5 autographed copies will be given away on Friday, May 6, 2016!
Marjorie Plum never meant to peak in high school. She was Queen Bee. Now, 10 years later, she’s lost her sparkle. At her bleakest moment, she’s surprised by renewed interest from a questionable childhood crush, and the bickering with her cranky boss–at a potentially game-changing new job–grows increasingly like flirtatious banter. Suddenly, she’s faced with a choice between the life she always dreamed of and one she never thought to imagine. With the help of a precocious 11-year-old tutee, who unknowingly becomes the Ghost of Marjorie Past, and a musician roommate, who looks like a pixie and talks like the Dalai Lama, Marjorie struggles with the ultimate question: Who does she want to be? Nora Zelevansky’s Will You Won’t You Want Me? is a funny, often surprising, novel about growing up when you are already supposed to be grown.
Exclusive interview with the author:
1) When you got that first phone call announcing you had sold a novel, how did you react? How did you celebrate?
My new book, WILL YOU WON’T YOU WANT ME?, was the second in a two-book deal with St. Martin’s Press, so I got that first call awhile ago—back in 2011. But I know will never forget that moment or that feeling.
I was driving to a friend’s house in LA, actually to hang out and write with a third buddy. We were supposedly trying to motivate each other, but mostly wound up eating junk food by the pool and giggling.
I wasn’t expecting the call. Don’t things like this always happen that way? It’s like you have to forget about the possibility for it to materialize. Anyway, my cell phone rang. It was my agent. I was driving in Los Feliz, near the Hollywood Hills. She told me that St. Martin’s wanted to buy my book. I was so overwhelmed that I had to pull over. I barely remember what she said, but, afterward, I just sat in my car by the side of the road and cried happy tears for a few minutes. I have never felt a moment of such unbridled pride. It wasn’t complicated in the way that personal milestones can be—it was pure disbelief and glee. It might be the only time I’ve ever been moved to pinch myself.
My first instinct was to call people and tell them, but instead I decided to sit with the news and enjoy it myself for the ride. It was the best drive of my life.
2) What scene or bit of dialogue in the book are you most proud of and why?
Dialogue is probably my favorite thing to write. I’m not sure when that happened, but it has definitely become the case. In WILL YOU WON’T YOU WANT ME?, I’m particularly proud of the argumentative, but flirtatious banter between the main character, Marjorie, and her new boss, Gus. (I am also proud of the conversations between Marjorie and her 11-year-old tutee, Belinda.) The scene where Gus and Marjorie first meet is a favorite of mine. They’re sitting outside a party on a brownstone stoop. She’s a little drunk and having a meltdown because her world has been rocked by change and she doesn’t know what to do next:
“I’m sorry,” she sniffled. “This is the one thing I’m supposed to be good at. I’m social! People have called me ‘charming.’ ”
“If it’s any consolation, they may have been lying.”
Marjorie laughed, the heaves subsiding, though her head remained buried. “And now I ruined your evening!”
“I’m not even sure I was having an evening.”
She turned to face him, her eyes puffy and watery, the tip of her nose pink, which only made her prettier. Her cheek was squished against the shelf of her knees like a child. “Are you sure?”
“Marjorie, there are three twenty-two-year-old guys in there playing ukuleles. Let me assure you, that isn’t my idea of a good time.”
She giggled, despite herself, then sat up, sniffled, and wiped her face with her hands. A bit of eyeliner had been transferred to her lower lid; the imperfection of it underlined her vulnerability. “I must look like a mess.”
“You look fine. Good, even. I’m thinking you’ve never looked bad. Let’s be honest.”
Then, actually, there’s a description at the end of that scene that’s a favorite of mine too:
Marjorie and Gus smiled at each other, frozen in a moment entirely theirs, when the banjos stopped strumming, the beer foam stopped fizzing, and the laughter—if there was any in this earnest crowd—subsided. For an instant. Everything was still.
They were captured in a spotlight, as a car maneuvered its way into a parking spot in front of them. The vehicle rumbled forward and back, then the engine died. A lean young man climbed out, then looked up, scanning the buildings. Finally, his eyes rested on the duo, sitting companionably together.
3) If you could have dinner with one of your characters who would it be?
This is a hard one. The obvious answer is Marjorie. (Actually, Nicola Kraus—who wrote The Nanny Diaries—read my book, wrote a very kind blurb and, afterward, got in touch with me to say that she wanted to have drinks with Marjorie, but would settle for meeting me.) That said, I know Marjorie the best, if that makes any sense, so I’m sort of inclined to pick someone else. Maybe her quirky musician roommate, Fred (dubbed “the pixie”) because she has such a positive, upbeat spirit. Or Marjorie’s childhood best friend, Pickles, because she would be entertaining for a cocktail and dish session. That said, no one would be more entertaining that Mac O’Shea, Marjorie’s childhood love interest.
4) When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? Have you had other jobs along the way?
Oh, yes. I had other jobs. I always loved writing. My father is a writer and artist and my mother was an art critic when I was young. She spent hours working with my sister and me to edit our school essays like a magazine editor might—going word by word, painstakingly.
At some point, she suggested that maybe I would become a writer when I grew up. I said it seemed too difficult. Then, in college, I was a writing tutor and was always the person who edited my friend’s papers. After college, I worked first at George Clooney’s production company as an intern, then as an assistant at VH1. Eventually, I worked at a film company (which was fodder for WILL YOU WON’T YOU WANT ME? and is also where I met my husband).
When that didn’t feel quite right, I actually worked in politics for a hot second. That was pure misery, actually. But the experience drove me to start writing again and, it was during that time, that I realized I wanted to be a journalist. And then, ultimately, that led to writing novels.
5) Since becoming a writer, what’s the most exciting thing to ever happen to you?
A couple of weeks ago, I went to get a much-needed facial. (That is always exciting to me, but is not the climax of this story.) Mostly, WILL YOU WON’T YOU WANT ME? was soon to come out and I wanted to look my best for the readings and events. I lay down on the massage table and closed my eyes, as the aesthetician examined my skin.
Then, she said, “Can I ask you a question?”
I assumed it would be about my skincare regimen, but instead she asked: “Did you write SEMI-CHARMED LIFE?”
That’s my first book; she had recognized my name. She went on to tell me that the novel is one of her favorites that she rereads regularly.
I don’t know why, but it had never occurred to me that someone might read one of my books more than once. Just the idea that a total stranger related enough to the story to read it again and again made me feel so honored and special. It was a really rewarding moment.
And, actually, since WILL YOU WON’T YOU WANT ME? has come out, there’s been a lot of response from women who say they relate and that the book helped them feel okay about feeling lost. That makes everything worth it.
About the author:
NORA ZELEVANSKY is the author of Will You Won’t You Want Me? and Semi-Charmed Life. Her writing has appeared in ELLE, T Magazine (The New York Times), Town & Country, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair, among others. She lives with her husband and daughter in Brooklyn, New York. Visit Nora online at norazelevansky.com.
5 autographed copies will be given away on Friday, May 6, 2016.
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