I’ve Got Questions for MJ Werthman White

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.

An Invitation to the Party by MJ Werthman White
  • What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?

My book’s title is An Invitation to the Party. It is fiction, published by Regal House Publishing, and due out July 18th, 2023.

  • In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?                                                                                              

It is 2017. Garnet, a poet, resides in the fictional western New York state village of Haven. Retired bookstore manager, she is a loving sister, bitter ex-wife, devoted aunt, failure as a mother, and doting owner of the imperious Great Pyrenees, Vera. Her increasingly confused ex, the philandering Bowie, lives down the street where he is having second thoughts about their split. Garnet will turn seventy in a few months, and she wants no fuss made. Her family is determined to ignore her wishes and throw a big surprise party. Things do not go well.                                                                                

  • What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?

An Invitation to the Party is literary fiction. Readers of Ann Tyler and Richard Russo will feel right at home.                                                                                                          

  • What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?

Poet Jim Daniels’s fiction-writing alter ego, Jim Ray Daniels, called it “A novel full of depth and heart that explores the complications of a complicated family with plenty of wit and empathy to go around.” You can’t get much nicer than that.

  • 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?]

In writing this novel Richard Russo’s beloved (by me at least) family saga, Nobody’s Fool, was my lodestar. Garnet, in An Invitation to the Party, is no Sully, and Haven is no Bath, NY, but Russo’s love of his characters and use of humor despite adversity inspired me as I wrote. If you’ve never read his novel, you’re in for a treat. It’s one of my top five lifetime favorites. The other four titles change over time, but Nobody’s Fool remains a permanent fixture. Do yourself a favor and watch the eponymous movie too. You’ll thank me.

  • Why this book? Why now?  

For a while, I’d been looking for a story to read that I could identify with, one with an elderly woman as the main character who didn’t have dementia, was not a joke or harridan or saint, but a complicated human being, someone–like many, many my age–who was smart, courageous in the face of significant challenges, funny, full of human failings and, most important, capable of surprising a reader (and sometimes herself and the author).

I also wanted a book with characters who, despite real flaws, were not repellent. And, because I love them, I wanted there to be dogs. I decided if this was truly what I wanted, maybe I’d write it myself.

  • Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?

I worked in a small indie bookstore for a few years in the 1970s. I loved every aspect of that job in those long-ago before times – selling actual analog books (no such thing as eBooks), filling out special orders for customers (no computers, no internet – everything done on paper, using stamps and snail mail, all notifications by not-smart phone). It felt like Christmas opening those boxes of new book shipments. My salary was pathetic. Of course, I spent it on books. (Experiences like this may explain why I’ve turned out to be such a Luddite in my declining years.)

  • What do you want readers to take away from the book?

Even when it’s bad, life is good.

  • What food and/or music do you associate with the book?

Shameless product placements in the book (all, sadly, unremunerated) include Cool Ranch Doritos, American cheese, Sunny D, Twinkies, and Lucky Charms. As for music, featured in the novel, are Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and, it being a party after all, “Happy Birthday.”

  • What book(s) are you reading currently?

I recently ordered and received my own Christmas in July box of books from Regal House, my twelve fellow Summer 23 authors’ novels. I stacked them in order of publication dates, and am just now finishing the first, Laura Scalzo’s absorbing tale of young adult friendships, American Arcadia, in which Scalzo’s beautifully rendered New York City of the 1980s in all its broken glory may be one of my favorite characters ever. Next up, The War Ends at Four, by Rosanna Staffa.

MJ Werthman White

Learn more about MJ on her website.

Buy the book from the publisher (Regal House Publishing) or from Bookshop.org.

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.