While we marvel at the beauty of spring, it comes as no surprise that most of us are counting the days until summertime. The familiar scents of suntan lotion, warm breezes, and even chlorine from the pool evoke such pleasant memories of time spent with family and friends. As we grow older, we come to appreciate these special moments especially those long, hazy days in the sunshine spent with our siblings.
This month’s Jen’s Jewels Zoe Fishman tackles this very topic in her latest release SAVING RUTH. It’s the story of two college-aged siblings who return home to Alabama for the summer and wind up experiencing a near tragedy that changes their relationship forever. Perfect for this time of year, it’s a must-read for all those with college-aged children in their lives.
As part of this interview, William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers has generously donated five copies for you, my favorite readers, to try to win. So, don’t forget to enter the contest. Please come follow me on Twitter @JenniferVido or on Facebook www.JenniferVido.com for sneak peeks into the world of book publishing. And as always, thanks for making Jen’s Jewels a part of your reading adventure.
Jen: The story behind the road to publication can sometimes be as fascinating as the book itself. So that my readers may catch a glimpse into the life of the woman behind the words, please share with us your educational and professional background.
Zoe: I grew up in Mobile, Alabama and then went onto Boston University, where I majored in English and graduated in 1998. After college, I went immediately to New York, and thanks to a family connection, got a job at Random House as the assistant to the Audio Book publisher. From there, I went onto work as an editorial assistant at Dell. This was just as the web industry was taking off, so after a year or so I left publishing to work as a copywriter for first, a luxury goods website and then, when that folded, an astrology website. I am very skilled at describing velvet house slippers and debating the wherefores and whys of Mercury retrograde as a result.
After both sites folded, I returned to book publishing, but this time working in the Foreign Rights department of Atria and Pocket Books. Though I was a bit skeptical about sales at first, the job turned out to be a tremendous learning experience that I enjoyed very much. Not only did I learn about invaluable negotiating skills, but I got to travel internationally and meet some really wonderful people from all over the world.
After about six years there, I began to miss editorial work, and left to handle the rights and try my hand at agenting with Lowenstein-Yost Associates. When my bosses split, I followed Nancy Yost on her journey to realize her own agency. In August of 2012, I left publishing and moved to Atlanta with my husband, where I am currently writing full time and enjoying getting to know my three month old son, Ari.
Jen: Please share with us your “Aha!” moment when you decided to take the plunge and pursue a career as a writer.
Zoe: I always knew that I wanted to be a writer, but actively pursuing it was a whole different story. In my twenties, working in book publishing, I would marvel at the discipline required to bring books to life. At a certain point, I got tired of hearing myself complain about my lack of drive. I needed some discipline. In my mind, I had two choices – join the army, which I was pretty sure was out of the question given my advanced age, or enter The New York Marathon lottery. I went with option two, and to my great surprise and initial despair, was picked. When I somehow managed to cross that finish line after months and months of training, I was a new person. If I could drag myself across five boroughs without dropping dead, I could certainly commit to writing a damn novel. And eventually, I did.
Jen: In terms of nuts and bolts, approximately how long does it take for you to write a novel? And, do you plot first or simply allow the novel to take on a life of its own?
Zoe: I’d say about a year, but that’s before submitting it to my editor for a thorough gutting. I wish I was the kind of free spirit that could just allow my writing to find its own path! I’m way too much of an anal control freak for that. I am an outlining fool.
Jen: In your latest release SAVING RUTH, you explore the affect of a near-death tragedy on a family. First of all, how did you arrive at the premise?
Zoe: I worked as a lifeguard and swim coach all of the summers of my employable teenagerdom. I always wanted to write about the spirit of that time – there’s something about the vibe of a neighborhood pool during the summer that registered with me even as I was “in it” as the encapsulation of youth. Although I was lucky enough never to have to resuscitate a drown victim, there were a few close-ish calls, and those were enough to scare the hell out of me. I thought it would be an interesting premise to explore. How are you ever the same after something like that? How do people’s perceptions of you change? How does your perception of yourself change?
Jen: The story centers on the relationship between siblings Ruth and David Wasserman. Why did you choose to write about the dynamics of a brother/sister relationship?
Zoe: I really enjoyed writing about Ruth and David’s relationship. What brothers and sisters mean to each other changes so much as they get older, especially as they’re searching for their own identity outside of the family they were both raised in. That thread of communication is so easily lost; I think more so between sisters and brothers than between sisters because of the fact that they’re so incredibly unrecognizable to each other at certain points - first through puberty and later as a result of the different interests they invariably develop.
Jen: Set in Alabama, the Wassermans are a Jewish family living in a predominately Christian community. In what ways do race and religion affect Ruth’s perception of how she is viewed by her peers?
Zoe: Ruth feels like an outsider. She’s a dark, curly haired Jewish girl with a sharp tongue that up until very recently was just overweight enough to not be able to cram herself into the sorts of popular styles her peers wear effortlessly. She’s different, and as a result, very insecure. Her sense of humor is the armor she creates for herself against the judgments, real and imagined, of her peers.
Jen: When Ruth returns home from college for the summer, her significant weight loss is the hot topic not only in her own household, but also throughout the town. Why does her “new” appearance cause a rift between Ruth and her mother?
Zoe: Ruth’s mother is simultaneously alarmed and seduced by her daughter’s weight loss – a duality that she is very much aware of and bothered by. On the one hand, her daughter is literally a shadow of her former self, and on the other, there is no denying that she looks great. Her reaction to Ruth is a wake up call about her own body issues, and she worries that she’s subconsciously passed on her own insecurities to her daughter.
Jen: Growing up, Ruth was by far the troublesome child while David was the picture-perfect son. When a role reversal takes place due to a near-death tragedy, why does David choose to pull away from his sister rather than embrace their kindred connection?
Zoe: David is grappling with some personal issues that make distance a necessity for him. The accident only intensifies his need for isolation.
Jen: Throughout the novel, Ruth’s relationship with her father transforms catching them both off-guard as to the path where it is leading them. Why does Ruth so strongly identify with her father despite not fully recognizing it?
Zoe: Her father’s approval means a lot to her. With David as the sports/academic star of the family, she’s always sort of taken the back seat, but now, things are different. It’s interesting that you feel that Ruth really identifies with her father because I didn’t set out to convey that at all, although I certainly thought about it in an obscure way as I was writing.
Jen: SAVING RUTH is a coming-of-age novel touching upon the sheer essence of finding one’s true self amid crisis and heartache. How do David’s struggles enable Ruth to break out of her preconceived notions of herself?
Zoe: Ruth has always just assumed, in her self-involved and insecure way, that David really was as “perfect” as he seemed. The idea that he was intimidated or disappointed by anything was inconceivable to her. Once it becomes apparent that this is not the case – that he is just as vulnerable as she is – her head and heart open considerably.
Jen: Let’s switch gears now and talk about your website. Please take us on a brief tour highlighting points of interest.
Zoe: Well, my website is embarrassingly basic. I’ve been meaning to amp it up, but laziness is a helluva’ drug.
Jen: Do you participate in social media?
Zoe: I just joined Twitter @ZoeFishman76. I’m also on Facebook.
Jen: Are you currently at work on your next novel? If so, what may you share with us?
Zoe: I am. LOOSELY, it’s about motherhood, marriage and driving. The plot has changed a lot since the idea’s original inception, but I like where it’s headed.
Jen: Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with my readers. I absolutely loved SAVING RUTH. It took me right back to my own summer memories. Best of luck on your book tour!
Zoe: No, thank you! I am so grateful for your support. All the very best to you and your readers!
I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Zoe Fishman. Please stop by your favorite bookstore or library branch and pick up a copy or download an e-book to your iPad, Kindle, or e-reader today.
Better yet, how would you like to win one instead? Okay, be one of the first five readers to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the correct answer to the following trivia question.
What is the title of Zoe’s next release?
In June, I will be bringing to you my interview with Melanie Gideon, author of WIFE 22. You won’t want to miss it.