I have worked with authors all my life and subsequently became one, but it seems one universal truth unites us all, despite our reclusive habits of hiding in darkened rooms for years on end realizing our ‘masterpieces:’ like starving showgirls in a chorus line, we’re all desperate for the one big break that will put our name on the top of the marquee and bump out the current Margo Channing of the day. All About Eve’s all, despite our modest miens and retiring natures, we secretly shimmer with ambition, speaking to ourselves about our inspirations during crippling moments of inadequacy and potential failure, buoyed along on the fantasy that, one day, our imaginary host will become real and we can belt out the solo to end all solos about what makes our novels tick. Or else, start a sentence with the words we long to utter, “I’d like to thank to The Booker Judges for this incredible honor….”
Fortunately, I didn’t need to crawl over broken glass, nor channel my inner Velma Kelly for my big opportunity. Rather, I was very generously invited to discuss my latest novel, The Westhampton Leisure Hour and Supper Club, on the nationally syndicated Imus in the Morning show this week. At which point, after five years of writing, of endless disappointments and ‘it’s never going to happen’ pronouncements, I quite naturally decided not to jump for the joy at the prospect, but rather panic myself into a coma.
For every author who finds their work validated on a national level, there comes that moment when you realize that everything you have worked toward and never thought would happen, is happening. But the success of of that very lucky break is akin to an entirely new endurance test, one which depends entirely on your ability to be interesting/witty/vivacious/in no way repellent to listeners, in order to move to the next lucky break. A realization that suddenly spawns another alarming prospect: what happens if you don’t pull it off and five million people are listening, including your mother?
Such were the thoughts that plagued me in the week leading up to the big day. But, as my sister very kindly reassured me when I fretted that I might garble my answers about the book: Don’t be silly: you only had to rewrite it 75 times, you know the book backwards. Oh so true, but yet it didn’t stop me from imagining my mind going blank at the sounds of the words “And we’re live on air…”
In the end, after three sleepless nights and endless mental preparation, the interview went off with out a hitch, largely because of the extreme graciousness of Don Imus, who effortlessly elicited answers from me and put me at my ease from the first moment. When you’re speaking to someone who clearly wants you to succeed, in tandem with all the friends and family who were sitting on tenterhooks by their radios with their fingers crossed, there really is no other option but to stop worrying and try to do everyone proud, which I hope I did. And I do have to say that there is an awful lot to be said for breaking out of the chorus line – even if it is only for eight minutes!
So now, without further ado, here is the interview itself so you can judge for yourselves whether all those years of Guild Hall drama classes paid off….