Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Next Big Thing! An Interview About My Next Book

The Next Big Thing is an author interview series currently generating lots of buzz for its inside look into how writers, working in a variety of genres, create their best work. My special thanks to Becki Melchione who, along with Lauren Eisenberg Davis, invited me to participate and provided the questions. You can see Becki’s interview about her book, Practice Radical Hope: Motherhood After Cancer at:

And now, although I’ve never been taller than 5‘ 3” in my life, it’s my turn to be The Next Big Thing!
Seeing Midlife Crisis on the bookstore shelf
 for the first time was a major thrill!

1. What is the working title of your book?
My new novel is called Happy Any Day Now.

2. What genre does your book fall under?
It’s considered mainstream women’s fiction, but I think men will also enjoy it. My first novel, My Favorite Midlife Crisis (Yet), was primarily marketed to women. But I got some wonderful,  surprising fan mail from men sent to my website Apparently, a number of XYers thought the story—and the characters—delivered some deep insights into female behavior. I’m amazed and also amused that many men really do think woman are a mystery and that guys need an operating manual to figure out how we work.

3. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Half-Jewish, half-Korean cellist deals with the return of two men—one father, one boyfriend—who deserted her when she was younger and, as a result of their reappearance, develops a  case of stage fright that threatens her career and her happiness. Whew! One very long, pretty convoluted  sentence that hardly tells it all.

4. Where did the idea come from for the book?
While doing some genealogical research, I unearthed the ship’s manifest for my maternal grandmother who emigrated from Austria around the turn of the century. That started me thinking about the immigrant experience which is universal. And so Grace, a Korean war-bride, and the mother of my protagonist was born. Judith came next, and soon we had a quorum of characters in search of a plot.

One strong thread of that plot came from a different direction. Having people from high school and college find me on Facebook and other sources online, sparked the theme of loss and return. What happens when important figures from your past suddenly barge into your present to make mischief? I had fun exploring that theme and constructing the narrative around it.

That’s as close as I can get to the source of the book’s origin. I try not to over-analyze the creative process. It’s like sleight-of-hand. You don’t want to look too closely. My theory is: don’t mess with the magic.

5. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

It’s difficult  to cast Judith and Grace because there are few Asian-American actors in the spotlight. Shame. But Lucy Liu would be perfect for Judith Soo Jin Raphael. Kathy Bates has Grace’s build and sly sense of humor. I think Daniel Crag would be spot-on as Geoff,  Judith’s big, bluff Australian boyfriend. And for Charlie, the judge who resurfaces to shake-up her life, Bradley Cooper, but aged by ten years with some laugh lines and a little gray in the hair. He’s got to lose the beard, though—Charles Evans Pruitt would only wear a beard if he broke the hand that held his razor. Cooper’s got the elegance, the intelligence, and Charlie’s electric blue eyes that Judith finds so hypnotic. Also, as her father, that rascal Irwin—Richard Drayfuss.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I have had an agent for my past two books—a wonderful one, Elaine English. She handles only women’s fiction and is currently not taking on new clients. She’s been more than an agent really; she she’s been a mentor and a friend.

Happy Any Day Now and the book to follow will be published by Penguin/New American Library. Pub date for Happy Any Day Now is scheduled for this coming August. It can be pre-ordered on Amazon right now.

I’m already working on the next novel  a stand-alone with a whole new cast, fresh settings, and different challenges. It’s been fun writing so far.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript for Happy Any Day Now?

Almost a year. But that was the first draft. There were four or five more.  I kept coming up with ways to sharpen a plot point, add nuance to a character, prune extraneous material. I know writers who disparage the editing process. But that’s where the story really comes to life, in the editing. It’s the polishing that makes it shine.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I can’t distance myself far enough to make that kind of judgment. The story is still too fresh and the characters too present. Ask me again in five years when I hope to have a grander perspective.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’m  always inspired to write by the woman—and men—who face challenges in their lives with grace and humor. My books have serious themes, but I’ve been told they’re LOL funny.  I want my readers to laugh a lot and tear up occasionally and come away feeling they’ve had a good, satisfying read.

On a more personal level, when things get tough in my life, especially in the writing aspect, I look to my daughter—my greatest accomplishment—whose confidence in me never falters. “Just a speed bump” she tells me, when I hit one with teeth-rattling force. Kids and grandkids are inspiring. You want to make them proud, and you want to serve as an example that creative expression is an essential part of a rich life.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Well, Happy Any Day Now deals with a character who’s bright, energetic, sexy, witty,  open to new adventures—and she’s on the cusp of fifty. Midlife and beyond can be (not to sound treacly) the beginning of your most happy, productive, fulfilling days. I count myself as a living example of that little bonus.  After all, it's the skills I've honed and the history I've amassed that help me write books people want to read.  I figure that more than compensates for a blaze of candles on the birthday cake.

Coming Up On Next Big Thing! Alan Zendell writes that he has been a physicist, engineer, and software developer. Later in life, he turned to writing fiction. His name is attached to three novels, a number of short stories, and an epic novel which is currently being serialized. His first love is science fiction, but he has a soft spot for romance and marriage which manages to peek out of everything he writes. Alan will discuss his well-reviewed novel, The Portal, next Friday at
In the meantime, I'd love to hear questions or comments about my Next Big Thing! interview.
Toby Devens




  1. So exciting. As always I am so proud to be your daughter in law. Can't wait to read "Any Day Now".

    1. Aw, so sweet of you. The feeling is mutual. And I'm looking forward to your reading "Happy Any Day Now." I think you'll really get caught up in this story.

  2. Having heard this story as it devloped, I can say that Happy Any Day Now is just a lovely tale that will resonate with many people, but especially those 50 and over. I loved this novel. So will you.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thanks for the comment, Elizabeth. You did indeed hear the book in various incarnations along the way and were part of my author cheering section. I'm always energized by a session with other writers. I value the honesty, and am grateful for the advice and encouragement.

  3. It's interesting to me that you came up w/ your heroine's mom before your heroine. That's never the way I work. I always focus on my main characters first, then fill in the secondary characters.

    1. Rebecca, that's usually the path I take as well. But this time, Grace--who has such a strong personality--just about demanded to be written. Once I had her, everyone and everything else kind of fell into place.

  4. Great interview! I love getting insight into how other authors work and think.

  5. I am amazed that you were able to get that synopsis into one sentence. Sound very intriguing indeed--can't wait!

    1. That was a tough one, Nancy. Looking forward to seeing the book on the shelves and also in the Kindle edition. Working on the page proofs now, and then it heads to the printer, I guess.

  6. I really enjoy the way you are juxtaposing two cultures and having them play off of each other as well as act in the form of mirrors. What Judith's mom and later, her dad, are seeking is essentially the same thing, happiness and success.

  7. That comparison/contrast of cultures was especially fun (and at times challenging) to write,Pearl. My sense is that all human beings long for the same things--happiness, success, comfort, love, even if the definitions of those qualities may differ somewhat.