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?
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 www.tobydevens.com. 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 http://www.goodreads.com/
In the meantime, I'd love to hear questions or comments about my Next Big Thing! interview.