Q&A with A. R. Taylor, Author of Jenna Takes The Fall

by Heather Caliendo
A.R. Taylor - interview - book club chat
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A.R. Taylor is the author of Jenna Takes The Fall, which will publish on September 1. 

Her debut novel, Sex, Rain, and Cold Fusion won a Gold Medal for Best Regional Fiction at the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2015, and Kirkus Reviews named it one of the 12 Most Cinematic Indie Books of 2014. Her non-fiction work, Male Authors and Their Female Voices: Literary Masquerades, was shortlisted for the Henry Murray Award at Harvard.

Taylor has published in the Los Angeles Times, the Southwest Review, Pedantic Monthly, The Cynic online magazine, the Berkeley Insider, So It Goes––the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Magazine on Humor, Red Rock Review, and Rosebud, among others. L.A.’s New Short Fiction series and the Annenberg Center have featured her stories and humor pieces, and after winning a Writers Foundation of America award in Comedy for her play Up The Nile, Taylor appeared at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York and Tongue & Groove in Hollywood. In addition, she was head writer on two Emmy winning series for public television.

Here’s the synopsis for Jenna Takes The Fall:

Twenty-four years old and newly employed in Manhattan, Jenna McCann agrees to place herself under the dead body of a wealthy, prominent New Yorker—her boss—to hide the identity of his real lover. But why?

Because she is half in love with him herself; because her only friend at Hull Industries asked her to; because she feared everyone around her; because she had no idea how this would spin out into her own, undeveloped life; because she had nothing and no one?

Or just because?

Deftly told and sharply observed, Jenna Takes the Fall is the story of someone who became infamous . . . before she became anybody at all.

Get to know A. R. Taylor with the below Q&A where she talks favorite novels, story inspiration and much more!

What are some of your favorite novels?

My favorite novels really do run the gamut. I love Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady, Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Patrick Dennis’s Auntie Mame, Gary Shteyngart’s Absurdistan, John Kenney’s Truth in Advertising, Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Enemies, A Love Story, to name just a few. On a less exalted note, I’m a big fan of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, who writes funny, sexy, what I would call smart romance fiction.

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

While in San Francisco visiting my stepsister, somehow I came across an old copy of Jack Kerouac’s Doctor Sax. I became completely enchanted with the book and read it while walking in the green hills of my hometown in Ohio. It drove me crazy it was so good, a voice and a rhythm I had never before experienced in fiction. It struck me as real writing, almost like singing, and at that moment I decided to become a writer.

What are some of the differences between writing fiction compared to writing plays, TV writing, etc.?

Writing fiction is completely different from theatrical or TV writing. You don’t have to write to a formula, unless you want to use genre as a template, mystery, romance etc. I’ve had three plays produced, and I can say that playwriting involves an ability to really hear how other people speak. It also requires a knowledge of dramatic structure. Best of all (and possibly worst) it is alive. Every night of a theatrical production is different, due to the human element. Those pesky actors!

TV writing employs a formula and is quite rigid in terms of time limitations. Also, it is a group endeavor, and how well the group functions impacts the quality of the work. Perhaps the most significant problem: endless rewrites. There is no true logical endpoint until shooting starts. So fiction is the best!

What inspired you to write Jenna Takes The Fall?

I was inspired to write Jenna Takes the Fall because of a story a New York editor told me one day. It involved a young woman who agreed to place herself under the body of a dead man to hide the true identity of the real woman making love to him when he expired. I had already served two stints in New York, each time involved in various forms of media, and I was still haunted by my mistakes and my grotesque ignorance of how power works. People say you make the worst decisions in your early twenties, alas true. Jenna is about terrible mistakes and how one young woman learns to cope with them.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write?

I must say that the sex scenes were the most fun to write, and most challenging. I wanted them to be sexy, truly erotic, but not cringeworthy in an ick sort of way. Jenna is a sexual being and very drawn to powerful men, so there you have it.

What are you currently reading and what’s on your TBR (to be read) list?

I am currently reading both The Street and The Narrows by Ann Petry, a brilliant African American writer of soaring genius, recently re-published by The Library of America. Her fiery brilliance is astonishing. Also Dear Los Angeles, The City in Diaries and Letters 1542 to 2018, edited by David Kipen, because I love my town so much. I always have several books in various stages of being read, and lately I’ve been boning up on the American Civil War and the life and character of Abraham Lincoln.

Click here to order Jenna Takes The Fall on Amazon. 

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