1. What motivated you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and turning it into this book? When we earned our two-book deal, it was with the amendment that our second book, which was simply a proposal with four rough chapters at that time, would actually be the first book to be published. Furthermore, we had seven months to write it. Nothing like a contract and deadline to make the work happen. That said, NEVER MEANT TO MEET YOU is very loosely based on the two of us; and the lockdown era of Covid allowed for an opportunity of self-reflection that supported the creation of this book. Who knows how different the story may have turned out if we had written it before February 2020 or even if we started writing it today.
2. What is it about and who is it for? In a nutshell the book is about two themes: one, the power and beauty of found family and two, that there is no one way to properly grieve the loss of a person, an expected future, or a dream. The book is for anyone who is open to seeing the joy, and laughing through the challenges, of everyday life. It will surely resonate with those seeking a peek into cross cultural relationships, someone looking for what is possible after divorce or the loss of a spouse, and anyone who needs reassurance that deep friendships can form at any stage in life.
3. What takeaways might the reader will be left with after reading it? We are so thrilled that our early reviewers and readers completely “get” the book. The key takeaways we hope readers will be left with are some understanding of the common ground between the Black and Jewish experience in the United States, that our characters feel like real people who could be in the reader’s life, that unlikely friendships are worth the investment, and that race and religion can inform worldviews, but do not have to define individuals. Most importantly, we want our readers to walk away from all of our books and think, “Goodness, it felt good to laugh; really, really laugh.”
4. How did you decide on your book’s title and cover design? We must give our Acquisitions Editor, Alison Dasho, all the credit here. Our first cover artist was extremely talented, but after several rounds of work with them, we and our publishing team decided that the match up wasn’t quite right. We were beginning to feel like dilettantes with all our hemming and hawing, but our joint efforts just never hit the mark. Alison noticed our disquiet, agreed we were struggling to come to a consensus, and promptly found us an outstanding new cover artist; they got it right in two rounds. We are not visual artists but, as the writers, we just knew when the cover had hit its mark.
5. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers? The key to writing is simply time in the chair, fingers moving. Join critique groups, have coffee with writer friends, read a ton of books, research agents and editors, share your ideas with family and friends but also be clear and honest with yourself, none of those things get your book written. Writing for oneself is a valid pursuit, but if professional writing is the goal, one must have professional practices.
6. What trends in the book world do you see -- and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading? We don’t want to call it a “trend” because we want to believe it is here to stay, but the increase in diverse writers and stories is incredible and we hope the trajectory continues to be a positive one. We believe this is the key to keeping readers engaged and to bringing in new audiences who may not have been considered part of the market by the publishing industry in the past.
On a more concerning note, speaking as fiction writers, there is a definite trend of creatives being told what they can or cannot write, what is true and what is not true, if their perspectives are right or wrong. Fiction is made up of storytelling that sometimes aligns with absolute truths and sometimes varies widely from it. Public shaming and silencing of creatives, historically, has not served societies well. We know that readers are capable of choosing what is good for them.
7. What challenges did you overcome to write this book? In Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates lives the infamous Dutch boy who put his finger in the dam and kept it there all night, despite the cold, to save the town of Haarlem. As parents, spouses, children, friends, and professionals in 2020/2021 we both felt like the Dutch boy with our respective fingers in the dam holding together our immediate worlds, and we recognized our experience was familiar to others. Fight or flight is not an ideal scenario to spark creativity, but in a culture that is simultaneously fearful of grief and humor, we found writing NEVER MEANT TO MEET YOU provided the necessary moments in our days that we could take our fingers out of our dams and feel, really feel.
8. How would you describe your writing style? Always evolving. As co-authors, we have now written three books (third out summer 2023), are working on our fourth. Each journey has been different because of where we are in our personal lives. There are a few things that have held steady, though:
- We start each session just talking about our lives. Chatting about family, local or global issues, our botched pedicures, whatever is on our minds. We find this dedicated time is good for our partnership and good for our writing.
- We do not have a critique group nor outside readers. We work the whole book out, to final submission between the two of us. We know what we are trying to say with each story, and we don’t turn anything in until we are absolutely satisfied that we have reached that result.
- We laugh a lot. A LOT. Writing and publishing is hard work, often defeating, and at times slow going. We recognize how lucky we are to have each other to bat ideas around, lift each other up, and come up with all the funny bits in our books.
9. If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours? To loosely quote the great and hilarious actor Sean Hayes from his Will & Grace days, “Humor is a phenomenal vehicle to draw people in and let them learn something.” We are in a place in our culture where much of the entertainment provided, to learn about different cultures and people, is to be immersed in their trauma, in their darkest times. Our mission as writers is to share stories of joy, love, and laughter amidst the challenging topics of race and religion, parenting and privilege, and educating while learning together. We believe joy and humor is as entertaining and inspiring as dramatic stories and subjects are, and that fiction is a fabulous way to instill empathy for our fellow humans.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Alli Frank and Asha Youmans are coauthors of Tiny Imperfections (Random House, 2020), and Alli is a contributing essayist in the anthology Moms Don’t Have Time to: A Quarantine Anthology. Alli has worked in education for more than twenty years, from boisterous public high schools to small, progressive private academies. A graduate of Cornell and Stanford Universities, Alli lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two daughters.
Asha Youmans spent two decades teaching elementary school students. A graduate of University of California, Berkeley, Asha lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and has two grown sons. Learn more about Alli Frank and Asha Youmans at www.alliandasha.com and on IG/FB/Twitter: @alliandasha.
EARLY PRAISE: "Frank and Youmans, who previously collaborated on Tiny Imperfections, develop rich, empathetic characters in a contemporary outing that’s as focused on female friendship and personal growth as it is on romance...the authors do a good job exploring the common ground between African American and Jewish experiences: the characters feel like real people with racial and religious identities that inform their worldviews, but don’t define them...It’s an impressive feat sure to move romance fans and women’s fiction readers alike." -- Publishers Weekly, STARRED review
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About Brian Feinblum
Brian Feinblum should be followed on Twitter @theprexpert. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2022. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent. This blog, with over 4,000 posts over the past decade, was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” For the past three decades, including 21 as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book publicity firm, and two jobs at two independent presses, Brian has worked with many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Susan RoAne, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America, and has spoken at ASJA, IBPA, Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland) Writers Association, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Journal News (Westchester) and The Washington Post. He has been featured in The Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. For more information, please consult: linkedin.com/in/brianfeinblum.