01/31/2014 09:43 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Joyce Maynard Discusses Pie Crust -- and Labor Day


Joyce Maynard admits that her favorite scene in Jason Reitman's film of her novel Labor Day is one that wasn't in the book.

"I wish I could take credit for it, but that's all Jason," she says, of a moment late in the film -- a confrontation between a teenager and his mother and a bank teller. The scene, not to give too much away, involves telling a truth so outrageous that it's taken as a joke, playing upon a notion expressed earlier that the best lie is the truth.

"There's nothing so compelling as telling the truth," Maynard notes. "That's how I believe in living life. Let's just name it, because nobody expects you to tell them the truth."

Maynard has been telling the truth since she burst into public awareness as a teen: While a freshman at Yale, she wound up on the cover of the New York Times Magazine with an article titled "An Eighteen-Year-Old Looks Back on Life."

Now 60, she's pleased with the film Reitman has made of her book, as she was with Gus Van Sant's 1995 film of her novel, To Die For.

"I've been lucky twice," Maynard says in a phone interview. "They're very different kinds of stories. To Die For was a dark comedy. Labor Day doesn't have a cynical bone in its body. It's an old-fashioned love story. You're talking about a movie without a single car chase or explosion. It's a quiet love story."

The film, told from the point of view of then-13-year-old Henry Wheeler (Gattlin Griffith), is about the holiday weekend that he and his agoraphobic, depressive mother Adele (Kate Winslet) helped a stranger. The man, Frank Chambers (Josh Brolin), turns out to be an escaped convict, a convicted murderer, who changes their lives by romancing the divorced Adele and developing a fatherly relationship with Henry.

Maynard tends not to get involved in the filmmaking on movies of her books: "I wouldn't want anyone to stand over my shoulder when I'm writing, either," she notes.

Still, when it came to a scene at the film's center in which Frank instructs Henry and Adele in the secrets of a great pie crust, Maynard took a personal interest.

"That was my big contribution," she says with a laugh.

This interview continues on my website.