Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 2 months ago

WB-S2E38 Tom Perotta with Tracy Flick Can't Win

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

WRITERS' BLOCK Ron Block and Meg Walker talk to bestselling novelist and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Tom Perrotta about his new sequel to ELECTION two decades in the making, TRACY FLICK CAN’T WIN.

People mainly know Tracy Flick through the movie version of election. You know, Reese Witherspoon played this role and she did it with such panash. She made herself into a star with that. Everybody kind of knows her through it. So in a sense that this new book is in conversation not just with the novel election, which I published over twenty years ago, but with this movie that has also been part of the, you know, public consciousness for all that time. Tracy enid flick. Right. Welcome to the friends and fiction writer's block podcast. For New York Times bestselling authors, one rock star Librarian and endless stories joined Mary Kay, Andrews Kristin Harmel, Christy Woodson Harvey and Patty Callahan Henry, along with Ron Block as novelists. We are four longtime friends with seventy books between us, and I am Ron Block. Please join us for fascinating author interviews and insider talk about publishing and writing. If you love books and are curious about the writing world, you are in the right place. Welcome to the friends and fiction writer's block podcast. We have the huge honor today of talking with the claim novelist Tom parata about his newest work, tracy flick can't win. It's a wonderfully satiric and hysterical exploration of how life unfolded for one of Literature's most enduring and iconic characters, tracy flick. People magazine has Harold and Tom as a truth telling, on showy chronicler of Modern Day America and his dad, is so perfectly said every one of his books. His spot on. I am Ron Block and I'm Meg Walker, the managing director of friends and fiction. Tom Parratta is the bestselling author of ten works of Fiction. He's likely best known for his novels election and little children, both of which were made into Oscar nominated films, and the leftovers and Mrs Fletcher, which were both adapted into series for HBO. His other books include bad haircut, the wishbones, Joe College, the abstinence teacher and nine inches. He's here today to talk with us about Tracy Flick can't win, a sequel to election two decades plus in the making. His work has been translated into a multitude of languages. Born and raised in New Jersey, Parada lives outside of Boston. Welcome to the PODCAST, Tom. It's so wonderful to have you with us. Well, thank you so much. I'm really happy to be here. It's wonderful. I've been looking forward to this a lot. I love this book so much I couldn't stop texting like this part. Yeah, did you get to that part again? Anyway, publishers weekly said. As ever, Parada writes incisively from several different points of view, illuminating the frustrated inner lives of his characters. Dominating it all is tracy, whom the reader comes to understand better, even through her cringe worthy machinations. This is the rare sequel that lives up to the original. Tom Let's start at the beginning. What was the driving force to bring Tracy back to readers? Well, I think that I actually didn't necessarily know that that's what I was doing when I started this book. I started the book wanting to write about another character, the Vito Falcone, who is a former pro football player who is brought back to his Alma Mater, high school, to be the first person inducted into their hall of fame. And Vito is suffering from, you know probably what is chronic traumatic and sepalopathy, the Post Concussion Syndrome that you hear about a lot. You can't really diagnose it when someone's alive, but he's starting to sense that he's having symptoms that are consistent with that and I thought what an interesting image of like a American masculinity in this particular...

...moment. You know, he's like the former golden boy and now he's damaged and he's in recovery but he's still being honored by his old high school. And when I started to write the book about Vito, I found that I was writing it as if it were election, in these little chapters from different points of view, and I was puzzled by why I was doing that. I didn't think it was a great idea because election had such a distinctive structure, but the structure seemed to just insist on itself and at some point I just looked up and, you know, I had that little light bulb moment. Is Tracy here? It seems like Tracy's here and I really feel like in some way, you know when you're writing the best stuff happens under your own radar, that a book is kind of revealing itself to you in these subconscious ways. And really what I thought later was that Vito kind of brought Tracy along because Tracy in election, you know, her nemesis is this very popular football player and, you know, I think that in a sense that is the systemic issue that Tracy's dealing with. You know she that's how Patriarchy reveals itself in High School, right the football player is the hero and Tracy, who is extremely smart, extremely hard working, extremely competent Um, has everything but this perception that she is a leader among, you know, among her peers, and I think even now she's sort of she's a hard working assistant principal, but she's not going to get in the hall of fame. It's this former football player who has left a wake of uh, you know, wreckage in his path. I mean, I love that you felt like she you were writing something else and you felt like she was there with you because and you gave into it. Was a lot of people would say no, I'm going to write the story I started out with and the moth see, but you just kind of gave into it. It was great. Well, I think I think that is the mystery of writing fiction. Like I mean, it's sort of interesting to me after all these years that Tracy Flick is the character I'm most known for, because I feel like I backed into Tracy as well. I was writing a book about Mr m, the teacher who destroys himself, and I had to figure out a story about like, like, why does he do this? Why does he try to fix a student election? And the answer to that question was he's resentful of Tracy Flick, this really ambitious girl in his class who he feels threatened by. It looks like she's gonna she's bound for a very successful life and he's feeling like in some way Um that he hasn't lived up to his own potential and there's a kind of resentment that leads him uh to be angry with Tracy and to do something that he never dreamed he was capable of. And so it's one thing I've learned over the years of writing is to really listen when the book starts to reveal itself to me even and I tried that for that reason, not to have a really rigid plan. You know, I really think there is some improvisational aspect to writing fiction and a kind of Um you need. Just need to be open and listen to the book, and I feel like in both cases Tracy has sort of Um revealed herself to me in that way, like kind of under the radar of my planning mind. I love that, I mean selfishly, I love it as as a reader and for the general, like wider reading public, that we have to be with her again. I'm curious, because you're with a different house now than you were when you published election. Did you get any pushback from your publishing team, Um, when you said you wanted to revisit a character? That wasn't in their back no, you know, you know that that. It's it's UH.

I give such credit to my editor, Kathy Belden, and to Nan Graham and the publisher at scrimner. They were just very enthused about about the idea and, Um, you know, I think you're twenty years later. It's just it was it was just one of those things. It was just the story I was writing and, Um, you know, I think. I also think, to be honest, that people mainly know Tracy Flick through the movie version of election. You know, rerhese witherspoon played this role and she did it with such panash. You know, she made herself into a star with that. Everybody kind of knows her through it. So in a sense that this new book is in conversation not just with the novel election, which I published over twenty years ago, but with this movie that has also been part of the, you know, public consciousness for all that time. Tracy enid flick, right, I was actually on set the day that she um. Well, she she has become such an archetype in our society and uh, you and I were talking about this before we started recording. But because the publishing world is a miniscule actually worked in the marketing department at Putnam when election was published and we all walked around the office wearing our vote tracy buttons Um. So were you surprised really about how the public latched onto her? And and how do you think that relationship Um has evolved from when election first came out to to now with the Tracy Flick? Yeah, it's actually been quite a quite a journey for character. I mean, first of all, I had a hard time publishing election. So I and I was told by early readers that kind of fell between between the cracks of a literary novel and a Young Adult Novel, Um, even though it had a lot of sex and politics and you know Um. But I think people were puzzled by it. On the other hand, Hollywood was really open to it because they were making a lot of teen movies and somewhat dark teen movies in the in the late nineties. So the book had a much easier time over there. But but it wasn't a it wasn't a hit movie. You know, it got very good reviews and I think the people who liked it really liked it. Um Reese didn't get nominated for an Oscar, which I now which now people think is real oversight. Um, but the character kind of stuck because I the reason I think it's stuck was because it was chronicling this new generation of ambitious girls who were born, you know, in the nineties, seventies, post ro versus Wade, who were told by their mothers especially, that you can do anything you want and they believed them. And what I also realized in retrospect was that there, because American women were so barred from public life and from public office for so long, there wasn't a lot of fictional portrayals of women politicians. Like, if you try and think about it, Um, you know, I just can't think of a novel about a woman politician or a movie about a woman politician before election. There may there may have been a few, um, but I can't remember them. And so I think Tracy was just this new image of a really ambitious, um young woman who, in a sense, was going after success like like a man, would you know. And and men didn't know what to make of that. They were threatened by it, they were bothered by it and somehow tracy stuck as a kind of archetype or shorthand for this like unpleasantly ambitious woman and to...

...the point where, like when the movie came out, she was described as a villain by a lot of people and she would appear on these lists of movie villains. And the really interesting thing to me was that about maybe ten years ago, some critics started to say, Hey, wait a second, this girl is not a villain. She's a high school girl who is trying to get elected president of her class because she lives with a single mom and needs a college scholarship. She's trying to beef up her resume and yeah, you know she she does a few morally questionable things, but you know she's also Um. You know been kind of Um. You know she's had a sexual relationship with a teacher who took advantage of her. You know, she's not a villain, is, you know what people started saying. In fact, she is a victim, and the image of Tracy got completely overturned in an interesting way. And, Um, I think that made me really Um, interested as a writer, like, Oh wow, I created a character who, Um, has just been understood in very different ways depending upon the historical context. That's that's looking at her, and it also made me a little, Um, thoughtful about you know, okay, I'd portrayed Tracy is having this sexual relationship with her teacher and she was very adamant that it was her choice, even though she was young, she was fifteen years old, Um, and that she had no regrets and that she wasn't a victim. And Post me too, you know, I started seeing stories about abusive teachers where, Um, you know, women who had had these relationships with teachers. Some of them were saying, you know, Um, at the time I thought that I was doing what I wanted, but looking back on it now as an adult, see how I was, you know, groomed or or manipulated, and I understand now that I was too young and that that relationship left, Um, you know, a mark on me that I regret, you know, and I was interested in thinking about how Tracy would look back on that part of her life now that she's a mother and she's an assistant principal in a high school. So that, I think, became like the central question for me, you know, writing this book in a very different era? Yes, yes, yes, and speaking of a different era, not only tracy having changed, but the world itself and the world at large really changed a lot in between the two books. Can you talk about your process of kind of updating all of those surrounding ideas and themes? Yeah, well, you know, I think that election kind of gave me a template because even at that time I said to myself, I'm I'm writing a book about a very trivial event, an election for president it and one small suburban high school. It really doesn't matter to the world who gets elected president of Windwood High School. Um. But I also understood that I was using this high school as a kind of microcosm for American culture and the American political system. So it was a kind of a political allegory, and so I had that kind of a model in mind. When I started Tracy Flip Camp Win, and it was just it's just so interesting how much can be contained um by a high school and all the parallels between, Um, the issues that crop up in the high school setting and the issues that are cropping up in the wider world. So, you know, you have veto, who is suffering from post concussion syndrome, who's representative of a kind of toxic masculinity that used to be, I think, taken for granted in this society. See Donald Trump, as you know, example number one. Um and and...

...now was under like a kind of sustained criticism from, uh, you know, from women who felt depressed by Um, these kind of men for a long time, and even from other men who also felt bullied and oppressed by these men. I think, Um, you have tracy, who is a very talented, competent, Um, smart person who keeps bumping up against the glass ceiling. Why can't tracy become the principle of a high school, even she thought she was going to be president of the United States and uh, you know. So you're you know, it was a way of talking about issues of gender. Um. The book is also about fame, an ambition. Um, you know, there's a there's a student who is Um. You know, the book really is is exploring this issue of like, who do we honor and why? And what does that reveal about what value as a culture? I think, and that became and that the story of Tracy Flick is the story of, uh, a woman who's ambitious and trying to succeed and keeps finding that the playing field is tilted against her in some way. Love you did it also brilliantly, all these different voices, I mean Um, and the different themes, and it all comes through on the page so beautifully. Um, but Tracy and Jack Take Center stage. But, but we'd love to ask a bit about all the other voices in the book. So you've created like a true ensemble with with Vito and Kyle and front desk Diane and Lily Nate and the list goes on and they're each they're so varied and they're each so fully realized in their own ways. So, um, what, what influenced these characters? And and you know what were you hoping each perspective might add to the story? Yeah, you know that. That's part of the microcosm idea. You know. So, yeah, I in my list of issues. You know, Kyle Dumont, Kyle Dorfman Um, is this guy. He's made. He's an alum of the same high school where Tracy is now the principal. He made a fortune in the tech industry because of a stupid virtual pet APP that he came up with and he's taking his money and come back home to his town and he's sort of saying it's because he really liked the town and he wants his kids to grow up the way he did, but actually he's built this like monstrous mansion back on the street where his family had a little house. It's really he's like lording his wealth over the people he grew up with. But he's, you know, deceiving himself and he but he's the one who decides to finance this hall of fame and Um, because he's now also the president of the school board, Tracy feels like she has to kind of Um, you know, do his bidding because she needs him as a political ally. And and so you know, Kyle is a kind of representative of you know, are more recent American world where, you know that's just so it's just so rife with inequality, where so many you know, we're a small handful of people really have so much more money than than other people because, you know, at least you know, Tracy came from this sort of working class suburb where, you know, there were some class differences, but it wasn't like it is now, you know, or our society right now is way more unequal than it was twenty or twenty five years ago. Yeah, I mean, poor tracy. She's got veto on the one side and Kyle and the other, who are like just like shoving it in her face how she can't achieve her goals and the two of them have just sort of like um fallen into this success a little bit. You know. Yeah, there are two versions of oppressive males, you know. One is one is the earlier Alpha male version.

You know, that's an athlete and and uh, a playboy, you know, and and Kyle is much more the you know, the nerd with a huge Bott of money, and she's the tortured soul in the middle of it all. That's right. So it's like the push me pull thing. It's like you're in your out here in your own right. And Jack Weed, as you who you mentioned before, is the principal who's retiring and he's a sort of Tracy likes Jack and he's probably a pretty good principle, but he also is a sort of Um, this this older rogue who has somehow stayed ahead of all of his me too violations and he's retiring, you know, with his reputation intact, even though he has not behaved in especially ethical way over the years. So he's the voice of the you know, the guy who is so are saying, let's just forget about the past. It's just a room full of toxic masculinity. Yes, that's called America. It's exactly and it's sad, but that's what that's the way it is for now. So, UM, without giving any spoilers, did you always know the ending was going to be what it turned out to be? No, and this relates to what I was saying earlier. You know, I try UH to move forward without a real plan. You know, I knew that I had set up a situation where this hall of fame in Dutch and ceremony was going to bring all the characters in the book together and Um, you know, I think that's a structure that sort of demands some kind of you know, big event when you get all your characters in one place. But I didn't know what that would be and and at a certain late moment, you know, the idea occurred to me and and I again, I know, I appreciate your no spoilers. I I just often with an idea that is disturbing or or surprising. You know, I've resisted it first, but but then if it just overcomes my own objections, I feel like, okay, that may be the way that that I have to go. Um. So, yeah, I mean, I mean that to me is a really interesting moment, you know, when you have set up a story and you're starting to move towards towards the end game and you're not quite sure where you're going and then the answer, you know, appears and and there's a kind of excitement in that moment and a kind of dread and often a kind of you know, I gets. You know, I scare myself a little sometimes, and that's that's to me, is the mark of an interesting ending. And you know, I definitely I don't just embrace it. You know, there's a there's definitely a period of resistance and questioning. But if it if it survives that period Um. Then, you know, then you're on the home stretch a gold ending. I honestly didn't see it coming. Um, I didn't either. I didn't need it, but when when I read it, I was like okay, I got it, and nothing is more of the moment than what you did with the yeah, sad to say. Well, so, your work delves beneath the surface of American suburbia in this brilliant way. I mean you shatter the well manicured myths and expose a bit of the dark underbelly of what everyone's trying to make out as the perfect life in suburbia here. Um. So, can you talk about why I think this appeals to you as a writer? Yeah, this is something that I've actually, you...

...know, struggled with over the years, only because I never thought of myself as a specifically suburban writer and when I first started to be, um, characterized in that way, I was I was surprised, and I think that in the end, suburbia is just where I've lived and and it's where, you know, my imagination lives. Um, but you know, I would always say, well, I'm writing about people and these people just happened to be in suburbia. And so I'm it's almost I think I'm I'm talking about what is going on with my characters rather than what is going on in Suburbia, if you if you understand the distinction. And so so the idea that there's a dark underbelly to me isn't a dark underbelly in suburbia. It's a dark underbelly in the human beings who happened to live in in suburbia. And I think, you know, I don't think there's like that that. I think urban characters have a similar dark underbelly. In rural characters probably have a similar dark underbelly. Just so happens that my characters live in the place where I have lived. And, Um, they struggle with their emotions and their desires and Um, you know their ambitions, what you know their conflicts with other people. Um, you know, that's really what what I'm trying to write about. It think it's funny, like I guess, because I've lived in some of the very same places that you've lived in, as we've talked about. But so to me it's just I guess that's my take on it too. Um, because that's where such a brilliant job of bringing these places to life that I literally feel like I'm walking in the town that you've created. Yeah, I appreciate that. I feel like I am very much a realist, you know, very deep down. You know, I did right the leftovers, which is my one sort of speculative or Dystopian but but it is, you know, it's the exception that that proves the rule. Generally, I speaking. I'm, you know, trying to write realism. I'm trying to engage with Um, you know, moments in recent history and and the issues that have, you know, flared up and and you know, it's a it's a it's it could be a challenging thing to right about what's what's happening in the moment, like I found this with with Mrs Fletcher in particularly, and I wrote that book. I started it maybe two, two fourteen, and I was writing about like all this stuff that I thought was like bubbling underground, about sex and gender, Um, and, you know, pornography was at the heart of that. And by the time the show, the show came out, so the book came out and I think, Um, that was one thing, but then a couple of years later the TV show came out and all that stuff that was under the surface had just blown up. You know, the me too movement had happened, and I think that the cultural uh sense of of, you know, how how we thought about women's sexuality and male sexuality and pornography. It's just a much darker um the sense of what was going on and I think Um, the idea of a sort of comic novel with a woman at the heart of it who was interested in pornography just didn't seem quite as as funny as it had even just a few years earlier. You know, I think I think you know I was grappling with the sexual revolution, but I think, you know I was grappling with it feeling like we're in the middle of it and things are...

...changing and then suddenly, like five or six years later, it felt like, you know, there was just this this almost revisionist thinking about the sexual revolution that had really kind of solidified and Um, you know, it is you know, or or I look at a book like the abstinence teacher, where I was writing about the culture war and sex education and and on one side you had a kind of you know, Evangelical Christian Culture Warrior on the other side, a liberal sex education teacher, and the and the book really reflected, um a sense that I had back in those days that, like, well, Americans on both sides of the divide maybe have more in common than they realize and if they could only get to know each other, they might be able to find some common ground. But now, when I think about it, like in the age of trump, I just don't feel that way anymore. I feel like there's this divide between us that is almost impossible to Um, to cross. And so it is. I feel like these books are snapshots of, you know, particular historical moments and and it is it's been amazing to me, is a novelist and an American citizen, you know, to just reflect on the changes that we've seen over the past twenty five years. I do think it's been like a truly like revolutionary era in terms of Um, you know, technology, redefinitions of sexuality and gender and and you know, the kind of explosion of economic inequality. Like it truly has been a kind of dizzying era, you know, and it's it's been really interesting things in novels to try and you know, keep up with it and and try and understand what it feels like to live inside these moments. That's beautifully sad. It's just spot on, spot on. But Um, one of the things that struck me too about the book, going back just a little bit to one of the minor characters in what you were just saying, it Um, creating the character of Lily really gave you a lot of room to bring out diverse ideas in the story, because she observes raised and gender differences and she's got her own life. But that really says a lot about the world at large. Why do you think it's important to highlight those themes now? Yeah, well, I mean, I mean so I was writing Tracy flickant win during the height of, you know, black lives matter movement and I think, you know, my kids went to college at a time when issues of identity and diversity and inclusion became like really, you know, much more central to the American political debate than they had been during other other periods of my life. And you know, as a writer who delved a lot into suburbia, I think I have written books very much from a kind of I'm a white person writing about white character. There's an I think, suburbia's, you know, really gotten more diverse over time. And Lily Chew is a young Chinese American woman who is discovering that she's queer and she's interesting because she's kind of a updated version of Tracy, and Tracy sees herself a little bit in Lily, Um, but lily has a kind of perspective that Tracy didn't have, because she's looking at the world, you know, through the Lens of race and uh, you know, a sexual orientation in a way that Tracy never was. And in fact, during the debate about the hall of fame, you know, lily is pushing, Um, for the inclusion of a black football player who was one of Vito's teammates and he uh never had the chance to succeed the way Vito had because he'd had a run in with a local cop and and you know, Um, his football career got derailed because of racism. And Lily is, you know, really...

...passionate about getting this guy to be considered, and Tracy just looks and says, Oh, another too far. You know. Yeah, she for Tracy, just she's not accustomed to to that, those lenses, you know, and that that, I think, is another part of this book is just, Um, you know, the lenses through which we look at our times, you know, really determine what we see and the Lens Um that we used in the nineteen nineties and the Lens that we use now just are entirely different and we see different things, you know. And even Tracy is looking at her life Um. You know, it's the lens of this particular moment, but it's also the lens of Middle Age looking back. You know, when she's young, she feels powerful and and she doesn't feel like a victim, and when she's older and she's a little bit disappointed and feels stuck, she's able to kind of tell a different story about her past or detect patterns that that Um, you know, she might not have been able to notice at any other point in her life. Yeah, that's interesting. He did that because, I mean in the beginning of the novel you definitely see how Tracy's Um, she's come a little bit of a long way away from her super rigid perfectionism interviews of like competition and and all that Um. But you also Um, you delve into the book and how, like past hurts and past traumas can affect us in our adulthood. And so can you, can you talk about leaving that into the story and the reasons behind it? Yeah, well, Um, I think that for Tracy, you know, she she's always felt like she was an exceptional person and I think that, Um, yeah, we live in such an individualistic culture. You know that basically, and if you grew up in the eighties and nineties, I think there was just that feeling of like, you know, you're it's up to you what you do with your life and you know it's a meritocracy and you can rise to the top and, Um, you know, I think Americans started to lose this sense of community and, Um, you know. But Tracy always felt like she was a party of one and her life was under her own control. And yet her life has not turned out quite the way that she wanted, despite her talents and ambitions, and I think she's starting to see that, you know, a she is a woman and a lot of things that happened to women, Um, you know, have determined some of the limits on her life and and Um, you know, I just she she just says it like maybe I wasn't as special as I thought I was. She thought she was a special case and now she's seeing herself, as you know, a member of humanity and and and a woman among women. Yeah, even if she was told she um like life aid fair, and I think that's the kind of she's coming around to too. You know. Yeah, yeah, exactly, I think. I think that has always been the issue with meritocracy and individualism. It's sort of easy for the people on top to say that, you know, I won fair and square, but Tracy is one of the things she's realizing is, you know, there's no fair and square for me, and that's partly in the title. You know, Tracy Flick can't win. You know, yes, she's having a tough year or a bad day, but it's much deeper than that. It's like, Oh wow, maybe it's impossible for the tracys of of the world to win. I mean, you know, it's also a little bit Um colored by the experience of Hillary Clint you know, that sense of like literally she...

...could not win Um and uh, you know, eventually some some women will win, I'm sure, but right now it's hard. Um, you know when that will be and and to not connected to Um, HM, this deeply rooted cultural sense that women, you know, aren't natural leaders, you know, and and a lot of times that's even shared by women themselves, you know, sadly. But you know, talk about trauma too, I think. I think trauma doesn't always reveal itself right away. I think it's possible for somebody like Tracy Um, you know, she had this relationship in high school and Um, it didn't last long and it just seemed like a blip to her at the time, but later on she's understanding like it was almost like the key to my whole high school experience. You know, that particular you know, two month relationship because, you know, Mr m's decision to Um, you know, try and steal the election from her was related to his loyalty to his friend who got fired because he had this affair with Tracy. It was like, Um, it colored the way people looked at her in school and maybe who would vote for her, you know, Um. I mean she's very talking very specifically about that particular trauma. But there's also the trauma of, you know, her mother's illness and her having to set aside her dreams to be a caretaker. You know, it just I do think that we don't really understand sometimes the central events in our lives until long after that. Yeah, I mean Vito is a great example. Not too I mean he's literally trying to make amends for some of the past things he's done in his life and and his past continues to haunt him in a multitude of ways. I mean the injuries is just one part of it, um, but like he's trying to make right on some of this stuff and without giving anything away, like that doesn't really go so well for him. I mean it seems like it's going well for him. He's he's he's making amends with some folks and he's he's coming around to realizing, you know, how he's created this path for himself. And No, I I know. I mean I find Vito kind of moving in in this book, you know. I mean, because this is another part of our culture right now which is, I think, rightly, we're holding people accountable in a way that we haven't before, um, but I also think, you know, there should be room for people two, you know, do an accounting and make amends and somehow, you know, get back into community in some sense. And and you know, Vito is in that process and I think there are ways in which you can see. He's just become a better he's doing the work. Um, he's doing the work and he's doing the work. Yeah, and it's it's kind of moving and it allows him to be, I think, generous to like this woman page that he meets and recovery, who is also a person, you know, who's dealing with deep shame, and Vito is sort of like he knows what it's like to feel deeply ashamed and to know that you've screwed up in a way that you know you can't. He's finally able to show people some kindness, whereas that the younger version of Vito was wouldn't have even a bit aware of any of that. No, no, he just had that kind of world is taken. Yeah, so, Um. But yes, I think, you know, as different as he and Tracy would have been in high school, as middle aged people,...

I think they're both just grappling with disappointment. For veto it's a sense of I had something great and I lost it, and for Tracy it's I never got what I deserve. But those are two forms of, I think, middle aged sadness. That that Um, you know, bring them together in one weird moment. There's a moment when you know they're on stage and they're looking at each other and and Tracy is like seeing him, you know, somebody who I think she, you know, reflexively kind of despises, but she's actually seeing him in that moment and I you know, that does seem like something that is a kind of wisdom that comes with age and comes with Um sometimes with with feeling wounded or or, you know, being hurt. That that I do think it creates maybe a kind of compassion that that might be harder to attain as a younger person who's just on a mission to succeed. As we're talking, I'm like this is like one of the biggest themes in the book and it's one of the things that I think people are gonna, if they haven't already, most relate to, because I think we all, whether we were the victims of it or the or the cause of some of this stuff, I think we can reflect and think, think about it and it really stays with us. But that leads me into this question a little bit um now that the book is out and a lot of your books have been made into successful large and small screen things, is there have been anybody, maybe somebody named reese, come calling about this? Well, so all I can say is that their conversations happening and my fingers are crossed that's something will will emerge. It's it's uh, you know, it's that mysterious land of Hollywood's I I just have my fingers crossed. Yeah, but I think it would be like a golden opper tunity in rethe if you're listening, to be able to revive this character. There's so many nuances and changes that have happened and what a great way to take a bite out of your acting chops and really dig into it and win another Oscar. Well, it feels. It feels to me like a what a rare opportunity, you know, to play a character when you're young, to play that character in high school and then play the same character, you know, as a woman in her in her forties. You know it just as it rarely happens, right, because you have to have had the early version. So, I mean, I guess Tom Cruise just did the same thing, but Tom Cruise is always Tom Cruise, so he doesn't have to say, like, how has this character changed? It's more like it's thirty years later and I'm still Tom Cruise. No, this is a character that changed a lot and she's so she's perfect. She was perfect for it then, don't she's perfect for it now. Yeah, and she's changed a lot and yet certain core um attributes are still there us. I think that's the fun part of it, is, like, how has she changed and how has she stayed the same? Well, Tom as the saying goes, Um, the easier it was to read the harder it was to write. and to me, Um, your books are so eminently readable. Um, the chapters are short, the language is plain and in your writing is completely unpretentious. So the pages just fly by and you know, on the surface these stories they feel fairly simple. And yet, as we've been talking about, you know, Um, you you delve fairly deep into before you know it you've had all this fun reading the book. And so to me I feel like you're really and truly like some type of wizard, because Um must have been very hard to write if it was this easy to read. I guess that is what I'm saying because, Um, you know, you really do get at the heart of the human condition. But it feels like we just had a blast and and you just, you know, flew through a book and in a day. Um.

So I can just talk to us for a minute about your reading, about your writing style and and was that a conscious decision to write in this in this style, and and maybe who some of your influences were? Yeah, you know, I really appreciate that, by the way, because that definitely was what I was going for with this book. And and I mean that's something I've been going for in a sense all my career. Like if you go back to bad haircut, which was quite a long time ago, you know, that is also written in you know, I think, pretty playing style and I was very much under the influence of like Hemingway and Raymond Carver at that time and I feel like, you know, loosened up my style a little bit over the years, like, Um, you know, I think there's a definite difference between a book like little children and bad haircut. You can see like a certain kind of growth stylistically, Tracy Flip Camp when like election is written mostly in first person, though there are some third person chapters. I think one of the real things that's changed is I've become a big listener of audio books and I really love the idea of that. It's brought back a kind of oral tradition and I've become really conscious of like what would this sound like read out loud, you know, and I do end up reading aloud to myself a lot when I'm writing, and I'd like this feeling of like not hitting any bumps, you know, like can I write it so that there won't be any bumps in that you, as a reader will just be, you know, born along the surface of the story, because I think it creates this opportunity if you're just moving along with the story and it feels like it's happening in front of you, you're not getting out in front of the story really, and so it just creates these opportunities for surprise, I think, and I value surprise. Um, not necessarily in the big Oh henry twist way, but just like psychological surprise, characters surprising themselves with what they're thinking, what they're doing. They're planning one thing, but another thing happens. They are trying to convince themselves of one thing and end up convincing themselves of the exact opposite. You know, I just feel like if I can get the narrative moving at a certain kind of velocity. Then you know the reader can't get ahead of it and I can surprise the reader. Love that. I mean it reads like oral history, you know, so short and sweet the chapters, and every one of them alternates to a different voice. And you brought up the audiobook. I've read it. So I haven't listened to the audiobook. But how is that done? In the audiobook they use different readers for different actors, so like Lucy Louis Tracy flick, which is great. Yeah, yeah, yeah, so recommend people check it out if they are, you know, audio buseners. Super Fun Audio. Having read it, for sure. So, Tom Tell us what readers can expect next from you. And then, if you don't mind, where can everybody find you and connect with you online? Oh yes, so my website is called Tamparado dot net. So you can go there or you can go I have an author page on Facebook, so either of those places. I am at the early stages of a new novel and all I can say is that, like the stories and bad haircut, it's set in New Jersey in the nineties seventies and it has a kind of a coming of age but unlike bad haircut, which was narrated by, you know, a guy who seemed like maybe college age, who was looking back on his teenagers, this is narrative with the distance of a person, you know, thinking about something that happened fifty years ago and kind of pondering the slipperiness of memory and again, the I think I'm maybe just to haven arrived at an age where...

I'm, you know, the past just feels like another world and I'm just trying to kind of talk about how that world exists in a person's memory. I'm ready. Well, you'll have to wait a little while because I still don't know what I'm doing and we'll see what that kind of morphs into. Yeah, exactly. It'll be a science fiction book set in the president. You know well, Tom this has been such a highlight for us to have you here. I now really now know why I tell people that I read a little bit of this book and then I have to think about it for five hours, because it's so deep and it's got so much to say and I think people really need to know that and when they dive in they will understand. And thanks for taking such a deep dive into the themes and the thoughts behind the book and we can't wait for your next book. So huge gratitude for joining us today. Well, thank you so much as in a real pleasure. I can't tell you how much I've enjoying it, and thank you to our listeners for your ongoing support of this podcast and of the entire friends and fiction family. Don't forget, you can purchase Tom's book at a discount on our bookshop dot org friends and fiction page. We appreciate you all. Please share with a friend. Thank you for tuning in to the friends and fiction writer's block podcast. Please be sure to subscribe, rate and review on your favorite podcast platform. Tune in every Friday for another episode, and you can also join us every week on facebook or youtube. Where are live? Friends and fiction show airs at seven PM Eastern Standard Time. We are so glad you're here.

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