I was contacted by author Jennifer Oko so pleased she did as I’m looking forward to reading her book Head Case as soon as I can get to it. Till then I have a fantastic interview if I do say so myself to share. Enjoy and take a look at Jennifer’s books they sound awesome!
Be sure to leave a comment for Jennifer as 2 people will win an ebook copy of Head Case in format of their choice.
Imagine if a ghost could tell you the story of her own murder by taking you into the minds of the people who were there at the scene of the crime. Well, this one can. Sort of.
Introducing Olivia Zack. She’s a neuroscientist, a pharmaceutical consultant…and a murder victim on a quest to discover how and why she died.
HEAD CASE is a new, exciting and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny mystery from an author whose work has been called “SIMPLY RIVETING” by The New York Times and “SHARP AND FAST-PACED” by Publisher’s Weekly. It’s like Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones meets Carl Hiaasen’s Nature Girl (with a dash of Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money) as Olivia embarks on a postmortem quest to deconstruct the remarkable events that lead up to her mind-altering death.
A comic satire of the influence of the psychopharmaceutical industry on American life, HEAD CASE takes Olivia and her estranged friend and roommate Polly Warner on a collision course involving ethically challenged executives, spotlight-hungry celebrities, third-rate mobsters and drug-dealing babushkas. A smart and savvy page-turner, HEAD CASE explores the meaning of personal relationships, emotional intelligence, and mental health while taking the reader on a synapse-stirring, neurotransmitting rollicking ride.
My Spidey senses suggest that your work as a morning producer on the Today show inspired your book Gloss, am I correct on that and does working there provide you with endless amounts of well this would make a fantastic story material? –
You are close! In fact, the Today Show is the only one of the three network morning shows I haven’t worked for. Funnily, Katie Couric came to CBS (where I was working at the time) right around the time Gloss came out, and this little blog post got me into no small amount of trouble! The truth was, I had never met the woman, but the network brass was worried the book might upset her. More story material, I suppose.
You’ve had an absolutely amazing career one I quite envy how and why do you do it? –
You are sweet to say that. Sometimes it’s been amazing. Sometimes it’s been really hard! Both of my industries — journalism and book publishing — have changed tremendously since I began my career, so I’m constantly having to reinvent myself. Sometime that’s good. Sometimes it’s scary. As for why I do what I do, I suppose it’s just that I am a very curious person, and without some good adventures and creative outlets, I would go nuts. Overall, I feel very blessed to have had many of the opportunities I’ve had.
Gloss sounds fantastic but why write fiction after a memoir? –
I had to! Publishing Lying Together was a fantastic experience, but it was so emotionally raw (writing it and then putting it into the world), that after it was all finished I was completely spent. I needed a sandbox that I could just play in and have some fun. I think LT is a terrific book, but it wasn’t until Gloss that I really found my voice.
Please tell me about Lying Together, why you wrote it how it came about? –
Lying Together started as a series of diary entries that I was writing while all of the events that unfolded were happening (the economic collapse of the country I was covering as a journalist and the collapse of the relationship with the man I was engaged to). When the dust finally settled down and I was able to give myself a little distance, I took a look at what I had written and it struck me that it could be a book. I signed up for a memoir writing class, mostly on a whim, and my teacher and classmates were so encouraging that I kept going.
Why write something so personal? –
That is the question, isn’t it? I don’t really have a good answer, except that it was just something I needed to do in order to move forward. Not necessary publish it, but write it. But once I got passed it being an intensely personal and intimate story, I realized that it was also a very relatable story. I’ve met a lot of women who have read it and then, even though we’re strangers, they share their own stories with me, really open up. That part of it has been incredible.
You’ve had some great reviews on all three of your books, what’s it like reading them? –
The day I found out that Lying Together was going to be well-reviewed in the New York Times Book Review, I practically skipped the whole way home. It was like getting accepted to your first choice college. Then, at work the day after it came out, someone came up to me and asked why I had even bothered to come in—I was an author with a great review in the Times, why did I need the job anymore? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. At least it hasn’t for me! Not yet!
But it is amazing to read nice things about my work. So far, with Head Case, the customer reviews have been fantastic, and truly that’s what’s keeping me going. Sales are frustratingly slow—it’s extremely hard to get the word out without the muscle of a large publishing house behind me. But when I read these generous reviews written by people who owe me absolutely nothing, I am so inspired and encouraged to keep trying.
Was writing in you always or something that happened as an adult via your journalism career?-
A little bit of both. Writing was always in me, but journalism gave me the skill and the fodder.
What is your workspace and writing routine like? –
As a sign that I am starting to get comfortable with the new book I am working with, I just shared this with someone else and I will share it with you and your readers as well. My glamourous workspace and my attempt at a routine has made a cameo into the book I am currently working on (more on that later). My main character describes it better than I can. Here’s an excerpt:
Resigned, I closed my laptop and walked across the makeshift home office I had crammed into the corner of our small semi-finished basement, stepping across the detritus of a rambunctious play date that had occurred two days prior, careful not to impale myself with a stray Lego block. It took dexterity to get to the bookshelf behind the train table without causing myself physical harm, but I got there. I moved aside the tattered Dr. Seuss tomes and a half dozen half-chewed board books and laughed at my own obvious metaphor as I plucked my twenty-five-year-old copy of Crime and Punishment off the shelf.
What do you enjoy doing when not working? –
I’ve also gotten really into biking this year, to and from work. It’s about four miles each way—mostly downhill going and uphill coming home—and it’s done magic for me, emotionally and physically. The only bummer is that lately it’s been too cold and dark, so I am counting the days until March 10 (Daylight Savings).
That, and reading and playing with my family and kids, who are five and seven and, in my completely objective opinion, super cute (most of the time).
Some favorite books and authors –
Other than Carl Hiaasen, Dostoevsky and Edith Wharton, I don’t play favorites. Actually, that’s not true. But see your next question, as I tend to love the ones I’m with (or I don’t finish them—I am very, very guilty of not finishing books).
What are you reading now?
Here are the top ten on my Kindle, in order of when last opened:
The Museum of Innocence, by Orphan Pamuk — Reading now. Wow! (though it helps that I visited the actual museum he writes about).
The Queen of Spades, by Aleksandr Pushkin — Inspiration for the new novel.
How to Make a Killing on Kindle, by Michael Alvear — Ha!
Front Page Fatality, by LynDee Walker — I haven’t started yet, looking forward to it.
Sweet Tooth, by Ian McEwan — I am not sure how I land here. It’s really, really good, but I have some issues with how he write about women.
Hallucinations, by Oliver Sacks — At times fascinating, at times I skip to the next chapter.
The World To Come, by Dara Horn — Really enjoying, she’s great.
Faithful Place, by Tana French — Started, got scared. 😉
The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker — Loved.
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn — Loved, loved, loved until about ⅔ in, then really did not like how it ended.
Please tell me something about you that no one knows –
I love that you asked that! I’ve now spent a full day trying to figure out how to answer. Given that I’ve published a memoir and then two novels that draw heavily on my own life, it’s probably not a shock to tell you that I’m terrible at keeping my own secrets. And the fact that I brought store-bought cookies to one of my kids’ school bake sales is probably not what you are fishing for. Here’s one that only a few people know: When I was five, I tried to get my parents to legally change my name to Tinkerbelle. My argument was that my grandmother’s name was Belle, so it was in her honor. Happily, my parents did not relent.
Tell me about Head Case, it sounds like a ton of fun –
I hope it is! I’ve been playing with it in one incarnation or another for longer than I care to admit (but given your question above I will tell you that’s it’s now pushing two decades). I wrote one version of it (then called Thank You, Eli Lilly) before I wrote Lying Together, but it stayed in my virtual desk drawer for many years. Most of that version still remains there, because it was terrible, but some of the ideas held.
There are a number of themes in it that play with things I’ve been fascinating with for a very long time, in no particular order:
- Russian gangsters
- The power of fame
- The nature of friendships
One of my friends said Head Case is like a ghost story mashup of Prozac Nation and Bridget Jones Diary, which makes me laugh because there is probably some truth there.
Unlike your previous two books Head Case was self published, do you enjoy the more hands on part of things or would you rather leave it up to others? –
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want the support that a traditional publisher can give you, but at the same time, a lot of my experience with the commercial publisher for Gloss was frustrating at best. That’s being diplomatic. I can’t say that I’ve published Head Case completely on my own, though. There were many readers along the way, and I did a Kickstarter (so much fun!) to get funding for the cover art, proofing, formatting and some promotional help. But, yes, there is something exciting (if scary) about taking the reigns.
All that set, give me a few more months to let you know which I enjoy more!
What do you have planned next for readers? –
Ah! See above! I’ve had two different ideas I’ve been playing with for a while, but the one that is winning out right now is about a writer who has lost her creative juices while trying to balance writing, work and family life (write what you know, right?). To get inspiration, she starts to re-read some of her favorite murder scenes from literary history, and those fictional events start to influence the what is happening on the pages she is writing—as well as events (crimes and murders) happening in real life around her — events she may or may not be directly involved with.
What do you think? Does it sound interesting to you?