Frequently Asked Questions
How long did it take to write this novel?
About two years. Then I had to add on another nine months when I worked with my agent, Ellen Levine, to reshape various elements. That comes to almost three years before the publisher’s input.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
Several years ago I was taking the Hampton Jitney bus from Manhattan to Amagansett. A woman who became the prototype for the opening of the story got on the bus and sat in front of me. A man took the seat next to her. I heard snippets of conversation that gave me the idea of what might happen if a more predatory female pursues a man whose weak self-esteem permits events to mushroom out of control. After establishing the setup, I let the characters take over the plot.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Writing, and telling stories, is something I’ve explored in fits and starts over the years – I’ve jotted down observations of experiences and personalities here and there, and I’ve written several short stories about growing up in Brooklyn, mostly for the amusement of family and close friends. I’ve had multiple careers that kept me more than occupied until perhaps a decade ago, and I feel exceptionally fortunate that the opportunity to write, full-time, presented itself at a point in my life when I was ready to take advantage.
Do you write every day?
Now I do. Much earlier in my attempts to create fiction, I thought one just sat down and wrote out a piece and that was that until the next idea came around. Now I find rewriting almost as interesting. It allows you to explore other variations that may lead to entirely new avenues. It becomes an everyday venture and something to look forward to every morning. I freely admit that I am not programmed to write at a certain time every day, yet when I start, I can go on without regard to time.
How much of the book is autobiographical?
None of it except for parts of the backstory. The character of Amos Posner has an international commodity trading background. So do I. His Amagansett house is also much like mine, so it wasn’t necessary to reinvent these elements. The rest of the tale is pure fiction.
What inspired you to write this novel?
I’ve been interested for some time in human flaws and/or weaknesses. I’m not talking about evil. Sociopathic behavior is another thing. So what exposes human flaws? I imagine certain flaws become active when outside circumstances conspire to set them up. In this case, I observed a woman trying to pick up a man on the bus I usually take from Manhattan to the Hamptons. That’s where it started. I used the classic “what if” premise to create circumstances that would make him susceptible to her flattery. And that’s how it got going.
What writers have inspired you?
I’ll go back and start with Ray Bradbury, John Dos Passos, and Ernest Hemingway. In more recent years I’ve enjoyed Lawrence Sanders, Jose Saramago, Ian McEwan, and Ann Patchett. They’re all good storytellers, and their prose is well-defined.
How does it feel to sell your first novel at 74?
Young. Alternate careers are far from an indulgence. They keep you mentally active and involved. If I had tried writing at 24, I might well have tossed it all away in frustration early on. In my case, time spent on other careers was time well spent when it came to qualities like patience and the ability to absorb criticism.