Kath here. Please welcome contemporary women’s fiction novelist Daphne Uviller to Writer Unboxed today. Daphne’s made a splash with her irreverent mystery series, which is an adorable cross between hardboiled crime fiction and Sex in the City. Her latest novel, HOTEL NO TELL, is garnering buzz and great reviews:
ALA’s Booklist calls Hotel No Tell an “irrepressible sequel…Snappy crime fiction with a sensitive side and a loving look at the Big Apple.”
We’re so pleased Daphne is able to post with us today. Take it away, Daphne!
Let’s get something straight. The heroine of my two novels, Zephyr Zuckerman, is not me. She lives on West 12th street, and my apartment is on West 13th street. Please, people, respect the writer’s imagination.
Seriously? She’s really not me. More accurate to say there’s a bit of me in all my characters, from the Japanese yenta (I recklessly engage in cultural crossbreeding) to the male love interests to the hard-living detectives. We all have dialogues in our heads as we weigh the pros and cons of any situation – whether to have kids, what to order in for dinner. A writer – or this writer, anyway – builds characters around those debating voices.
Zephyr combusted into being after mixing together a few explosive elements. When I created her, I was mulling over what David Brooks, writing in The New York Times in October 2007, aptly termed the odyssey years –a professional paralysis that grips many educated people of my generation. It’s an inability to pick a career and stay the course – it’s not laziness, but rather, an overabundance of opportunity, and it interested me as a battle.
That flitting and flirting with different professions and imagining oneself in a variety of roles in turn made me think of one of my favorite literary characters, Walter Mitty, the titular hero of James Thurber’s 1929 short story. Mitty is prone to flights of heroic fantasy; in the space of just two thousand words, he imagines himself as the captain of a navy hydroplane, the heroic victim of a firing squad, as a world-class surgeon. I began to think that maybe the odyssey years were not such a new predicament.
And then I thought about how I hate doing research. So much so that when I tried my hand at real journalism, I failed miserably because I wanted to make the facts just a little more interesting. (NB: this is not okay.) I knew I’d have to be an author who fell into the write-what-you-know category.
So then I thought about what I knew and it amounted to just two things. One: the real New York City, the one with the natives who have inherited their apartments, making us real estate rich and cash poor, the one where you’re not afraid to schlump around in ugly sandals and no makeup. Two: I knew about being the super of a building in Greenwich Village, something I did for ten years in exchange for a fabulous apartment and low rent.
I poured all these into my cauldron, spiced with an array of vibrant supporting characters, mixed vigorously and thus was born Zephyr Zuckerman: a new millennial, odyssey-generation, female Walter Mitty who (in the first book) is the super of a Greenwich Village building.
She shares some of my DNA, but really, she’s entirely her own person.