“16 Candles Meets E. Lynn Harris” and Yes! You’re “In” My New Novel

“Sixteen Candles Meets E. Lynn Harris” — that’s what they’re calling my book in-house at HarperCollins, according to Marketing Manager, Bobby Brinson. What a nice compliment! Find out what else he had to say about 32 CANDLES here. Though, it should be noted that my father wasn’t exactly “affluent” when my mother met him. But he was certainly wealthier, more popular and way more handsome than anyone else she had ever dated.

Anywho, Mr. Brinson’s comments got me to thinking about how every novel is a Slumdog Millionaire of sorts, with every experience and detail you encounter adding up to a Frankenstein of a book.

I’ve said before that the main two influences for this story were my mother and my best friend, but there are also elements of my husband, LA friends, my relatives, and many others. For example, I landed on Davie’s first job after an actress I went to grad school with told me in passing that her main job was at an LA cabaret, the male character of Nicky is inspired by my no-nonsense aunts, and Davie’s car is the same beater that I bought for $600 when I first moved to LA.

It’s funny, b/c they always say write what you know, but often it feels like novels leave you little signs and gifts in everyone you meet and in every place you go, so that in the end, you’re not just writing what you know, but also what you encounter and what you hear about.

If you’re a conscious writer, every conversation carries weight, every hurt can be recycled, and every single person you meet is an inspiration.

The other day, I was brunching with two other Smithies and I told them that I was working on a novel about three Smithies living in LA, who were about to turn 30 — that’s not really what it’s about, but I’m a little terrible at summarizing and pitching (I don’t even want to tell you how long it took to get my query letter together), so I’ve settled on that simple explanation for now. The immediate reaction of one Smithie upon hearing about this new novel was a suspicious, “Are we in it?”

That’s a hard question to answer, because on the surface, no one is “in” this next novel. There is no one person that completely inspired any one character. Yet in a way, every Smithie I’ve ever met is in it. Also, every guy my friends and I have ever dated is in it. And if I’ve met or heard about your sibling or parents — well, they’re in it, too. Have we ever had a conversation that lasted more than five minutes? Then guess what, you’re in this novel someway, somehow.

A novel is a world created, and just like in the real world, it is composed of all of us. And that’s kind of what I dig the most about being a writer.


Ernessa T. Carter is the author of the novel, 32 CANDLES, which will be released by HarperCollins/Amistad on June 22, 2010. Pre-order your copy on Amazon here.