With great pleasure I am interviewing the author of Match Made in Manhattan by Amanda Stauffer. Amanda is a fan of Italian neorealist cinema, mojitos, and—well, you can just read her protagonist’s Match profile on page 20 of her book, because Alison lifted heavily from Amanda’s own profile. An erstwhile expat who has lived in Bangalore, Sicily, and Paris, Amanda currently lives in Manhattan, where she is busy writing her second book. She is a graduate of Yale and Columbia Universities and works as an architectural conservator, restoring historic landmarks across the country. When she grew frustrated with New York City’s dating scene, Amanda headed to Match.com. Her experiences provided her with a lifetime of warm and fuzzy memories, a few friends, and an abundance of material for a career in comedy or a book. Written in a serial/episodic format, the book follows the upbeat, open-minded protagonist, Alison, through her attempts to branch out and meet new people, with each chapter featuring a new man she meets online. In a rom-com style, with strong sub-themes of friendship and independence, Match Made in Manhattan offers probing reflections on relationships and the individual choices we make.
SS: Where did you get the idea for Match Made in Manhattan?
AS: My book began as a list of men’s names scrawled on the back of a cocktail napkin. I was at drinks with friends, relating the details of my latest Match.com dates. I’d been dumped before the first kiss, donned full HAZMAT gear on a third date, and, been set up with another date’s mom. And somehow I’d wound up with a dating history that—mapped out on that fateful napkin—formed a quirky yet gripping romantic narrative. So, names got changed, several men became “composite” characters, and my story became “Alison’s”.
SS: How did you arrive at the title?
AS: My agent overrode my original (more serious-sounding) title and came up with Match Made in Manhattan. Publisher totally dug it, so it stuck.
SS: Tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.
AS: The book is rather self-referential with a handful of “Easter Eggs,” in-jokes, and threads woven throughout. So on each subsequent read, you’ll emerge with a greater, deeper understanding of the protagonist and of my intended themes.
SS: Which of your characters is your all-time fave?
AS: Younger Luke. I’m enchanted by the notion that different people can draw out different sides of us, and also that two people sitting on opposite sides of the table can experience the same conversation or date totally differently. I think he’s the embodiment of these two ideas . . . and also, what a charmer (However, my favorite character on the audiobook is Brooks because OMG.)
SS: Are your characters based on real people, or do they come from your imagination?
AS: Alison’s family and friends are effectively my favorite real-life people transferred to the page. The men are a bit more complicated: though inspired by my own dates and interactions, first their backgrounds and identifying details were changed, then many were fused into composite characters, and the end result is that they’re all fictional at this point.
SS: How long did you take to write this book?
AS: Three months of writing; one month of querying; two years to publication.
SS: It sounds like the research for this could have been either a lot of fun or a total wipe-out. What kind of research did you do for this book?
AS: Fun research only. I explored the most popular dating websites and downloaded the hottest current dating apps so that I could write knowledgeably about the different functionalities of the various brands. I sought out trendy bars, restaurants, and cultural landmarks around New York City to keep the settings up to date.
SS: What got deleted during the editing process?
AS: Many many men. The manuscript I submitted to Skyhorse was 450 pages long. Very little description or transitions were cut (in fact, my editor actually had me add in more description and internal monologue); mostly we extracted entire chapters, which in this case meant complete male characters.
SS: What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
AS: The zone. Once I hit my writerly stride and get into the zone—empathizing with my characters, hearing their voices in my head as I re-read fresh dialogue, being a total nerd and chuckling at what I think are the funny parts as I type them out—I forget to eat or check my phone or go to the bathroom. And being in that zone, transported into the very moment you’re creating as you create it, is SO SATISFYING.
SS: What do you consider to be the most challenging part writing, and why?
AS: Marketing and PR. Is that a cop out? But it’s true – that is by far the part of publishing that is most antithetical to my nature.
SS: How do you carve out your writing time? Where do you normally write?)
AS: I have no routine. I generally only write when I have 2+ hours of uninterrupted quiet time, but between work/life/family, that’s been pretty unpredictable the last few years. So as long as my laptop is within reach, I write whenever I can, wherever I am.
SS: How many “skeletons” or unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
AS: One: the one I started writing last year and am still working on – albeit in fits and starts due to day job, publishing promo stuff, etc.
SS: Tell us about yourself—day jobs, family, pets, etc).
AS: I’m an architectural conservator, which means I spend my days wielding scalpels and syringes attempting to save historic buildings one brick or paint chip at a time.
SS: How did you get into writing?
AS: I outlined “my dating novel” five years before I got to sit down and write it. When I moved to Paris and didn’t have a visa to work in the EU, I freelanced as a copy editor and proofreader for a major YA publishing house in the US, so that I could work remotely and still earn a living. Being around the business of books – and having an unpredictable schedule with busy streaks followed by multiple weeks of down time – inspired me to finally sit down and write it.
SS: Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?
AS: Historic structures reports and conservation treatment reports – do those count?
SS: Share something about you most people probably don’t know.
AS: My protagonist, Alison, is more or less me, so once you read the book, there will be very little about me that you don’t know.
SS: What are you working on right now?
AS: A character-driven women’s fiction novel focusing on the ebbs and flows of a female friendship forged freshman year of college between two very different women: an outgoing, driven, hyper-rational New Yorker, and her ethereal, artistic, moody classmate, who hails from a broken-down log cabin in Kentucky. With chronological chapters that skip forward months and years in time, the book features a strong, chatty, and intelligent narrative voice, not dissimilar from that of Match Made in Manhattan, though it delves into more complex themes of the give-and-take of female friendship, and how alternately easy and hard it can be to forgive and forget.
SS: What book are you currently reading.
AS: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari.
SS: What was the most surprising event or experience during your publishing process?
AS: My sister, a voiceover actress, is the narrator on the audiobook version of Match Made in Manhattan(!!!) It’s a much longer story, filled with a tremendous amount of serendipity and perfect timing—and having nothing to do with me or any authorly input—but her agent submitted her to audition, and she landed the role. If you listen to the first 10 seconds you’ll hear her say, “Match Made in Manhattan, written by Amanda Stauffer. Performed by Elenna Stauffer.” And getting to hear those 10 seconds was even more exciting than getting to hold my first paperback copy.
SS: What’s the elevator pitch for your novel.
AS: After two intense, dead-end relationships, serial monogamist Alison finds herself confused, lonely, and drastically out of touch with the world of modern dating. Refusing to wallow, she signs up for a popular dating app and resolves to remain open-minded and optimistic as she explores the New York City singles’ scene. With the click of a button, her adventures begin: On one date, she’s dumped before the first kiss; on another, she dons full HAZMAT gear; she meets a tattooed folk singer turned investment banker, an undercover agent who tracks illegal exotic animals, and dozens of other colorful, captivating personalities.
Match Made in Manhattan is a fast-paced, contemporary story about the struggles of dating in the digital age. Replete with online profiles, witty dialogue, e-mails, and texts, and a super-supportive group of female friends, this all-too-real and relatable debut novel will have readers laughing, crying, and rooting for Alison.
“Match Made in Manhattan works on so many levels. There are the great, juicy dating parts (I wish I could sit in on all the book clubs as they enjoy trading their dating stories.) But there’s also a depth to this book that is such a welcome surprise. Amanda’s writing pulls you in and takes you on the most satisfying journey.” — Amy Cohen, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Late Bloomer’s Revolution
“(SPOILER) Alison gets her happy ending, but it may not be what you’d expect…” — Reality Steve
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