Author of the book How to Fall in Love with Anyone: a Memoir in Essays (and the viral NYTimes Modern Love column "To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This") is here to answer your questions about writing, love, and relationships. Ask me anything.

Mandy Len Catron
Jul 9, 2018

I spent eight years researching and writing about romantic love, a project which became a book, two NYT columns, a blog, and two TED talks. Let's talk about the science and the mythology of romantic love, the role of love stories in our culture, and the gap between how we talk about love and how we actually practice it.

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What do you attribute the lack of committment in many relationhips today?
Jul 16, 11:54AM EDT0
Can your readers expect more books on love and it's philosophy in the near future?
Jul 15, 2:04AM EDT0
What are your thoughts on love in today's time? How different is mythology and science of love in today's time?
Jul 15, 12:30AM EDT0
What do you find most challenging about writing nonfiction?
Jul 14, 5:15AM EDT0
How do you approach writing personal material vs. researched and academic material? Is the process the same for you?
Jul 14, 3:40AM EDT0

Do you think that maturity and self-love, self-knowledge are the key to being able to find and sustain a healthy, romantic relationship?

Jul 13, 10:52PM EDT0

It seems really easy to lose one's temper with the people you love the most. Do you have any advice on how to keep one's temper in check and how to appropriately apologize when you realize you've done them wrong for the hundredth time?

Jul 13, 4:46PM EDT0
Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
Jul 13, 1:47AM EDT0

Like I said earlier, if you're doing the 36 questions, you can't start in the middle! It has to be sustained, escalating, reciprocal personal self disclosure, as the researchers put it. :)

Jul 13, 12:50PM EDT0
Are there any love stories that you think totally nail it?
Jul 12, 11:35PM EDT0

There are some great stories out there! They're just harder to find that the more normative ones. My favorite novel that's also a love story is Zoey Leigh Peterson's Next Year for Sure. I also just read and really liked Tayari Jones' An American Marriage, and Nicola Yoon's The Sun is Also a Star. And I love Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies. 

Jul 13, 12:46PM EDT0
How did you think about genre as you were planning and then writing this book?
Jul 12, 10:21PM EDT0

The genre part really threw me to be honest. I knew I wanted to write memoir with research. I knew the book would be personal but I hoped it would also be broader than that, asking (and also answering) some big questions about how we talk and think about love in our culture. I had no idea what this meant in terms of genre. Once I started thinking about it as a collection of linked essays, I had a better sense of how to shape the book. Essays are my favorite genre to read and my favorite to write. They can contain both research and reflection and personal narrative. The essay is really a genre that's interested in where the personal intersects with the ideological. It's a good fit for writing about love.

Jul 13, 12:50PM EDT0
How warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
Jul 12, 9:35PM EDT0

If you're doing the 36 questions, you can't start in the middle! It has to be sustained, escalating, reciprocal personal self disclosure, as the researchers put it. :)

Jul 13, 12:47PM EDT0
How much did you think about happy ending that while you were working on it?
Jul 12, 8:16PM EDT0

The structure of my book is at least a little bit chronological. And when it begins I am leaving one relationship and when it ends I'm starting a new one. I worried a little bit that this structure, with its implicit happy ending, would reinforce the kinds of narratives I was critiquing. I tried to address that directly in the book. I don't think of the ending of the book as a happy ending--but rather as a moment in a story that continues after the book's ending. 

Jul 13, 12:43PM EDT0
What are you working on now? How do you spend most of your days?
Jul 11, 4:34PM EDT0

I'm working on the kindness book I wrote about below. But I'm also teaching and drawing a series of comics about the weirdness of publishing and promoting a book (www.instagram.com/mandy_len_catron/). I spend my days alternating between teaching and working on various writing projects.

Jul 13, 12:41PM EDT0
How do you approach the challenge of translating all that love and relationship related research to a wider audience via your blogs and books?
Jul 11, 4:18PM EDT0

I really like this part of writing. There's so much interesting research out there but it doesn't always make it's way into the general public. 

Because I'm not a scientist, I have to work a lot harder to make sure I get the details right and am able to think about research in context. I try to go directly to the source (the academic publication) first, and then I do a lot of additional reading, looking closely at whatever the researcher has said or written themselves. 

I also try to find counter opinions and critiques of any particular study or world-view. And, if necessary, I'll consult with experts in the field to make sure I'm getting things right. I happen to have a bunch of friends who work in academia, so this makes this process quite a bit easier. 

Jul 11, 4:29PM EDT0
How do you attempt to answer questions about love and relationship through your personal and family history?
Jul 11, 3:31AM EDT0

Well the best way to get the answer to that question is probably just to read the book, as that's what the whole thing is about. 

Jul 11, 3:51PM EDT0

Girlll! You wrote 'To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This?' I LOVED THAT PIECE! I first went through the questions with my two sons and we had such a good time doing it. It was great to find out that the questions about traumatic or sad experiences, they didn't have an answer for! That means they are happy. I was so happy to learn that.

Is that the piece you are most proud of? What are you working on next? Kudos!

Jul 11, 1:04AM EDT0

hahaha, yes, I did write that piece. I've heard from so many people who have used the questions in different ways. But I haven't heard of a mom doing them with her sons, which I think is supercool. I love this idea. And I love that it was such a great experience for you all. 

I am proud of that essay, but there are things that have been harder to write that are more personally meaningful to me. The essay about my parents' love story--and their subsequent divorce--is probably the most difficult single essay I've written and the one I'm most proud of.

I have three ideas for new books! I don't know which will be next, but the one I'm most excited about right now is a book on kindness. I want to understand exactly what kindness is (we talk to kids about being kind all the time but tend to devalue it as adults), how different groups practice kindness differently, and what it might look like to be a socially engaged (angry, even) intersectional feminist practicing kindness. I don't have the answers to this stuff, but the questions are exciting to me! 

I'm going to come over to your AMA next to check out what you're up to. It sounds super interesting. :)

Jul 11, 3:56PM EDT0
What would you say to those people who are looking for love? How can they know what they really want?
Jul 10, 8:21PM EDT0

It definitely feels hard to know what you want sometimes. I think keeping an open mind goes a long way. When I was dating, I had a rule that, unless someone had done something really egregious, I'd always go on a second date with them. But there were also things that I began to learn I definitely didn't want. I didn't want to date with anyone who said unkind things about other people. I didn't want to date anyone who made it hard for me to relax in their company.

I like my own company a lot so I decided it was better to be single than to be in a mediocre romantic relationship. This made it easier to thinking about dating as an opportunity to connect with another person for an hour--and maybe learn about myself--instead of thinking about it as a series of interviews for potential partners. 

Jul 11, 12:25AM EDT0

As a self-published author, I worry that I'll never have enough readers for my books. I feel that they'll remain lost in the vastness of the web. Have you ever self-published any books? And if so, how did you self-promote them to ensure readers?

Jul 10, 3:41PM EDT0

Hi Julio: I haven't tried self-publishing so I can't really speak to that. But in my experience there are lots of niche groups on the internet. A good way to connect with readers is to join communities of likeminded people and find opportunities to genuinely connect with them. For example, I'm a member of a Facebook group of women who write memoirs and that's been a great resource for me--both meeting and connecting with other writers and finding folks who want to collaborate on interviews or other projects. 

Jul 11, 12:27AM EDT1
Did you originally conceive your book as a memoir in essays, or did that concept come later?
Jul 10, 10:05AM EDT0

I was confused about the book's structure for a very long time. I had hoped to write it as a research-heavy memoir, but I found it hard to find a narrative through-line this way. It was my agent who suggested writing it as a book of essays, and the freedom to do that really unlocked things for me. My editor was the one who decided to call it a memoir in essays, since, thanks to her edits, there was a narrative through-line in the final manuscript. I've written more in-depth about why essay was the right format for this project over at Powell's Books blog: www.powells.com/post/original-essays/how-to-fall-in-love-with-anyone

Jul 10, 2:25PM EDT0
When you were writing this book, did you ever doubt the importance of love?
Jul 10, 8:44AM EDT0

It's probably not accurate to say I doubted the importance of love, as there's so much research on why it matters: it shapes our culture; it impacts our health and well-being; it gives life meaning. 

BUT I would say that I often though (and still think) that we fetishize romantic love. We ascribe mystical powers to it in ways that are, at times, unhealthy or dangerous. It's not that I doubt love's importance as much as I doubt how we talk about love in our culture. I don't think we're very savvy when it comes to thinking and talking about love--and I include myself in this, though I'm getting a little better about it :)

Jul 10, 2:33PM EDT0
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