BY ERNESSA T. CARTER
32 Candles is the slightly twisted, utterly romantic, and deftly wry story of Davie Jones, who, if she doesn’t stand in her own way, just might get the man of her dreams.
Davie—an ugly duckling growing up in small-town Mississippi—is positive her life couldn’t be any worse. She has the meanest mother in the South, possibly the world, and on top of that, she’s pretty sure she’s ugly. Just when she’s resigned herself to her fate, she sees a movie that will change her life—Sixteen Candles. But in her case, life doesn’t imitate art. Tormented endlessly in school with the nickname "Monkey Night," and hopelessly in unrequited love with a handsome football player, James Farrell, Davie finds that it is bittersweet to dream of Molly Ringwald endings. When a cruel school prank goes too far, Davie leaves the life she knows and reinvents herself in the glittery world of Hollywood—as a beautiful and successful lounge singer in a swanky nightclub.
Davie is finally a million miles from where she started—until she bumps into her former obsession, James Farrell. To Davie’s astonishment, James doesn’t recognize her, and she can’t bring herself to end the fantasy. She lets him fall as deeply in love with her as she once was with him. But is life ever that simple? Just as they’re about to ride off into the sunset, the past comes back with a vengeance, threatening to crush Davie’s dreams—and break her heart again.
With wholly original characters and a cinematic storyline, 32 Candles introduces Ernessa T. Carter, a new voice in fiction with smarts, attitude, and sassiness to spare.ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ernessa T. Carter has worked as an ESL teacher in Japan, a music journalist in Pittsburgh, a payroll administrator in Burbank, and a radio writer for American Top 40 with Ryan Seacrest in Hollywood. She’s also a retired L.A. Derby Doll, a graduate of Smith College and Carnegie Mellon University’s MFA program, and 32 Candles is her first novel. Find out more about her at her website www.32candles.com
While working as an English as a Second Language teacher in Japan, I got desperate for English reading material and ended up reading a script of SIXTEEN CANDLES that I found in some random bookstore. As I was reading it, I remembered how when I first saw the movie I thought that high school would be exactly as it was depicted in SIXTEEN CANDLES, and how it so wasn't like that at all. And the story started writing itself.
2. How did the title of your book come about?
That's a funny story actually. The book title was originally MOLLY RINGWALD ENDING, which is meant to convey an uber-romantic, against-all-odds ending -- the kind you rarely seen in real life. After I got an agent she worried that a title with the actress's name would be illegal, and she was right, it would have been a total fair use violation. We wrote Molly Ringwald a letter asking to use it, and her lawyers said, "Absolutely not." So my husband and I brainstormed 5 titles, and put it to our Fierce and Nerdy readers to choose. To my surprise, they chose 32 Candles (which had been my husbands idea) above my artier ones, and the rest is history. It's a little crazy that I let my husband who had not read the book and a bunch of other people who had not read the book decide on something as important as the title, but I like this title better than the original.
3. Do you see yourself in your characters? Which characters are easiest or more difficult to write?
I don't see myself in my main character at all. She had a grittier upbringing, but somehow I'm a lot more practical and cynical than she is. I regard the 32 Candles characters as parent to a child. I raised (wrote) them, but they're completely their own people. None of the characters were difficult to write. I only found the situations difficult to write. I'm very sensitive to the sagging middle issue, and I had to write and rewrite and then rewrite some more to get my middle where I wanted it.
4. What books would you say have made the biggest impression on you, especially starting out? What are you currently reading?
This book owes a lot to THE COLOR PURPLE, which is my absolute favorite book of all time. I usually have four books going at the same time. One on my car CD player, one on my iPhone for walks, one on my iPad, and one physical book that I carry in my purse. Right now I'm either reading or listening to A SPOT OF BOTHER by Mark Haddon, GIRL IN TRANSLATION by Jean Kwok, WHO FEARS DEATH by Nnedi Okorafor, and BIRD BY BIRD: Some Instructions on Writing Life by Anne Lamott respectively.
5. What is the next or current book/project you are working on?
I recently finished a rough draft of my second women's fiction novel, THE AWESOME GIRLS GUIDE TO DATING EXTRAORDINARY MEN and hope to get all my rewrites done before the end of the year.
6. What is something about you that you would want people to know about you that we probably don’t know?
It's weird, because I've been asked this before, and I can never think of a good answer for that question. I'm pretty forthcoming in my daily blog posts at Fierce and Nerdy, so whatever people want to know about me is available there if they care to do the research. But if they don't want to, I'm totally cool with being known simply as the writer of 32 CANDLES without any further personal detail.
7. What is your best advice to anyone, including young people, who want to be writers? Ask yourself why you want to be a writer. If you can do anything else without jumping out a window, then do that. But if it's either this or die, commit to it fully. The only thing I regret are the years before I established a daily writing practice. I have a ton more writing advice here: http://32candles.com/uncategorized/got-any-good-writing-advice uncategorized/got-any-good-
32 CANDLES by Ernessa T. Carter is what summer reading, for adult fun, is all about. I don’t like to put down books bunched into a “chick-lit” category because I read them from time to time, enjoy them, and most are well written, fun escapism. That said, 32 CANDLES is not what I would put into that category although it certainly is fun and a relaxing read, especially in this summer heat, but rather I would want to call it “serious chick-lit”. By that I mean there is a well developed plot with characters who are fleshed out and readers will care about. Davie Jones doesn’t grow up in a sugar and spice home, far from it, but rather with a mother who has no maternal instinct. Instead, Davie grows up and can easily be compared to the typical “ugly duckling” story where her mentally and physically abusive home life is not much worse than the way she is treated in school.
When the story takes Davie out of this Mississippi mess and she makes her way to Hollywood to find a better life, you want to cheer for her. And you continue to cheer to a point when her one time flame comes to town and doesn’t even recognize her. The cheering unfortunately quiets down as the story goes in a different direction and what one might think is going to be the fairy tale ending, might just surprise you…or will it? Carter gives readers a romantically smart novel that is refreshing and far more than you might expect to begin with. I, for one, look forward to more of her work in the future!
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