5/7/14 — KERRY PERESTA’S THE HUNTING: HOW A GUY LEARNED TO LOVE CHICK LIT
When Pen-L Publishing offered a contract for my first novel, I went into high research mode, ordering a bunch of their books to see what they were like. I needed to know whether the books were well edited, well designed, and professionally produced. I also wanted to find out whether Pen-L’s stable of authors was any good; after all, I had a little of that natural insecurity, wondering how good could the company be if they wanted me.
Well, not only did everything check out (my novel will be released in July), but I got to read some great books that I never would have discovered otherwise. They included Washed in the Water by Nancy Hartney, a wonderful collection of short stories with a Southern flare, and Spree by Gil Miller, a crime novel that brilliantly takes the reader inside the head of the bad guys.
It also introduced me to Kerry Peresta and her novel, The Hunting, the story of a single mom so addicted to online dating that she can’t break the habit even when the danger level hits the red zone. Peresta’s novel is classified as “chick lit,” a genre that I’d never read for the simple reason that its name seems to say, Men Not Wanted. But I’m so glad I didn’t let that stop me. Though The Hunting deals with issues that women may experience more often and more intensely than men, I found it a great read—an engrossing page-turner that brought me into the head of Izzy Lewis, the protagonist, as well as into the world of online dating. It also depicts the boredom, perils, and annoyances of work at the office in a way that will ring true for any white collar worker. Most important, the writing is clever, original, and funny.
When I discovered that Kerry also lives in Maryland, I got in touch with her and we met over lunch to talk about writing and publishing. I followed up with an interview about her book and her thoughts on chick lit. An edited transcript follows:
Q: What gave you the idea for this book?
A: My inspiration originated with a stint in a recovery program for love and relationship addicts—women who kept falling for the wrong guy, getting burned, moving on, then repeating the entire process again expecting different results. Unless intervention occurs, these women have little hope for a happy-ever-after life. I felt telling Izzy’s story (based on real events and modified greatly to enhance staying-up-til-three a.m. appeal) would both rivet and intrigue.
Q: That suggests there’s an autobiographical element in Izzy’s story. I know a lot of authors hate that question (including me), but is Izzy based on you?
A: Yes, Izzy is based on me, mainly due to the fact that I wanted my debut novel to be authentic and transparent, e.g., “write what I know.” She is based on my personality, but situations are enhanced greatly or creatively manipulated. In my second book, the character is based on someone I know well, but not me. I believe all fiction writers would agree that we pull elements of ourselves from most of our characters or from those we know.
Q: Since the book was published, have you heard from other women who are addicted to online dating the way Izzy is? Are you hearing a lot of horror stories?
A: Absolutely! Everyone seems to have a story about online dating. Either they met their husband online (a hush-hush secret) or they have a friend who cannot seem to leave the dating sites alone, or they have experienced meeting men or women who lied on their profiles. I have mostly heard funny stories, not dangerous ones. The primary “disaster” online dating story seems to involve meeting a man (or woman) much older or more portly than indicated on the site. A disappointment and a reason not to see that person again!
Q: When I read reviews of The Hunting, I saw it referred to as Chick Lit. How do you define Chick Lit because I’m not really sure I can, and do you welcome that classification?
A: A literary agent defined Chick Lit succinctly for me as “women dealing with women’s issues.” It is a broad sub-genre of women’s fiction. Mostly Chick Lit is happy, fluffy, happy ending stuff. “The Hunting,” however, has elements of suspense. I was unable to keep my love affair with crime shows out of my book, so I had to throw in a detective, and a reason for the detective to become involved! “The Hunting” could actually cross genres, and fit into women’s fiction, Chick Lit, inspirational women’s fiction, or suspense.
Q: But I could identify and root for Izzy as a character who is struggling with life’s sometimes overwhelming burdens, juggling work problems with family responsibilities. Those are conflicts we all have. I would worry that calling it Chick Lit will mean a lot of male readers miss out.
A: My target demographic was clearly defined before I wrote the book. I wrote it for a specific purpose: to help women stuck in the pursuit of the ‘perfect man’ to pause and think about what that means, and why they might want to explore the possibility that becoming the right kind of woman within ‘the hunt’ would be more important than getting the guy.
The Hunting deals with issues that will make single moms immediately begin nodding their heads in understanding. From there, the wider demographic—women 35+—will relate to all Izzy’s other struggles, and probably these women will know a single mom or two that they will let borrow the book when they are done with it. I am not sure most men can relate to Izzy’s struggles, however, the book is guaranteed to give them insight into women. Plus, I believe the male characters are well-defined and men might see themselves in that role. But the book was intentionally written for women.
Q: What genres do you like to read…and what are some of your favorite titles?
A: The genre I most like is suspense. I also read science fiction, inspirational fiction, and women’s fiction. A few of my favorite titles are Breathless and Relentless by Dean Koontz, The Runaway Jury and The Testament by John Grisham, Guilty Wives and nearly anything by James Patterson, 61 Hours and A Wanted Man by Lee Child, Harvest by Tess Gerritson, Love You More and Alone by Lisa Gardner, Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti.
Q: What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
A: My second book, loosely titled “The Deadening,” is underway. I’m 70,000 words into the first draft, hurtling toward 100,000 words or whenever it decides to end. A romantic suspense, “The Deadening,” is basically the story of the deadening—and resurrection—of a woman’s soul. It is the story of a woman who married young, decided to naively give complete control of the family to her difficult husband, and found herself divorced and clueless after twenty years of self-sacrifice.