Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.
- What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?
Tell Me One Thing, Fiction, Regal House Publishing, January 31, 2023
- In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?
Tell Me One Thing is a portrait of two Americas, examining power, privilege, and the sacrifices one is willing to make to succeed as it tells the story of a provocative photograph, the struggling artist who takes it, and its young and troubled subject. Traveling through the 1980s to the present day, Tell Me One Thing delves into New York City’s free-for-all grittiness while exposing a neglected slice of the rural rust belt.
- What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?
- What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?
Chelsea Bieker, the author of Godshot and Heartbroke, who is one of my favorite writers, provided an amazing blurb for the back cover and said: “I want everyone to read this book.” That felt like the best compliment the book could get.
- What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]
Tell Me One Thing is like a mash-up of Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers, Julie Buntin’s Marlena, and Molly Prentiss’s Tuesday Nights in 1980. I’ve also been told by early readers it reminds them of the Showtime series Shameless, HBO’s Mare of Easttown (minus the mystery), and Netflix’s Ozark (minus the murders).
- Why this book? Why now?
Tell Me One Thing looks deeply at inequality and privilege in its many forms, in particular economic inequality which I think is one of the most important and persisting problems we face in this country. Stories have an incredible power to unite people and open up their perspectives. Given how divided the country has become, I hope Tell Me One Thing will shed some light on these big topics that the country continually shies away from, and show that people are just trying to make it day to day. If we could find common ground, we could support each other more in that effort and things would greatly improve for everyone.
- Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?
I used to be a massage therapist a long time ago, and I really loved that work. It was so rewarding to connect with people and make them feel better. I heard some amazing and even shocking stories from my clients as well and used to joke about writing a book of Confessions on the Massage Table. It was also kind of fascinating to see all the ways people screwed themselves up – for example, never let kids jump on you and don’t play tackle sports over age thirty. I had to give up massage therapy when I moved to New York City from Michigan in my late twenties because the competition for jobs was so strong and it was expensive to get licensed, but I sometimes think about picking it back up again.
- What do you want readers to take away from the book?
I hope Tell Me One Thing will encourage people to be more empathetic to others who are different from them. I grew up in a working-class area of Southeast Detroit with a single mom. It was (and still is) a very economically challenged place, and we struggled for many years. When I moved to New York City in 2005, I was stunned by how little people on the East Coast understood where I’d come from. The coastal bubble is very real. It’s been a huge eye-opener for me straddling these two very different settings in my life. I hope my writing helps to fill in the gaps and encourages people in both types of places to understand each other a bit more.
- What food and/or music do you associate with the book?
Tell Me One Thing spends quite a bit of time in the 1980s and when I was writing it, I listened to a lot of Fleetwood Mac, Blondie, Roxie Music (the title takes its name from their song More Than This), Joan Jett, X-Ray Specs, and the Jam. As for food, the book reminds me of a cheap grilled cheese sandwich, the kind with flimsy Wonder Bread and a single slice of Kraft cheese, but I think that’s because I spent most of the 80s eating that.
- What book(s) are you reading currently?
I’m currently reading Shiner by Amy Jo Burns, which is a gorgeous novel, and Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh. Next up are my fellow Regal House authors’ books Kudzo Queen by Mimi Herman and Hemingway Hollow by Culley Holderfield.
Learn more about Kerri on her website.
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Buy the book from the publisher (Regal House Publishing) or Bookshop.org.