“It’s funny how everyone keeps talking about how the book is so cool and detached,” LaCava says, frowning. “Because I’m the exact opposite. I remember one of my university friends saying to me, ‘You really need to understand what it means to be aloof,’ because I was always so intense. It’s so funny to me that somehow I’ve vomited out these characters that are probably how I should be more like in my real life.”
Although she insists the novel isn’t autofiction, little details are nonetheless plucked from her life. Margot’s allure, and her love of jewellery and designer clothing, is clearly on a par with LaCava’s and, at the Soho party, she introduces me to a friend after whom one of the characters (a benevolent one, luckily) is named.
“I’m very happy being alone a lot, reading and writing. But the problem with that is that you don’t get to take in the things that are necessary to then do the writing all the time. From a young age, I’ve forced myself to become a social person to survive.” Since the age of 11, LaCava has suffered from depression, “When it was given a formal name, that is,” she clarifies. “As it’s not circumstantial, it’s something that will never go away for me. Writing, as clichéd as it is, is a way I deal with it – the exorcism most of all, [as well as] dancing, physical intimacy, finding joy when I can.”
Back when she was getting her Vogue bylines, writing about beauty drops, spa openings and Rick Owens exhibitions, LaCava didn’t see writing novels in her future. “I always wanted to write, but it was daunting. [Fiction] never felt viable.” While doing her day job, she’d always be up working on her own writing at 6am, honing a voice that’s sharp and unique, painting a rich visual universe with few brushstrokes. “I’m quite an odd writer,” she says, “especially for someone who writes in the English language. My sentences are a bit more clipped. It’s a very strange book too, right?” she adds, that journalistic self-awareness again bubbling up. “I was lucky that someone took a chance on it.” She attributes some of this to her growing up in France. “There’s a foreign language aspect to some of my writing, but there are different nuances that come from knowing other languages,” adds this speaker of French, Hebrew and English.
The aforementioned cows are a recurring motif in the book, as is a French verb, ressasse, that LaCava uses frequently. It means “to chew over”. Is this, alongside the exploration of physical pain, a comment on environmentalism and dairy farming, I wonder?
“Would you believe I have never eaten red meat!” she exclaims. Similarly, her writing leaves you to draw your own conclusions. LaCava takes ideas and filters them through an abstract lens. I Fear My Pain Interests You plays out almost like a mystery, leaving the reader to tie up loose ends, before culminating in an unsettling, shocking ending.