7 apartments after that, we stop when we see the full list of things, right? So if we get to apartment number six and it has everything that we're looking for, we don't see apartment number seven because that's going to be the optimal time to stop. It was like, Oh, that is literally what this book is about. And I was obsessed. Were you, I know you're married, I assume you're still married because your bio reflects as such. When you were on your dating journey, did you, were you, I was a serial dater. I have a long list of gents that I went on a date with, two dates with. Was that your experience? Did you collect from your life?

Holly Gramazio:

Not really. I'm very much a long term relationship kind of person. So I've had maybe four uh, long term relationships in my life, and each time one of those entered, I would go, Ah, now I'm single. I'm going to be a glamorous single lady. I'm going to drink cocktails and wear a fancy dress out in the town. And

Brett Benner:

girl. Same.

Jason Blitman:

Or just in your living room.

Brett Benner:

Same. Ha.

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah, but then basically two months later, it's like a bell goes off and whoever I'm standing next to, we're in a long term relationship now, we move in together, that lasts, at absolute minimum two and a half years.

Jason Blitman:

Oh my god.

Holly Gramazio:

So it is a little bit like Lauren's experience of just having husbands parachuted into her hallway, right? Except not quite as efficient.

Jason Blitman:

Now that I'm no longer a serial dater and, a long term relationship, I am

Brett Benner:

Now that you've sealed your attic.

Jason Blitman:

now that I've sealed my attic, I am obsessed with swiping. For my friends. And so when you talk about that in the book, I was like, Oh my God, I relate so deeply, Brad. I don't know if you

Brett Benner:

Do many of them let you swipe? Do many of them let you swipe? No. The closest I've come to this is I took pictures for a friend of mine with the dog when he was loading stuff up on one of these apps because I was like, everybody loves a dog. It doesn't have to be yours. And I have this beautiful golden retriever. So I was like, sit here with the dog. If you want to take your shirt off with the dog, that's fine too. But those will get you likes.

Jason Blitman:

No, my friends let me swipe.

Brett Benner:

Wow.

Holly Gramazio:

mine too. They hand the phone and just, that's so overcome with weariness of this never ending carousel of faces that they're just like,

Brett Benner:

And you hope it's just faces. Is it but, oh, they literally say, do you pick some for me?

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah, sometimes,

Jason Blitman:

when you swipe

Holly Gramazio:

they want you to, sometimes they want you to show them before you approve them. But sometimes they're just like no, whatever. I can't bear to look at any more. Just, yeah. make some decisions. I always have to go, which one's good, which one's bad. I can never remember which direction is which. It's very unintuitive to me. Sometimes I'll accidentally press a button and go Oh no I've super liked someone. I'm so sorry. And I just go, it

Jason Blitman:

we're getting, you're getting married now. Sorry.

Holly Gramazio:

say it doesn't matter, I don't care, none of this really means anything, that happens all the time. Every individual swipe is invested with so much insignificance, this tiny little chore.

Brett Benner:

I could never do this. I really couldn't because I would be the person who would be so invested and be like why didn't they swipe me? Why? I would, I

Jason Blitman:

Yeah. You're too emotional.

Brett Benner:

I am, I really am, I couldn't do it.

Jason Blitman:

Speaking of friends, I, was obsessed that Lauren had people around her who were just like on board you always need that friend who's You could say whatever, what you could say, I just robbed a bank or this crazy magical thing has just happened. And the friend is like, cool. I believe you. I trust you. Let's figure out how to solve your problem. And we all need those friends. Do you have someone in that like that in your life?

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah, I guess I'm lucky I A few friends who are in that sort of, will just go along with whatever, or have whatever conversation, or even if they think something you're saying is nonsense, will engage in the nonsense with you, which, uh, which is just a really lovely thing to, to have. I remember. one of them sneaking into the theatrical viewing of High School Musical 3. We are like a decade too old for high school musicals, but just watched them when we were housemates and got very obsessed with them. And then when the third one came out with a cinematic release, we were incredibly excited about that. So we booked tickets on opening night at 9pm in this local suburban theatre. multiplex. Got there an hour early because we were so overexcited and also maybe there'd be a huge queue. There was not a huge queue. So we went over the road to the supermarket and got a bottle of fizzy wine and then opened that and started drinking it before we went in. But then, because we were so overexcited, we had not. not even drunk very much of it and had to go into the cinema. And then had this sort of elaborate series of events where she said, Oh, I'm really good at not spilling wine. And I had a balloon in my bag because of some game events I've been running. This is not a euphemism and me trying to hide the fact that I had a condom in my bag. This

Jason Blitman:

No, it was literally a balloon.

Holly Gramazio:

like a bright blue

Jason Blitman:

a party, yeah.

Holly Gramazio:

put it over the top of the bottle of fizzy wine because that would stop it spilling in our bags No, right? You're ahead of me on this

Brett Benner:

Oh my

Holly Gramazio:

turns out that fizzy wine gives off all of these little bubbles. And so here we're standing in the queue with this balloon poking out of the bag, gradually expanding, while we tried to hide it with the pom poms that we had bought outside the High School Musical 2 stage show, when we'd gone to see that, which we'd brought along. Just terrified that we would get kicked out and not be able to see this film that we were so overexcited for. Obviously, the person manning the 9pm Wandsworth's a showing of High School Musical 3 does not care. You do not have to hide your bottle of fizzy wine from this underpaid teenager. Then we went in and it was just us. And then just before it started, two other people turned up. And it was just one of the nicest evenings. This series of quite bad, over excited decisions, but quite minimally bad, quite trivially bad, just silly things that involved, that required over investment in this thing we're decided to care about.

Jason Blitman:

What's this friend's name?

Holly Gramazio:

Kerry,

Jason Blitman:

Carrie. Shout out to Carrie. We all need a Carrie. We love you, Carrie. If you happen to listen to this. And if not in spirit, those carries in the world. We love you.

Brett Benner:

We're opening some sparkly wine for you.

Jason Blitman:

Oh my God.

Brett Benner:

Bouloon!

Jason Blitman:

something complete non sequitur, but I need to make sure we talk about this. And for all I know, we're going to end up talking about it for the entire rest of this conversation. All of the 98 percent of the husbands have names. There is only one time where Lauren is like, Oh yeah, that person looks like the name that they have. And that is, he looks like a Jason. What does a Jason look like to you? Asks the Jason.

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah! I think, Oh, this is difficult. I guess key for Jason in the book is that he has a really Nice, dark hair. That's a thing that she notes about him. And I see you also have that. I don't know. I don't know. I think, yeah,

Brett Benner:

our listeners, Jason's posing right

Jason Blitman:

What Jason look like? I know I read that and I was like, whatever does she mean? But it's just so funny. You like literally do not ever say that the entire rest of the book, but hilariously I was at a restaurant the other day that I'm that we go to quite regularly and there's this guy that's always working there and We've never asked his name and in my mind. He's a Steve He was not Steve, but he was like giving Steve his name was Eric. And I was disappointed because I was like, you're, that's, you're not, this is not Eric to me. No. So I guess when you know it, or when you see it, you know it, or you'll know when you see it.

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah, I'm trying to remember whether I know socially any Jasons that were inflecting in that. Why did I think that a Jason has a particular

Jason Blitman:

A look. I know.

Brett Benner:

have to be honest. I picture you sitting at parties or get togethers or wherever and talking with someone or friends or husbands of friends and suddenly being like, Okay, this is one of the husbands. I'm writing this one down right now. That's how I picture this research went. Anybody that came across you, you were suddenly like, Oh, okay, this is a good quirk. I'm throwing this one in.

Holly Gramazio:

yeah, I definitely stole some sort of habits and quirks from

Brett Benner:

Friends to call and say, is this David? Just let me know. Is this David? Is this how you see him? Or whoever. Insert name here.

Jason Blitman:

One of the moments that someone gets sent immediately back up the ladder is he's wearing shoes with individual toes. And I was like, oh yeah, that totally tracks. Go back up. You have said that it's someone with jewelry that you would probably send somebody right back up. Has that changed for you? Do you have something else, something new?

Holly Gramazio:

Not really. I just, I really don't like jewellery. I never wear jewellery. Something about it just makes me slightly uncomfortable. Even shaking hands with someone with rings. It's fine because, I'm a grown up person who knows how to shake hands. But if I think about it too much, I'm a little bit, and the more it goes through uh, Like, skin? The less I like it. I think the thing going on with there is that jewellery is terrible, is my conviction. What if the person wearing it suddenly realises it's terrible and tears it off? If it's a necklace, necklaces are basically fine. If you suddenly tear a necklace off because you realise it's terrible, then that's fine, you've just broken a necklace. But earrings, for example, or sort of nose rings or whatever, if you

Brett Benner:

Nose or

Holly Gramazio:

they're

Jason Blitman:

Can't just rip them out.

Holly Gramazio:

tear them out, then that's horrifying. So I could just definitely, could not date someone with an earring, a nipple ring, anything like that. It would just dismay me too much.

Jason Blitman:

do we think that comes from? I'm

Holly Gramazio:

I do not know. I do not know. It's interesting, isn't it? I definitely remember when I was nine or ten or so, I had a little necklace which I didn't find deeply repellent. So definitely sometime after that, I think probably it's that sort of early teenage thing where all of the stuff starts having meaning and like what Songs you like mean something. So I just didn't listen to any pop music for 10 years because I was too stressed out by the signaling that was associated with different types of music. And I think, yeah, I think it probably came around that same sort of thing. I just I don't. want to have to engage with any of the significance of that, when people are allowed to get their ears pierced, when people give each other necklaces, like friendship bracelets, all of that kind of thing. Too complicated, disgusting, nothing to do with me. And I've just never really examined it or tried to like work through that, because honestly, it's very convenient to not like jewellery, because you save a bunch of money.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah. We talk a lot about dreams on the podcast and just yesterday we were talking to an author and there was something about if you're dreaming and you don't know you're dreaming, does that make it real? And I wonder if there are times when we like, dream about things. We think it's a real moment, and then in turn, that's where some of our convictions come from. It's

Holly Gramazio:

Oh, maybe.

Jason Blitman:

up and I'm mad at my husband, but I'm only mad at him because of something that happened in my dream. So maybe it's something like that. You're allowed to not like jewelry for any You don't even have to have a reason, but it is just interesting, like, where some of those things come from.

Brett Benner:

completely. I just want to, I was just curious. Do you think there's the idea of a perfect match for somebody?

Holly Gramazio:

No, I don't. I'm very fond of my husband. I think he's great. I imagine that if we weren't together, there's a reasonable chance that we'd be with other people and that might also be great in a different way. I think one of the things that I was really keen to do with writing The Husbands was try to acknowledge that there's a really wide range of how suited a person is to you and how much you like them and like how good that relationship is. It's not oh, anyone will do, we should all pair up at random, but that the sense of that being. like one true person and we just have to hunt them down is erroneous. There's one or two husbands in there that I think most readers find particularly appealing, and I did work on making those. feel beguiling. I wanted it to feel sad that they don't necessarily work out

Brett Benner:

yes. Jason and I are having this conversation. I was very upset by this.

Jason Blitman:

Brett was complaining to me, and I was like, Brett, there's always gonna be the one that got away.

Brett Benner:

know it's, you know what

Jason Blitman:

And it wasn't meant to be.

Brett Benner:

no, it's the romantic in me who wanted to steer the course. Like I, I'm not giving anything away, but I was sure like, I was like, Oh, I know where this is headed now. And when things changed slightly, I was very upset, which is a Testament to say

Holly Gramazio:

no.

Brett Benner:

because yes, because I wanted to believe I'm someone who I don't believe. Like I've always said to people. If you find someone that has 65 to 70 percent of your boxes checked, that's a good match. That's a really good. Cause not all of us can be Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman. That's just,

Jason Blitman:

Dan Savage, the sex columnist, says you're never gonna find the one, so you need to round up from the 87. Or whatever it is. You know, So that's what we're talking about.

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah. Yeah. But I am sure there will be readers who are a little bit annoyed that it doesn't work out with one or the other of the particularly enticing husbands, as it

Jason Blitman:

Sure, the book is called The Husbands. Clearly it's not gonna work out with all of them.

Holly Gramazio:

She also has um, has neighbours downstairs and

Jason Blitman:

the neighbors.

Holly Gramazio:

I love the neighbours as well, but, one of the things that I was thinking about when I was writing it was the way that stories are shaped is that Normally, if you spend a lot of time with your heroine going through a bunch of different men in search for someone who suits her, the shape of the story implies that, oh, she'll end up with the neighbor who lives downstairs, who she's been friends with all along and never saw standing there, blah, blah, blah. So what can I do to make it clear that's not what's happening? And that ended up being one of the most. Fun chapters to write the series of events where it becomes clear that no, this is not a guy that will work out for her. But yeah, it was definitely came logistically slightly from thinking. I want to have this. I want to have him down there. I want to have someone that she can hang out with who lives in the house. But I do not want people to get to the end and feel cheated by that particular trope not being fulfilled.

Brett Benner:

yeah. I also love the, what you do, speaking of these extraneous characters, the very subtle thing you do with the changes that happen everywhere. Like you described the house, first of all, maybe a picture has changed or something, but also the way that life that she's in now with whomever. Changes the surrounding areas as well. It's such a subtle but great thing, but it made me think so much about, Oh my God there's the ramifications are bigger here that what are these relationships and what do they all mean and how are they been established and, down to family and what that is really interesting.

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah, that was that was good fun to write as well. I did a lot of just sitting and thinking what about different ways that my own life has been affected by friends relationships and family's relationships and what are possible knock on effects of the different ways that Lauren's life could be.

Jason Blitman:

And there's a theme in the book, too, about things being both normal and different at the same time. And that's a really, I think, interesting thing to think about, ways that our lives can change and yet feel right.

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah the range of different types of people that we might be, the different ways things might have gone and still have been. pretty good, correct for us. One of the things that would have worked. I think one of the things that I in The Husband is that Lauren feels out the edges of what she's happy with, how much transformation is okay with her, what versions of herself are versions that she can be, and what are just not right for her.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah. They're When you're going through the same exercise over and over again, she really is continuing to learn about herself as she goes. Have you had experiences in your life where you can relate in that specific way? Oh, the more you've done this one thing, you've sort of changed. I mean, I guess that's just, living.

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah, absolutely. I think even without going into like parallel universes there's, we all have the different versions of us that were around in the past, and sometimes those different versions are perplexing. I mentioned the 10 years when I didn't listen to any pop music because I just was just too intimidated by the sort of messaging and like subgroup formation around it. I also didn't like pubs when I first moved to the UK, I found the sort of rules of social engagement here a little bit baffling. And so I just didn't really go to pubs, which is the main place that people hang

Jason Blitman:

Do we, have you thought about it being three letter P words?

Holly Gramazio:

Oh, interesting, but jewellery has so many letters

Jason Blitman:

yeah. Pop and

Holly Gramazio:

Pop? Pub? Yeah, interesting. I had a year where I was like, okay, every month I'm going to go to a pub. Even if I hate it, I get to tick that off my list of to do things. And then by the end of the year, I could no longer remember why I'd been so uncomfortable. Now it's completely fine. I don't know what I was feeling when I was there. I do not understand that anymore. I just remember how strongly I felt it. And I know that version of me wouldn't understand the current version of me either. So even with our own lifetime, sometimes over quite short periods, you have this very sort of this wall of incomprehensibility.

Jason Blitman:

that's such a good example.

Holly Gramazio:

how much more.

Jason Blitman:

So something else that is talked about in the book and just the different universes and the different people that you can become The idea of having this quote unquote time where you can in the book you say, learn theoretical physics, become flawless playing piano. What do you think you would do if you had this time? What would you want to

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Great. So one of the things with the husbands that's different from, for example, Groundhog Day and Palm Springs and Russian Doll and your time loop is that you don't have an infinite amount of time. The year keeps rolling on while she's doing all of this stuff. She has a birthday, her birthday, niece and nephew get older, the flowers come out and then die, right? So she doesn't get this

Brett Benner:

Reset with

Holly Gramazio:

gift of infinite time, right? But If I had that, if I could just, take a year or 10, 000 years to sit around and do stuff. More language learning. Although it's difficult if you don't get to talk to people. So you definitely need this to be the sort of magical time. where there are still other people around, but they're unaware of the time loop. You couldn't do frozen universe that you can move through at will. If I did get frozen universe, you can move through at will. I'd just go to all of the museums and slightly rearrange some stuff and, sleep in every major museum in London.

Jason Blitman:

That's a fun answer.

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah. Not do any work.

Brett Benner:

infinite resources.

Jason Blitman:

Huh.

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah. For a while, like if you've got infinite time, then just spend a year not doing any work, catch up on your reading.

Brett Benner:

Yeah, do you speak any languages besides, do you speak any other languages?

Holly Gramazio:

I speak a bit of Italian

Brett Benner:

It's your last name. You just said it.

Holly Gramazio:

But literally because it's my last name. My family, my stepfamily growing up around them, they spoke a lot of Italian, but I never really learned any and I really wish I'd put in the effort because I had nothing else to do. I was a, I was nine, I would have got so much further, so much faster, but I didn't, but I have always been slightly embarrassed to have the surname and not speak any of the language. So that when the pandemic hit in early 2020, I just, decided, okay, now is the time to do something about it. And I started having weekly lessons and began learning and I'm still doing that. It's a lot of fun. I'm very excited that The Husband is going to be translated into Italian. So I'll be able to, to practice by reading the thing I wrote in English. in the language I'm trying to learn.

Jason Blitman:

What a neat thing that you're going to be able to do.

Brett Benner:

Were there any men in your book? Any husbands, any men, any husbands that you have a particular affinity for that you were like, Oh, I love this one. I love this one so much.

Holly Gramazio:

Oh interesting. Okay.

Jason Blitman:

Choosing your favorite

Holly Gramazio:

yeah, yeah. No, I've got a

Brett Benner:

it happens. Come on.

Holly Gramazio:

There's a quite late husband called Zach, who is very poorly suited to Lauren, but who I really like and who is probably the most similar to my actual husband. He's good natured, people like him. He's relatively laid back. Because of the circumstances of their meeting, Loren's in no real state to consider him as a possibility, but think I had to marry one of the husbands. he'd probably be pretty well suited to me. And there's also an Australian husband, Borjai, who is just such a relief to write, partly because of the time the husbands are all English. And I've been here 15 years, but I am Australian and there's still bits of my sort of vocabulary and ways of forming sentences that, they bed in and that you don't really lose that. And so constantly going, would an English man say this? Would an English man think that, and for Lauren as well, would an English woman have this sort of attitude to things? Is this a word that she would use? And lots of stuff slipped through. So for example, the downstairs neighbor, Toby, for a long time was called Hayden.'cause he's a man in his mid thirties. And I'm like, all men in their mid thirties approximately are called Hayden, right? No. No, that's all Australian men in their mid 30s. English men who are called Hayden are often called Hayden instead, and they're mostly maybe 25 at the oldest. Having an Australian character where I could just, lean into that and not constantly be like at a slight remove of trying to make sure that I wasn't messing up the Englishness felt

Jason Blitman:

and he's also such an important character for Lauren too,

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah. Yeah. Being able to write their friendship and the time they spent together as well. Like just a real joy to, to write those chapters.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah. So much of the book is about commitment and accepting fate and trusting your own instincts and the magic realism of the book provides a buffer for you to be able to see yourself in the situation in a way that's not as literal as a straightforward romantic comedy,

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah. That's really good to, to hear. I guess that's what it's there for. I'm glad to hear it worked for you.

Brett Benner:

Yeah. But it was interesting about it. I agree with you a hundred percent, but it's also the thing upon reflection. It hits a little harder when you start to think about what it's actually saying. And the themes that it's bringing up, these ideas you said, Jason, of commitment, of, what is, who is the right match?

Jason Blitman:

In addition to being a book about optimal stopping, I think really is a book about the question, if something is abundant, can it be special?

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah, that's a lovely way of putting it. I like that a lot. I'm sorry, I'm gonna write that down. Yeah, I mentioned earlier that I'm bad at making decisions. And. I'm bad at making decisions in a couple of different ways. One is that I'm worried about making the wrong decision, which is Lauren's situation, and another is that I'm very resistant to other people making decisions for me, which is like Borjai's situation and his way of being bad at making decisions. But I'm great at making decisions for other people. So had a friend for a while who we had, where we had a standing agreement that she could phone me if she was feeling overwhelmed in a supermarket, for example, and say, what toothbrush should I buy? And I would just say, Oh second row down, is there a blue toothbrush? And she'd go, yes. And I'd say how much does it cost? And she'd tell me, and I'd say, okay, too much. Is there a cheaper Bluetooth toothbrush? You'd go, yes, it costs 2. 40. And I'd go that's the toothbrush. And it did not matter at all. She only did this two or three times, but just having the agreement there, I think was fun and useful. And I think there is something about this huge array of possibilities with toothbrushes or jams or faces on a dating site or, whatever it might be that makes it hard to see each one individually. And think about it. And sometimes that doesn't matter. It genuinely doesn't matter which toothbrush you end up with

Jason Blitman:

It's still gonna clean your

Holly Gramazio:

toothbrushes. Yeah, it's gonna, it's gonna approximately do its job roughly as well as any other toothbrush. But it does matter when you're picking a partner. And you get that same sort of smoothing effect, that same sort of overwhelmingness excessiveness of possibilities when you're going through a dating app or even going through a speed dating event or whatever it might be. But yeah, it really makes it hard, I think, to look at individual people as people rather than just another chore to get through.

Jason Blitman:

And then there's the flip side, too. While I've been using the same kind of toothbrush for 15 years, why would I deviate from that? Or it's You don't even realize that there are other toothbrushes that can do more things for your teeth, or whatever, when someone's in a relationship for so long, I think it's easy to get used to that one thing that's constant. There's that opposite of you have the abundance, it can't be special. And then that one thing can't be special. So it's really finding that balance of continuing to do the work and make it special.

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah, it's true. I think one of the things that's slightly difficult for Lauren is that when she does end up in these new relationships, she doesn't have that intertwining of lives and decisions in, in, in her life. her head. She's just parachuted into where that's ended up. And sometimes that's great because it means that she can see that someone isn't right for her and hurry him back into the attic immediately without getting caught up on logistics. And, but they had such a big expensive wedding and her sister who told her that they shouldn't get together will be so smug if they and all of this other paraphernalia. But Yeah, sometimes it's difficult because it means that she can't see why a life might work for her.

Jason Blitman:

And why, if what they're doing is wearing shoes with individual toes is the worst offense that maybe everything else is so good, there is

Holly Gramazio:

yeah. Maybe that's fine. Like, there must

Brett Benner:

pretty bad though.

Holly Gramazio:

but there must be something magnificent that caused her to overlook this,

Jason Blitman:

right? because she married him.

Holly Gramazio:

yeah, probably he didn't like seven years into the relationship just go, I'm an individual toys shoe guy now. Probably she found out about that early on and she was like, Oh, you know what? Okay. Why not? Why not?

Jason Blitman:

know. I went from a regular old toothbrush to an electric toothbrush. You never know how things can change. Have you ever worn those shoes?

Holly Gramazio:

I haven't,

Jason Blitman:

I'm so curious all this sudden,

Brett Benner:

There's a trainer at my gym who wears them and I do have to say every time he walks in I keep thinking like frog man. It's a strange, they look so bizarre, but they're supposed to be very comfortable. I don't know. It's like people running them. I don't get it. I don't get it. I'd be with you. I would be I would send him back to the attic with

Jason Blitman:

I think it's like the, they're the most ergonomic, the most, like the way our body naturally is supposed to

Brett Benner:

Sure. That's exactly right.

Jason Blitman:

But

Holly Gramazio:

Honestly, I think what's going to happen here is that people keep asking about the individual Toshu. So that's clearly, that's one of the four things that sticks in people's heads. So I can see my future where I look into them and go, I don't know. People keep asking about this. I need to know more about these shoes and why people wear them. And then I'll read up and I'll go, oh, interesting. And then I'll go, maybe that's not terrible. Like three years from now, maybe I will be an individual toe shoe woman

Brett Benner:

I want you actually,

Jason Blitman:

should go on book tour with

Brett Benner:

that's what I was gonna say. You need to show up and book and not say a word. And yeah, exactly. Create a sponsorship deal with one of these companies that make them.

Jason Blitman:

But every people, everyone's bringing that up to you.

Holly Gramazio:

Yeah. Yeah. It's weird, but this is, there are so many husbands who are in there for one sentence or two sentences. And these are the ones that make people go, I agree or, Oh, I quite like those. Don't know why.

Brett Benner:

He stands out along with the guy who shakes his junk

Holly Gramazio:

Yes, yeah, maybe it's because they don't want to meet me and immediately ask about naked husband.

Brett Benner:

Yes. They'll start with the warmup. It's like getting into fetishes. Can we talk

Jason Blitman:

But also being naked in the attic isn't like splinters, aren't we?

Brett Benner:

he's just coming

Holly Gramazio:

find out what was

Jason Blitman:

I.

Holly Gramazio:

This has

Brett Benner:

he could have left his clothes up there. Who knows?

Jason Blitman:

I know that's true. Holly Gramazio, this has been so much fun.

Holly Gramazio:

great. Thank you so much for having me. Oh

Brett Benner:

For being

Jason Blitman:

cannot wait for people to experience all of the husbands. Since this is your debut, I'll show you all the tabs that I have in your book. People love it. People love it when I show them the tabs.

Holly Gramazio:

ah,

Brett Benner:

love that you, I have to appreciate that you stick to almost one color because I never do.

Jason Blitman:

They're it's like the sheet that I have, they're all sort of

Brett Benner:

Oh, I see. Okay.

Holly Gramazio:

Ah, it's, oh, this is again very shameful, but I just dog ear.

Brett Benner:

No,

Jason Blitman:

For me it's about, I like will literally stick it directly onto a

Holly Gramazio:

Oh, nice.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah. So it's more about Yeah. Yeah. And the dog ear, sometimes I'll miss a dog ear, So it's, yeah, that's okay. You're allowed to dog gear and mark whatever you want. So one day you're gonna, you're gonna, whether you're dreaming or whatever, you're gonna be like, oh, now I know what a Jason looks like. And then please feel free to share it with me.

Holly Gramazio:

I absolutely will.

Jason Blitman:

but congratulations.

Holly Gramazio:

Oh, thank you so much for having me along. This is such a fun chat.

Jason Blitman:

Terrific. I am sure we will not be the last to ask you about the toes, but

Holly Gramazio:

But you will be the only ones who give me an opportunity to recalc at length my experience of going to see High School Musical

Brett Benner:

That's It's very on

Jason Blitman:

knows if that'll come up again.

Brett Benner:

that's very on brand for gaze reading. So

Jason Blitman:

I know, exactly. So funny. Let's talk about Zac Efron for another 20 minutes.

Brett Benner:

yeah. Oh,

Jason Blitman:

Oh my god. Core memory unlocked. When I was in college, I had a shirtless poster of Zac Efron behind all my clothes in my closet. Totally forgot about that until right now. And on that note, Holly, have

Brett Benner:

a good

Jason Blitman:

rest of your

Holly Gramazio:

Thank you. Thank you,

Brett Benner:

you, Holly.

Jason Blitman:

So we're recording this outro after this interview took place and I got a DM from Holly where she let me know that she thought a bit more about what adjacent means to her. So let me just say she thinks what Lauren meant was. Vaguely heroic because he comes right after a bad husband and was a rescuer and he's Greek. So he's definitely the kind of, and the Argonauts Jason rather than cool kid in the nineties playground Jason. And I have to say, I was neither. a cool kids on the playground in the 90s Jason, nor am I an and the Argonauts Jason.

Brett Benner:

And thankfully you're not the Friday the 13th. Jason.

Jason Blitman:

no, I'm a

Brett Benner:

just, you're

Jason Blitman:

just me.

Brett Benner:

just you. You're just Jason. Okay.

Jason Blitman:

So thank you all for listening and we will see

Brett Benner:

We'll see you next

Jason Blitman:

week. Bye.