Monday, May 7, 2012

Interview with Author Mari Passananti

1. Please tell us about The Hazards of Hunting While Heartbroken.

I wanted to write a self-discovery novel about a smart woman in her early thirties – that age when so many of us seem to make peace with who we are and what we want, both personally and professionally. Zoë is on the cusp of that moment at the start of the book.

The early thirties tend to be watershed years for so many professional women. What a cruel biological joke that the clock ticks most insistently at the very time you’re hitting your stride in the workplace. Some lucky people can have it all. Others, like Zoë and her friend Angela, make choices they never would have dreamed of making ten, or even five, years earlier.

I made Zoë a headhunter, because I worked in legal search for several years and amassed so much great material. A former colleague used to joke that someone should write a book about headhunters. I decided that he had a point. The profession attracts its share of extreme personalities and many of the supporting characters and work place drama were built on composites from my experiences.

2. What is the most surprising thing you learned in writing your book?

That even though I set out to entertain, to write a beach book, if you will, I couldn’t resist the urge to add a dark twist.

3. What is your next book project?

A suspense novel called THE K STREET AFFAIR.
In the wake of a massive attack on Washington, DC, the FBI recruits a young lawyer, Lena Mancuso, to investigate her firm’s links to an international terror finance ring whose key players include a celebrated K Street lobbyist, a notorious Russian robber baron and a high-ranking Saudi diplomat.

Lena agrees to pass along documents to the agents, but soon realizes that helping the FBI could cost her everything. Lena finds herself hunted by enemies known and unknown.

The book is completely different from THE HAZARDS, and I’m both nervous and excited about that

THE K STREET AFFAIR puts a young, smart everywoman in an impossible situation and forces her to use a combination of wits and grit to save herself.

Lena faces an international cast of villains driven by enormous political and economic ambitions. I’m fascinated by the idea that an worldwide class of outrageously privileged individuals is quietly consolidating power. It’s already happening in certain sectors of the business world. The political arena seems like the logical next step. Is it ultimately futile to fight such giants? Or is the struggle for justice a moral imperative, regardless of the cost?

4. Who or what inspired you to become an author?

I’ve suffered from an over-active imagination for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always wanted to write a book.  For years, authoring seemed like a pie-in-the-sky, bucket list aspiration.  Then I found myself facing a big birthday. I had one of those what-do-I-want-to-do-when-I-grow-up-because-this-isn’t-it moments.

I realized I was grown up so I’d better get on with figuring it out.

Countless contemporary women writers inspire me, and so many of them had other careers before they started writing novels.  

Years ago, I tore through Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin while on vacation.  I remember thinking it was the most fantastic beach book. She had this way of making the reader cheer for her characters even when they were doing questionable things. I flipped over the cover and saw that Ms. Giffin was a lawyer, too, and she’d made the leap to author without trying to contort herself into a new John Grisham (a futile exercise so many people seem to expect lawyers turned writers to perform).  That was my a-ha moment. I realized I can write about contemporary women and I don’t have to drop them into a courtroom setting. Although I reserve the right to do so sometime in the future. 

5. Who is your favorite author and why?

Hardest question ever.

 Harder even than “Who is your favorite child?” 

 (Because I only have one kid.)

 I’m going to cheat and take the dead folks out of the running.

My favorite living author is Margaret Atwood. She’s a masterful satirist and entertainer and whatever she writes, I buy and devour. If I’m limited to one answer, I need to go with her. I’d love to see her win a Nobel.

 For lighter fare, I wish Helen Fielding would write another book.

For newer writers, I’m eager to see what J. Courtney Sullivan and Erin Morgenstern come up with next.  Ms. Sullivan is an astoundingly astute observer of female relationships. Ms. Morgenstern has this amazing ability to create dreamscapes. Reading The Night Circus was like luxuriating in a wonderful, vivid dream and not wanting to wake up.

6. What is your favorite Quote?

 "Well-behaved women seldom make history." —Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

7. What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

 First, it helps to have thick skin before you get started. I think my years in legal search really helped with this “skill.”  Basically headhunters get rejected for a living.  Alright, maybe that’s not entirely true. Headhunters make their money on acceptances, but the accept to reject ratio in that business is kind of stomach turning.

Sorry. I’m digressing. My point is that even if many, many people love your work, someone will always hate it, dismiss it, claim their “gifted and talented” kindergartener could do better, etc. 

Second, when you think your manuscript is done, put it away for a few weeks. Then take it out and revise it. Then show your work to experienced editors. Make peace with the fact that you will probably spend more time revising than creating.

Third, if you want to be a writer, own that ambition. Being an aspiring author is fun. You have a blank canvas and anything is possible. How awesome is that?


Mari Passananti has practiced law and worked in a major legal search firm. A graduate of the University of Rhode Island and Georgetown University Law Center, she divides her time between writing and trying to keep up with her toddler.

Mari lives with her partner, their aforementioned toddler, one largish rescue dog and two cats in Boston's South End. Her interests include the outdoors, anything to do with horses, travel, cooking and reading.

Stephanie's review for The Hazards Hunting While Heartbbroken:

Zoe is dumped by her fiance' close to their wedding date. She is heartbroken but as time goes by her friends and co-workers encourage her to get back into the dating scene. While struggling with her job and dealing with her crazy, high-strung boss. She meets Oscar Thornton. A successful, handsome business man. He almost seems to perfect to be true.
This contemporary sophisticated story is well written and I enjoyed the interactions between the characters. Many women can certainly relate to Zoe and her man troubles. I recommend this book to women who enjoy chick Lit. You will not be disappointed.
I gave this story four stars!
Thank you so much Mari for this wonderful interview! It was a pleasure!

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