I wrote a novel! Yes indeed I did, and it's fun! And sad! And very fantastical! And glamorous! And you should tell your publishing friends about it so they want to publish it!
But what is it about, exactly? And why should I care? Good news! I interviewed myself for this blog to answer all your burning Brenda questions.
Enjoy this in entirely fabricated conversation!
So John. Your debut novel is entitled Brenda Returns A Blazer. What's it about?
First of all, John, thank you for having me to this blog post. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to myself.
Second, Brenda Returns a Blazer is about a time-travelling older woman who must return a tacky 90s blazer to the correct Midwestern department store in the correct time period, otherwise the entire universe collapses.
That sounds intense! What is Brenda like? How does she get caught up in this time travel business?
Brenda is a six-foot-five, 56-year-old white woman from a cruel small town who is filled with rage and sadness. She truly lives one humiliation to the next, one department store shopping binge to the next, and early in the book she's visited by her future self who tells her of reality's impending doom. There's been a glitch in time and reality has begun to unspool. Brenda's ugly AF blazer, it turns out, is the key to restoring space/time and stopping all of existence from being wiped out.
So its science fiction?
Yes. I like to say its Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy meets the 1997 Sears Catalog.
What gave you the inspiration for Brenda?
Two things. During the beginning of the pandemic, I joined a writer's group and I was looking for something to share. I found an old short story I'd written about a woman in line at a department store in the 1990s, getting angrier and angrier at the line not moving, and I thought...what if this was the start of a Star Wars-level epic sci-fi adventure? We never see older women lead sci-fi epics.
The other inspiration was the German time travel show Dark, specifically the character Claudia Tiedemann played by the genius actor Julika Jenkins. Claudia is a 40-something boss-ass corporate bitch from the 1980s, her fashion and hair and shoulder pads are absolutely tremendous, and she got sent through time and became an unlikely hero. It was so refreshing to see a character like her get to go on that sort of adventurous journey that I wanted to create one of my own.
What else can you tell us about the book?
It's truly like a Stefan bit on SNL. It has everything. An evil AI obsessed with Brooks & Dunn. An anteater-squid character named Diane. Five Joan Allen clones. Tiny muppet creatures who love to do psychedelics. Tons of 90s department store fashion. An exploding Arby's.
Honestly, my guiding question throughout writing this has been "how can I make this even dumber?" I find so much of fiction writing to be overly serious, so I wanted to really embrace fun, silliness and 90s nostalgia while maintaining an undercurrent of sadness.
Talk to me about this undercurrent of sadness.
Well, Brenda is a widowed empty nester mom in a small, gossip-y corn town. Her daughter hates her, and even disinvited Brenda from her wedding (thus she decides to return her mother of the bride blazer). She basically lives her life one humiliation to the next. She lives in a heavily scrutinized ecosystem where all the women her age are trying to blend in and avoid being gristle for the vicious gossip mill. Yet, being so tall and large, she can't ever really blend, or be accepted. She's a perpetual outsider caught in an endless loop of trying to fit in and failing spectacularly.
Who is your audience for Brenda Returns a Blazer?
Anyone who loves sci-fi or absurdist comedy. Millennials and Gen Z readers who are bored by stiff, old white dude sci-fi. Older women, for sure. I want them to be delighted by being centered in such a fantastical tale. But there is also a distinct queer aesthetic to the book, as I am gay AF, so really anyone who identifies with the alphabet mafia should find plenty to enjoy about this book. Let's just say Shania Twain's Come On Over album plays a pivotal role in the finale.
You're still looking for an agent/publisher to help you publish this book. Who would your ideal agent be?
Anyone who really, really loves comedy. And not just literary comedy, which can feel very formal, but sketch comedy, improv, stand-up. If you watched SNL and saw the Liza Minelli Tries To Turn Off A Lamp sketch and laughed your ass off, you're going to love this book.
Basically, I need someone who is going to get to the section where I exhaustively list out the distinct features of 32 multiverse versions of a single character and thinks "I want more of this delightful dumbfuckery" instead of "Good heavens, this is dreadful, I must sate myself with some overly manipulated magical realism prose from a wealthy graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop."
When can we ready Brenda Returns a Blazer?
That depends on if anyone is interested in publishing it! I've set a goal of 75 queries. Once I've sent out 75 queries to agents and publishers, if all of them are rejected, I will begin the process of self-publishing. One way or another, this book will be printed and exist. I've worked too hard for it to just stay on my laptop.