Friday, March 4, 2022

Q&A with Tory Henwood Hoen




Tory Henwood Hoen is the author of the new novel The Arc. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Bon Appétit and Condé Nast Traveler. She lives in Brooklyn.


Q: What inspired you to write The Arc, and how did you create your characters Ursula and Rafael?


A: The seedling of the idea for The Arc came from my personal life. When I was in my mid-30s, I went through a breakup and then tried dating apps for the first time.


My experience on the apps was fun and interesting (and weird), but I kept wondering: why doesn't someone come up with a more sophisticated version of this? Something that takes into account emotional programming, attachment style, etc. That's when I began to imagine a service that would do just that, and then the idea for the book developed from there.


As far as the characters, I wanted to write about two people who were "on track" (or even thriving) in the professional aspects of their lives, but who couldn't quite crack the romantic code—and not for lack of effort. I wanted them to feel like real people with blindspots but also a genuine desire to love and be loved.


In developing Ursula and Rafael, I mixed parts of myself with parts of people I know and/or have dated. They are amalgams, as is every character in this book.


Q: The Real Simple review of the book says, "Funny and modern, The Arc is like a rom-com’s cooler big sister. It’s as much a satire as it is a romance, roasting our reliance on high-tech solutions for matters of the heart." What do you think of that description? 


A: I love it! It encapsulates what my intention was in writing this book. First and foremost: I wanted it to be fun to read. I wanted it to have real heart, but also an unexpected edge.


I set out to combine genres—romance meets satire, with a sprinkle of sci-fi—which I now realize was ambitious. But it was so fun to write, and I hope it is even more fun for people to read.


Ultimately, I want it to be an emotionally satisfying story, but one that surprises the reader and feels a bit different from anything they've come across. 


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


A: Not quite. I started with a fairly extensive outline, but I added a few additional twists as I went.


The final scene was not something I conceived until I was about halfway through writing, so in that sense, I surprised myself. I wanted to pass that feeling of surprise along to both the characters and the eventual readers. 


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: This is a story that explores our culture's obsession with "optimization" but ultimately feels very human. The satirical aspects of this book poke fun at the ways we try to enhance our lives (startup culture, wellness, etc.), but the real heart of this book is the love story between Ursula and Rafael—which is quite primal, despite the high-tech world they live in. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: A second book! It's not a love story but it is a "relationship story." I'm still in the early phase of writing, but it's about two women who are at different junctures in their careers—and the wild way that their lives intersect. 


I'm also in the very-early stages of working with Netflix to develop The Arc into a TV series, so I'll keep you posted on that!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I'm sometimes asked, "Who is the ideal reader for The Arc?" My answer is: anyone who has ever been in a relationship or aspires to be in one. It's for anyone who knows that love is both risky and essential; and also anyone wants  to have a rollicking good time. This is a wild book—buckle up!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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