Tuesday, September 1, 2020

A.R. Taylor Interview - Jenna Takes the Fall

Photo Credit: Deborah Geffner

A. R. Taylor is an award-winning playwright, essayist, and fiction writer. Her debut novel, Sex, Rain, and Cold Fusion, won a Gold Medal for Best Regional Fiction at the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2015, was a USA Best Book Awards finalist, and was named one of the 12 Most Cinematic Indie Books of 2014 by Kirkus Reviews.

She's been published in the Los Angeles Times, the Southwest Review, Pedantic Monthly, The Cynic online magazine, the Berkeley Insider, So It Goes―the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Magazine on Humor, Red Rock Review, and Rosebud. In her past life, she was head writer on two Emmy-winning series for public television. She has performed at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York, Tongue & Groove in Hollywood, and Lit Crawl LA. You can find her video blog, “Trailing Edge: Ideas Whose Time Has Come and Gone” at her website, www.lonecamel.com. She lives in Los Angeles, CA.

What part of Jenna’s character did you enjoy writing the most? 
I think I enjoyed most writing two sides of Jenna’s character that really scared me. The first involved her being drawn into a conspiracy to keep an important secret. She has to change her identity, quite literally, and recreate herself as another person, all to save the reputation of an important man who has died in the middle of sex. She is asked to substitute herself under his body and in the process tell a lot of lies and agree to adopt another persona altogether. 

This deception is made weirder because she actually has been having a relatively short affair with this man already. Which brings me to Jenna’s very adult sexuality. I wanted the book to be sexy, in a good sense, as in trying to understand why she was so drawn, and ultimately, so obligated to the man, despite all his bad behavior. But this is no porny sort of book, so there was a fine line here, a real challenge.

Most surprising thing I learned in creating characters?
The privilege of getting into all kinds of people’s heads, without judgment, as it were. Tasha, Vincent’s “real” girlfriend, is also very close with Vincent Hull’s wife, Sabine. So how did that come about? It’s a level of complexity that I myself would have a lot of trouble with. Getting into their mindset was a challenge, and I loved it. Similarly, Vincent Hull is in no sense a good guy, and yet I felt great sympathy for him in his own confusion about his life. 

As for Jenna herself, I got into so much trouble in my ‘20’s that it was cathartic to try to understand a woman who did the very same and then went on to change her life.

What is my most treasured possession? 
My father’s Freshman Swimming Championship medal from college. 

He died just before my 4th birthday, and I have only a few screen memories of him, some photos too. This little medal went everywhere with me, but then got lost during my move to Los Angeles. After several years, the woman who had helped me move found it. Now it is a treasure that I carry in my purse everywhere.

What incident totally changed the way you think today?
I was living in Manhattan Beach, California, working as a freelance writer for a long time, PBS, documentaries, corporate films, book reviews, plays, stories. You name it, I wrote it, and you will say that I was dabbling. True. One day I went to my local bank to get something out of my safety deposit box. Suddenly a dead silence fell, no sound whatsoever, then a shout. I was standing by the vault (open!), and a young man pulled down his face covering and yelled at me to get down on the floor. Yes, this was a bank robbery, and yes, he held a sawed-off shotgun in his hand. I lay face down, ear to the ground quite literally. I could hear screaming, as the other robbers commanded the teller to open her cash drawer, then something ticking, then footsteps, more shouting. This was a very long “dead silence,” and I now comprehend the true meaning of these words. I heard someone approach me, and I looked up at him, certain that I was about to be shot, but there appeared the friendly face of another teller. He asked me if the men had gone. “I think so” I said, and sure enough the police appeared, then the Feds, lots of questions. Meanwhile I could still hardly take a breath.

I had always vowed to write novels someday when I was older, when I could (I hoped) afford to do so. But what if I never became any older? At that moment I felt what it was like to be out of time altogether. And so I began to write fiction in earnest and have never looked back.

Where can readers find me?
Facebook - @ARTaylorAuthor
Twitter - @lonecamel
Instagram - @a.r­_taylor­
My website, lonecamel.com. Why the camel, you might ask? A long story, but I do feel they’re very loyal companions.
YouTube - A. R. Taylor

1) I have to start with Jenna McCann herself. She’s twenty-four, coming from Ohio with nothing much to recommend her except a willing spirit. She is vaulted up to the heights of the New York power structure without knowing how it all happened and what her playbook should be. Her Irish grandmother has died, leaving her with no family whatsoever, so she must be guided by the power players she so deeply does not understand. Her subsequent exile to France and then Italy seems fair payment enough, though, for all that she goes through. When she is asked to return to NYC, the complexities of her world grow even more convoluted, and it is there that she shows her stuff, her depth, her nerve­­––ultimately her love.

2) My second favorite character in the book is Vincent Macklin Hull. He’s fifty-nine, ensconced in his own kingdom of newspapers, restaurants, magazines. He also has a sophisticated French wife and two daughters, a chef, a driver, a pilot, a mistress, and assorted writers at NewsLink––a tabloid paper that he owns––all at his beck and call. When he and Jenna are in a near plane crash on their way to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, he begins to think he’d like to have her too.

3) Inti Weill is an ambitious journalist, but not so driven that he wants to ruin his life, so he leaves NewsLink to journey to Rye, New York to work for the local newspaper. Jenna intrigues him, and he sees that his old boss is after her. He would like to stop that, and so he invites her to come upstate to explore a story he’s doing on local coyotes who are concentrating on house cats. Ultimately he learns of a way bigger story involving Jenna, that if he revealed it, would make his career. He has to make a decision, and I love the man he becomes by what he decides.

4) Jorge Garza, a man in his forties, functions as the “real” assistant to Vincent Hull. He watches Jenna, he helps her, but he’s not sure if he can rescue her from the big dogs circling. And when she has to flee the country, he resorts to an exotic subterfuge to let her know what’s really going on back in NYC. Hint: he loves fine French wines and saves the labels of his favorites. He’s a good man dependent, as so many often are, on the whims of the rich and well-connected. But they can’t really get around him.

5) Sabine Hull (Vincent’s wife). She’s French, she’s gamine, the mother of two young daughters. Long suffering is a mild description of her exhausting search for love, friendship, even a snippet of caring from the man she sometimes calls Vincenzo, to his disgust. What is he, some sort of gigolo? Sabine reverses her fortunes by finding love with someone else, highly inappropriate, bound to drive her husband wild. From this author’s point of view, he deserves whatever he gets!

6) Matthieu Legard owns a small curio shop outside Fère-en-Tardenois in the champagne region of France. He becomes Jenna’s link to some normalcy and gives her something to do when he asks her to help him restore some truly bad paintings belonging to a local French count. He becomes her teacher, ultimately her lifeline, in this very foreign world. He is worldly and accomplished and willing not to ask too many questions.

7) Amon Walters is a young boy waiting in a New York hospital for a kidney transplant. Jenna encounters him when she’s asked to return to NYC to help restore a painting the Hull family

has donated. Something about “the paint not adhering properly.” It seems a questionable reason to return, but she becomes so delighted with Amon and his wonderful, thoughtful little presence that, when he asks if he can help, she welcomes him and ultimately buys him a paint set from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. He awakens in her a dormant love for children and a quiet wish that someday she could have some. He’s also her hero because he does not wilt at the very daunting, unfair circumstances of his disease.

8) Last but not least of the guys in the book, Chef Martin. He’s the heroic captain of the small kitchen where he works to feed editors, writers, famous guests, various hangers on, an unconscionable number of Hull’s girlfriends, luminaries from the outside world, but alas no one adequately appreciates him, especially not those awful journos who wouldn’t know a genuine chocolate mousse from a Jell-O Chocolate Pudding Snack. He takes a liking to Jenna because she appears to love his food and eats a lot of it. Everybody else at the magazine is on a diet.

9) David Oster is a physicist who flees Berkeley for an obscure university in Pyke City Washington, mainly to get away from the proliferating number of women out to get him. He has been collecting girlfriends like some low-rent Lothario, but he can’t seem to part with any of them. Soon enough, though, they will do something vile, possibly in league with each other. Having moved, instead of fixing his life, it swirls downward, in part because of all the booze, definitely because of all the rain, and ultimately because of his fascinating neighbors, Shelby Burns, a handyman of sorts, and Viktor Pelliau, an eminent physicist, himself caught up in a hopeless romance. These guys get into some serious trouble.

10) The woman who saves David from himself is Alexis Scherbatskoy, significantly older, an animal trainer who is ordered by the university president to organize a horse show to celebrate the apparent victory of the basketball team in the Final Four. Only such a monumental disaster could bring those two together.

Twenty-four years old and newly employed in Manhattan, Jenna McCann agrees to place herself under the dead body of a wealthy, prominent New Yorker―her boss―to hide the identity of his real lover. But why?

Because she is half in love with him herself; because her only friend at Hull Industries asked her to; because she feared everyone around her; because she had no idea how this would spin out into her own, undeveloped life; because she had nothing and no one?

Or just because?

Deftly told and sharply observed, Jenna Takes the Fall is the story of someone who became infamous… before she became anybody at all.


“A dazzling debut. Jenna Takes the Fall introduces a hero who could have stepped from today’s headlines. This modern tale of a desperate ingenue who careens into power plays, romance, and wealth will keep you reading into the night and waiting for A.R. Taylor’s next novel.” ―Doug Stanton, New York Times best-selling author of 12 Strong

“I am quite sure this going to be a really big book.” ―Anne Stanton, cofounder and executive editor of National Writers Series and editorial director of Mission Point Press

“A delicious title filled with every kind of possibility. Yes, A.R. has opened with a page-turner. Established something sordid and so of eternal human interest.” ―Robert A. B. Sawyer, poet and author of American Lullaby

“Jenna Takes the Fall is sharp, surprising, and highly funny. Jenna McCann is an ingenue only A.R. Taylor (and our batty society) could have created.” ―Charlie Haas, author of the novel The Enthusiast, humor writer for The New Yorker, and prolific screenwriter

You can purchase Jenna Takes the Fall at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you A.R. TAYLOR for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Jenna Takes the Fall by A.R. Taylor.

1 comment:

  1. I think the blog comment box has an error. So, I am thanking the author here for the fabulous chance to get the book. I would love to read it!