Iowa Writers Workshop graduate talks about her book and HBO series deal

Since graduating from the Iowa Writers Workshop Claire Lombardo has written a New York Times best-selling novel, The Most Fun We Ever Had, which is now being turned into a new show on HBO.



Austin J. Yerington, Arts Reporter

Claire Lombardo, an Iowa Writers Workshop graduate and author of the novel The Most Fun We Ever Had, will now adapt the best-selling book for a new series on HBO. The show will be produced by big-name actresses Amy Adams and Laura Dern.

Living in her current residence in Philadelphia, Lombardo does not just spend her time writing her next novel — she also is writing the pilot episode for the series.

The Most Fun We Ever Had is a story told from the perspective of seven characters, centered around the core theme of family and all the aspects of familial kinship, both good and bad.

“I’m just utterly obsessed with the way people interact and the ways we feel beholden to people, the way we love [them], the ways we hurt them terribly also,” Lombardo said. “I liked having the space to [write about] that with the common denominator being, ‘We all have the same either DNA or upbringing.’”

Lombardo described her journey to a professional writing career as unconventional. After completing her undergraduate studies, she worked many odd jobs, including as a paralegal and a nanny. Ultimately, however, Lombardo chose to pursue a career in social work. 

Lombardo said she was drawn to social work because of her inherent care for others and fascination with others’ stories.


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“I have a very strong interest in people’s stories, even if the people seem as average as they come,” Lombardo said. “I think everyone is inherently fascinating.”

After dropping out of the graduate program at the University of Illinois, she applied to many Master of Fine Arts programs all over the country and ended up joining the Iowa Writers Workshop.

She started off at the program with a rough draft of her soon-to-be debuted novel. However, Lombardo mostly focused on workshopping short stories, only showing drafts of her novel to a small handful of teachers, classmates, and friends. 

Lombardo credited her thesis advisor, Ethan Canin, for helping her understand her future novel more mathematically and how to better understand her characters. 

“Empathy was always on the forefront of [Canin’s] teachings,” Lombardo said. “One of the things he used to say was ‘to write convincing characters, you have to become the characters,’ and that’s something that sticks with me as I’m writing. You can’t just be creating the person — you have to actually be them for them to feel three-dimensional.”

After graduating from the workshop, she would then go on to finish her final draft of the novel. The book was released in the summer of 2019, becoming both a bestseller and receiving critical acclaim. Heller McAlpin, a New York-based critic for National Public Radio wrote in her review that it was a “deliciously absorbing novel with — brace yourself — a tender and satisfyingly positive take on family.” 

Now, Lambardo’s faced with writing a script for HBO’s pilot episode of the show, a task she described as both new and exciting. 

“It’s really fun for me, especially because there are so many women, both executives, producers, and writers, that have their hands in this project now,” Lombardo said. “That’s been really wonderful, having this community of women working on this [project], and to have a community of really smart and enthusiastic, insightful women giving their attention to the book has been really terrific.”