Thursday, November 17, 2022

Q&A with Randee Dawn


Photo by Althea Salamin


Randee Dawn is the author of the new novel Tune in Tomorrow. Her other books include Home for the Holidays, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Variety and the Los Angeles Times. She is based in Brooklyn.


Q: What inspired you to write Tune in Tomorrow, and how did you create your character Starr Weatherby?


A: I've spent a lot of time writing about the entertainment industry over the years as an entertainment journalist, and I have all this awesome backstage experience saved up, it had to go somewhere!


But the truth is that Tune in Tomorrow started out as a non-fantastical backstage soap opera story that would have been a text-based game for Choice of Games. I wrote up the outline, got the go ahead to start planning it as a game -- and then got bogged down in how to make all the nitpicky parts of that work.


So I bowed out and took the story and gave it a re-think: I liked my "star," Starr Weatherby -- she was the embodiment of all the energetic newcomers to the business I'd met over the years -- and wanted to find a good place for her to live.


I've written a lot of portal-based fantasy over the years as either short stories or in novels that haven't yet been published, so tossing in a fantastical element to backstage came pretty naturally once I started adapting the idea to a novel-length tale. Then I just threw in a lot of wackiness and shenanigans!


Q: The Publishers Weekly review of the book said, in part, "Dawn balances over-the-top drama and comedy with genuine intrigue to create a fun story with plenty of heart." What do you think of that description, and how did you balance the various elements of the story?


A: I thought that was wonderfully flattering, and it not only summed up my aims, it gave me the sense that I'd at least gotten the arrow into the bullseye. I wanted it to be fun, but also thoughtful, mysterious and -- in some places -- genuinely dramatic. Who says a book only has to be one thing?


One of the pleasures of writing contemporary fantasy is that it gives me a chance to explore what the world might be like if magic, or immortality, or fantastical creatures really existed (of course, they MIGHT, I'm not saying they DON'T).


How would humans react to being immortal? How do fantastic creatures entertain themselves over the centuries? All of these "what if" questions are the real fuel behind Tune in Tomorrow.


But it is a balancing act. I think comedic moments are often used to offset a lot of levity, and in this case I wanted to have a few moments of drama offset the comedy (or flavor it). You want a little bitter with the sweet, because it makes the two so much more delicious.


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


A: I had a general idea. It's a humor novel, so I didn't want to end, say, with an apocalypse. Some of the most satisfying books end in a way that's both predictable and surprising, and the joy is the journey to see how we manage to get these loose threads tied up, assuming they all do get tied up.


I do have a bonus chapter that was an epilogue to Starr's story, told 99 years later -- the book was originally framed as her telling her memoirs to a ghostwriter -- but that got taken out for length reasons. I do tell readers that if they want that extra chapter, just let me know after you've finished the book  and I'll get it to you!


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


A: Some laughs, some memorable scenes and characters, and also a bit of food for thought about the big picture discussions in the book: Who should get paid for their work? What would it be like to be immortal, but tied to the same job forever? What does it mean when something is "real enough" to mythical creatures, and people -- is "truthiness" sometimes ... OK?


But mostly I hope they just have a good time and share what they loved about it with others.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I have a short story due for a SF anthology called Jewish Futures due shortly after the new year, and I'm working on another short story (this time a horror tale that takes place in a garden) that doesn't have a home, but once it's done I'll be looking around.


I have about five chapters written for another novel that takes place in this mythical entertainment universe and may or may not have some of the Tune in Tomorrow characters showing up, and a second novel that's gone through a draft or two about women with superpowers.


I want to work on all of them at once! But if Tune sells well, I'll pivot to ensure I work on that follow-up novel.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: On a practical level, I'd love people to know that if they're in the Brooklyn area or about to visit Brooklyn, on the third Tuesday of every month I host a reading series at Ample Hills Creamery in Brooklyn. We have three or four authors read, and ticketed attendees get ice cream from Ample Hills. It's a good time. (More info here: )


I'd also like to note that no book gets published without help, which is one of the reasons I have a fairly long acknowledgements section at the end of Tune in Tomorrow.


Fellow writers help you get published, not just from networking but from boosting your confidence, giving you sage and sound advice and criticism, and it's critical if you want your work to get into the world that you recognize it's a group effort (at least on the back end).


Anyone who insists they did it all on their own is fooling themselves. Starr would not approve!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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