Saturday, July 21, 2018

Q&A with Debra Finerman


Debra Finerman is the author of the new novel You Lucky Dog. She also has written the novels Mademoiselle Victorine and Shadow War. She has worked for a variety of publications, including Capital Style and The Hollywood Reporter. She lives part-time in Paris. 

Q: How did you come up with the idea for You Lucky Dog?

A: A few years ago, my girlfriend and I were discussing the subject of love, as single people often do. Specifically, we were talking about the fact that we wanted to find someone who loves us unconditionally despite our foibles.

She said, “I’d be so happy if I could just find someone like my dog. He’s always happy to see me. He senses when I’m blue and lays his head on my lap to cheer me up. It’s unconditional love. Why can’t I find a guy who loves me like that?”

I had that “aha” moment. I said to myself later that day, “That’d be a great premise for a story.”

I put it on the back burner while I wrote Mademoiselle Victorine, my first novel, and Shadow War, my second historical novel. But that intriguing idea was bubbling way back there.

Then I read a scientific article citing genetic research that showed the dog genome shares a surprising number of similar genes to humans. The scientist cited the reason as dogs and humans having evolved side by side for centuries. Another “aha” moment.

Well, I stopped saying “aha,” and I started writing a humorous book about a young couple in love. Emma and Jake seem to have it all, great careers, a successful marriage, the house, the cars, a cute Westie also named Jake, and cool friends.

Until the young husband gets in a terrible car crash while holding his wife’s dog close to his chest. He dies, the dog survives, and the human and dog DNA fuse. His soul transmogrifies into the little dog’s body.

They continue life together once she accepts the fact that it’s really him inside the dog’s body. They face lots of funny and touching moments in trying to navigate this new life together.

Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?

A: I had no idea how it would end! I knew I wanted to write a funny story to make readers laugh, but I wanted an underlying foundation touching on a number of serious issues.

Three important things I’d like my readers to walk away with. Number one, True love never dies. Not just romantic love, but love for a parent, a friend, or even a pet.

Number two, the question of identity. Our identity isn’t in our physical body, that’s just the outer wrapping. True identity is in our souls, or personalities if you prefer.

And number three, we’re bombarded by so much negativity and people-bashing coming at us from all sides. Of course, we’re aware, caring, compassionate human beings, but life is pretty wacky and we just have to laugh more.

As for the surprise ending, it was suggested by another writer who’s a professor of literature. She’s a dear friend of mine who also lives in Paris. Thank you Gretel! 

Q: Who are some of your favorite writers?

A: There are so many! I love the 19th century French authors like Balzac, Stendhal, Flaubert, Zola.

Also the great Americans of a past era like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway, though he’s a little suspect now by feminists. I feel it’s anachronistic to judge him by today’s standards. He should be seen as being shaped by the era in which he grew up, lived and worked. 

I love Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare, David Sedaris, oh, I can’t list everybody.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Two novels are in the works. They’re both historical fiction again. Although, I found writing contemporary fiction like You Lucky Dog a much faster process.

Historical fiction requires so much careful research before the fun part starts and the imagination can take over. I spent five years in total writing Mademoiselle Victorine before it was published by Random House.

And Shadow War, which is about French Resistance fighters and the British S.O.E. agents sent to France to help organize them, was also years in the making and long to complete.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Publishing is changing so much. Where once writers needed big publishing houses to accept their work, today readers are directly making the choices.

The great publishers will always be with us and thank goodness for that! But the independent authors are also getting their work read. I’m grateful for both systems. And I’m grateful to you, Deborah, for giving writers a place to discuss what they love—writing.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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