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Interview with Patty Friedmann, author of ‘Too Jewish’

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Patty Friedmann’s two latest books are a YA novel called Taken Away [TSP 2010] and a literary e-novel titled Too Jewish [booksBnimble 2010]. She also is the author of six darkly comic literary novels set in New Orleans: The Exact Image of Mother [Viking Penguin 1991]; Eleanor Rushing [1998], Odds [2000], Secondhand Smoke [2002], Side Effects [2006], and A Little Bit Ruined [2007] [all hardback and paperback from Counterpoint except paper edition of Secondhand Smoke from Berkley Penguin]; as well as the humor book Too Smart to Be Rich [New Chapter Press 1988]. Her novels have been chosen as Discover Great New Writers, Original Voices, and Book Sense 76 selections, and her humor book was syndicated by the New York Times. She has published reviews, essays, and short stories in Publishers Weekly, Newsweek, Oxford American, Speakeasy, Horn Gallery, Short Story, LA LIT, Brightleaf, New Orleans Review, and The Times-Picayune and in anthologies The Great New American Writers Cookbook, Above Ground, Christmas Stories from Louisiana, My New Orleans, New Orleans Noir, and Life in the Wake. Her stage pieces have been part of Native Tongues.

In a special 2009 edition, Oxford American listed Secondhand Smoke with 29 titles that included Gone with the Wind, Deliverance, and A Lesson Before Dying as the greatest Underrated Southern Books. With slight interruptions for education and natural disasters, she always has lived in New Orleans.

You can visit her website at www.pattyfriedmann.com, her blog at www.pattyfriedmann.typepad.com or friend her at her Facebook at www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=527384281.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Patty.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

I’ve had seven other novels published.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

My first novel was published by Viking Penguin, and the next five by Counterpoint. Since I started around 1990, it didn’t occur to me to go any other route. But I live in New Orleans, and I was blindsided by Katrina. Afterward, I couldn’t write, so my next novel was YA, and I took it to a very small press. The creation—and publication–of this current book, TOO JEWISH, as an e-novel is a complex story.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

It varied, and I don’t remember, but my guess is six months to a year.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

I’m afraid I was married to a very, uh, not-nice man when I got that amazing contract with Viking, and there was no celebration or even permission to show signs of pleasure.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I’d like to tell about the release of my first book by Counterpoint. (By then I’d shed that husband!) A scene in that book took place in the famed Galatoire’s restaurant in New Orleans, and for the first time Galatoire’s hosted a public event, closing down and moving the tables for a book launch. Having gone there since I was child, I felt I was in a dream scape.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

I’m a lousy judge of my craft. I can look at my early writing and think it’s good; I can look at my more recent work and still be critical. So I don’t know about my writing, but I do know about my public presence. Where once I would write out an entire speech and deliver it verbatim, I now writer maybe five key words on a slip of paper before I appear in public and speak off the cuff. I’m much more at ease, though I still have high-level anxiety for a week in advance of any appearance.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

I think this is the worst time to be a writer. The industry is in transition, so it’s not a meritocracy. Anyone with two index fingers can get published on the Internet, and traditional publishing rewards the Sarah Palins.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

It has to be the ownership of my words. While I’m putting them on “paper,” after they’re saved for posterity.  I’m no Ozymandias. Words endure.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

If the dream is to be published, think again. I remember meeting Harlan Ellison once, and he said, “I love writing. I hate having written.” The being published part is the painful part of writing. It’s the business part, the get-out-there-and-get-smacked-around part. If you were designed to be tough, you wouldn’t have been born sensitive enough to write. Write to write. But don’t put the dreams in publishing. That’s just asking for it.

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