Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Q&A with Jamie Varon




Jamie Varon is the author of the new novel Main Character Energy. She also has written the book Radically Content. She lives in Calabasas, California.


Q: What inspired you to write Main Character Energy, and how did you create your character Poppy Banks? 


A: When I spent eight months on the French Riviera in 2018, I knew I would write about that location someday. I love novels where the location is a character, and I knew that I wanted to do that with the south of France.


It’s hard to say where the idea came from to have Poppy get an inheritance—it’s like it all just came to me in pieces. I loved the idea of Poppy, who is on the cusp of giving up on herself, receiving this fish out of water opportunity that she can’t pass up from her aunt that she adored.


As for Poppy, I think I infused a lot of my own writer’s block and self-doubt into her, as I really wanted to show a character that filters their life through their fear. But I also wanted to root for her. I wanted her to make decisions that made sense for where she’s at in life. Overall, I wanted Poppy to be this fierce woman who is battered down by life, but then comes alive in a beautiful place.


I never read or watched any stories in Paris or France, in general, that ever centered plus-size women and that was a primary reason for writing Poppy and having her adventure in France. I wanted to see that exist. I wanted readers to experience a woman like Poppy in the glittery sun-soaked Côte d'Azur. 


Q: The writer Ashley Poston said of the book, “Main Character Energy embraces the best and worst parts of writing with candor and heart.” What do you think of this assessment, and what was it like to write about a writer?


A: Poppy is a very real character. She is messy and honest and she self-sabotages and questions herself. It’s almost maddening, I think, but that’s how anxiety presents itself—it’s not on our schedule, and it pops up in the most inopportune times.


So I think what Ashley is referring to when it comes to “candor” is that I didn’t pull any punches. I let Poppy be as filled with self-doubt as she needed to be. I think that kind of writing takes heart—it’s hard to let your character be down on herself. You have to hope the reader won’t get tired of it and will understand that Poppy is caught in the spiral of her own mind.


I think it gives the ending and her journey a more satisfying arc—because you really do see how far along she’s come. But, as a writer, you have to take the risk that people will come along on the journey. 


Writing about a writer is my favorite thing. I’m certain a lot of my future books will be about books and writers. Writing a writer is the best because writers are typically in their heads so much. They don’t really conceal a lot, so you can pull at their threads and get into their emotions, because they’re so willing to go there. 


Q: As you mentioned, the novel is set on the French Riviera—can you say more about how important setting is to you in your writing?


A: Vitally important! I am a big “location as a character” person. For this novel in particular, I especially wanted a sparkly, beautiful setting to offset Poppy’s self-doubt—basically a portrait of “wherever you go, there you are.” Moving to France doesn’t suddenly “fix” her and she’s just as doubtful of herself on the beaches of the Riviera as she is in her apartment in North Hollywood. I love that juxtaposition. 


I also love setting—writing and reading about it. I love the idea that a certain place can change you into a certain kind of person. Some places make you feel bolder, cozier, deeper, happier, etc.


That is a very interesting thing for me to explore, especially since I’ve traveled quite a lot in my own life. Each place I’ve been to, I try on different likes, dislikes, and personalities. It’s like I’m trying on different characters—and making big moves, or changing locations, can really whip you back into your life.


It’s why I love setting and location so much, because I think moving or traveling somewhere new can really change your perspective. 


Q: How was the novel's title chosen, and what does it signify for you? 


A: I originally started thinking about “main character energy” because of the movie The Holiday and the scene where Iris is talking with Arthur and she’s lamenting about the fact that she’s not the leading lady in her own life. That really stuck with me, because I have felt like the supporting character many times before. My life changed when I started prioritizing myself and my dreams.


My novel had many working titles, but when I landed on Main Character Energy, I just knew that was the story I was telling—how Poppy was finally putting her dreams and herself first and believing she deserved her version of a beautiful life. And that’s what the title signifies for me. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Something new I can’t talk about yet, but it’s got the same heart, character arc, and joyous narrative as Main Character Energy. :) 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I don’t think so! I’m just so excited to share this story that I love so much with people!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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