Monday, May 10, 2021

Jeff Arch Interview - Attachments

Photo Content from Jeff Arch

Jeff Arch grew up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he spent two of his high school years at a boarding school much like the one depicted in Attachments. In the ’70s, he studied film/tv/theater production at Emerson College in Boston and then moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a concert lighting designer and toured the country with national rock and reggae acts while teaching himself to write screenplays on the side. Years later, married and with a young family, he was teaching high school English and running a martial arts school when heard the call to write again; in 1989, he sold the school he’d built, rented a small office, and gave himself one year to write three screenplays. The second of those―a quirky romantic comedy where the two lovers don’t even meet until the very last page―sold almost immediately, and Sleepless in Seattle became a surprise megahit worldwide. For his screenplay, Jeff was nominated for an Oscar, as well as for Writers Guild and BAFTA awards, among others. His other credits include the Disney adventure film Iron Will, New Line’s romantic comedy Sealed With a Kiss, and the independent comedy Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys. His script for Saving Milly, based on Mort Kondracke’s searing memoir, earned the 2005 Humanitas Nomination, an honor Jeff treasures. Jeff is a father, stepfather, father-in-law, and grandfather. Attachments is Jeff’s first novel.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I don’t think any writer will tell you different—the moment when the box comes with your books in it. There is no feeling anywhere like opening that box.

What inspired you to pen your first novel?
When I first got the idea, I set out to write it as a movie. It got a lot of interest, but no one stepped up. So I pulled it and went on with my career, but the story never went away and a few years later I took another look at it, and what I saw that time was not a movie but an outline for a book—so I started to consider that and something really clicked. I really believe that each piece of material tells you how it wants to be told, and that a huge part of the job is just listening. Also, with a novel, I can’t hide behind actors and costumes and lighting and directing and music. It’s just me and you, and I felt ready for a challenge like that.

Tell us your latest news.
Well, I have this book coming out…
But aside from that? I’m working on a tv series, a romantic comedy that is already funnier and more romantic than anything I’ve done so far. I have a grandchild on each coast and we travel back and forth with the seasons—so my happiest news, aside from the part where I have a book coming out, and two granddaughters, is that winter doesn’t have to be one of those seasons.

In your newest book, ATTACHMENTS; can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about the novel?
In a nutshell it’s about a boarding school dean, a dying request, three former students, and the dean’s wife and son. The story unfolds from the point of view of each main character as they try to figure out why he made this request and why they can’t ignore it, and we go back and forth in time while they stitch the whole thing together. It’s not so much a mystery as a puzzle, and each character has some but not all of the pieces, and they all have to be together for the puzzle to be complete.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
What’s going to happen next? If the reader’s going to be thinking anything, that’s what I want it to be. Otherwise I want them so deep into the story that they forget to think. That’s the challenge.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
How stubborn they were. I have never written for a bunch of characters that were as stubborn as these were. But the truth was, they knew more about what they wanted and needed than I did, as strange as that may sound. So we sort of had a deal, where I would tell them what I needed, story-wise, and they would figure out how to get there. We worked as a team.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
What a tremendous question. Maybe Holden Caulfield could meet Henry Griffin. Just maybe, if even one grownup would have been straight with that kid…

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Take out ‘worst’ and sub in ‘biggest,’ and I’d say movie scripts. For most of this time I was also writing movie scripts, and they had to take precedence and I wasn’t complaining. But if you ask me what’s the worst distraction about any kind of writing, I’d say it’s that we write on computers that are one click away from anywhere our minds want to go. That is just plain dangerous. Rabbit holes are everywhere.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
The thing they said they’ve always wanted to do, but didn’t.

Best date you've ever had?
There’s no good way out of this question. You did get me to think about it though, and it comes to the same—there’s no good way out of this question.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
I’d be 44 again. I remember actually stopping and thinking one day, this is where I’d freeze it. My kids where they were, my career and friendships where they were, my spiritual practice and physical stance. If I could have a Groundhog Year, that would be the one.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
My daughter almost died the night she was born. I had an experience that night that changed everything, forever. It’s too private to talk about in this format, but it was huge.

What are 4 things you never leave home without?
Two dogs, my phone and some form of clothing. I wouldn’t bring the phone except I have kids.

When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper?
A full-on letter, I don’t know. But I never just sign a birthday card or a wedding card—those get covered in writing. The most recent was to a couple who got married—I sent them a framed photo I’d taken in Paris, of two people kissing, and there was a saying stenciled on the wall behind them that I thought was extremely romantic, but turned out to be kind of an insult, the way the French actually use it. And I had to explain to them that I only found this out after I showed a copy of the photo to my son who lived in Paris for two years and informed me about what I’d done, and I didn’t want my friends to wonder why the hell I would send that to them. So that wedding card extended out to extra pages.

First Heartbreak?
High school sweetheart. Nothing original here.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
I can’t imagine not loving. So, I guess it’s gonna hurt.

Kindness, humor, honesty, confidentiality, companionship, curiosity, openness, optimistic, grounded, empathy, comfortable with themselves.

  • “Money doesn’t carry a flag.”
  • “Nobody won the fight. Nobody wins any fight.”
  • “Is it about the baby?” he asked.
    Laura nodded. “But not this one,” she said.
  • “If we both go at the same time,” Laura told him, “then neither one has to go first.”
  • “Why would anybody even have bed ruffles,” he asked.
    “To keep things hidden,” Cindi said.
  • “You don’t want to see me angry, Paesan. I’ve been good tonight. Trust me.”
  • “Too much attach!”
  • “Anything I can do?”
    “Only the thing you can’t,” Mary told him.
    “But now you know why. The sins of the father. It’s a shame.”
    “It is a shame,” Mary agreed. “He could use a dad right now.”
  • “There’s some things you don’t know. I mean I know you know everything. But there’s some things that you don’t know.”
  • “What we need are some fireworks,” Pick said. “Some M-80’s. We can blow that whole stump out, and help those fuckers with their dam.” 
    Goody nodded. “M-80’s would do it,” he said. “M-80’s would definitely take out that stump.”
  • “She wants us to go see somebody,” Pick said, looking pre-defeated about it. “Fuckin’ therapy. Everybody’s solution has to be God damn fuckin’ therapy. Lay it all out, to a total stranger. And then pay them? Rather put my feet in a bucket of scorpions.”
  • “You and I don’t know each other. And for my money, the only way this thing could get any more unreal would be if Laura had triplets back then, and two more of you walked through the door. Although I swear if it happens I won’t be surprised.”
  • Laura bit into her lip again. “The real question,” she managed to say, “isn’t how could I love you, Sandy. But how could I have let you forget?”
    “I should be saying that to you.”
    “Well you can,” Laura said. “We both can.”
Deleted Scene from ATTACHMENTS
There was a scene in the past, where Pick was being a wiseass and goading the PE teacher/football coach, and took it so far that the coach hit him. When Pick’s mob father Carmine found out, he threatened the coach, and Henry Griffin had to negotiate a peace. One of the reasons for the sequence was to put Pick and Carmine and Griffin in the same room again, as kind of a followup to the initial scene where they met, when Carmine dropped Pick off in Griffin’s office at the school and left.

I had to let go of it because of the time it took to tell it, and because it had kind of a ‘standalone’ feel. Every scene had to serve more than one purpose, and this one didn’t pass that test.

At a boarding school in Pennsylvania, a deathbed request from the school’s dean brings three former students back to campus, where secrets and betrayals from the past are brought out into the open―secrets that could have a catastrophic effect on the dean’s eighteen-year-old son.

Told in alternating points of view and time frames, Attachments is the story of best friends Stewart (“Goody”) Goodman, Sandy (“Pick”) Piccolo, and Laura Appleby, the girl they both love. The friends meet in 1972 at a boarding school in coal-country Pennsylvania where they encounter Henry Griffin, the school dean, whose genuine fatherly interest and deep human bond with them is so strong that when he has a severe stroke almost twenty years later, he uses what could be his last words ever to call out their names.

Attachments is a puzzle―and the only one who knows how all the pieces fit is in a coma. In the process, longtime secrets are unearthed, revelations come out into the open, and Young Chip Griffin is about to learn something he may or may not be able to handle.

You can purchase Attachments at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JEFF ARCH for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Attachments by Jeff Arch.