Who says massively changing your career path after years and years of hard work and training is such a big deal? On May 30th, entertainment lawyer-turned-novelist Naomi Elana Zener is releasing her debut novel, Deathbed Dime$. Of course, Zener used her life in law to fill her book with colourful drama based on her insider perspective. With early praise for Deathbed Dime$ already coming from big names in the book world, like author Julia Fierro (of Cutting Teeth: A Novel fame), Zener’s debut might be the first book on your summer reading list. We caught up with the novelist to find out more…
Tell us a bit about yourself. What should people know?
I love laughter. My children’s laughter is the best sound in the world, followed by a laugh shared between myself and my husband. I’m an art collector who loves to visit galleries, art fairs, and museums, including the AGO. I’m a huge fan of walking, because you never know who you’ll bump into. I never say “no” to a beautiful shoe, especially if it’s on sale at Holt Renfrew. I love to travel, but since becoming a mom I’ve done very little. I love food, too. My all-time favourite dishes are lox sandwiches, salad with my mom’s secret Caesar dressing, linguine frutti di mare, Bolognese pasta, La Rocca’s chocolate fudge cake, and oaky, buttery California chardonnays. I’ll take a sunny lake or poolside day over snow.
You’re an entertainment lawyer-turned-novelist. How and why did you make the transition into penning fiction?
I’ve always had a creative soul. As a child, I loved to act and performed in many plays at school, camp, and in one, professionally, at the Koffler Centre. As I got older, my creative side took a backseat to my education. The biggest catalyst for me was having my daughter. In order to stop her from crying, I started creating lots of stories and songs for her enjoyment. After I returned to work post maternity leave, I began writing a satirical short fiction blog, satiricalmama.com, which to-date has received some wonderful literary supporters including Giller Prize winner Dr. Vincent Lam, Paula Froelich, and Rebecca Eckler. Deathbed Dime$ had its genesis in 2009 when I decided to write a book based on an idea I’d conceived for a TV show. Writing a novel was also on my bucket list. I had my doubts, but after toiling on it for five years it’s finally going to have a wide audience.
What inspired Deathbed Dime$, your debut novel, and what is it about?
I studied Trusts and Estates Law during law school at Osgoode Hall and my Master of Laws Degree at the University of Toronto. I’m fascinated by the lengths people will go to for the last penny out of a relative’s hand when they die. Estates case law is riddled with stories of family members and strangers taking advantage of the old and vulnerable before and after their death.
Deathbed Dime$ tells the story of Joely Zeller, a beautiful and ambitious 32-year-old attorney and daughter of Hollywood film royalty, who is determined to build a successful career and find love and marriage all on her own. After fleeing the overbearing arms of her parents in L.A. for school and career success in New York, Joely finds herself back at home after leaving her abusive job and being left by her fiance. Thanks to a serendipitous encounter with a former flame, Joely realizes that with the inevitable demise of aging baby boomers come those looking to stake their claim on the fortune of their dearly departed. Joely soon opens her own L.A. law firm with her two best friends at her side to help the recently dispossessed, including Joely herself.
What are some of the most challenging things about writing a book?
Stopping when you’re on a writing streak, and being a ruthless self-editor.
What are a few novels that changed your life?
I’ve been a lifelong avid reader.
The novel that changed the way I read was Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, which is my favourite book of all time. To date, I haven’t found a novel with so many rich characters full of personality disorders, strife, and inner turmoil. The way that Dostoevsky draws the reader into the story, you feel like you’re as equally tormented as Raskolnikov while hating and feeling empathy for him.
As much as I have a love for this book, I read most types of fiction; however, I love to inject humour into all of my writing. Probably because I like to laugh my way through a rough situation.
What are three things you can’t live without?
My children/husband. My laptop with its charger. Inspiration. And clothing, as I don’t want to be naked. But, that’s a given, right?
What’s your favourite restaurant?
Cumpa Cosimo in Revello, Italy on the Amalfi Coast. The dishes are literally the most basic of Italian cuisine, yet only the freshest ingredients are used, and each mouthful is heavenly.
Let’s get social for a mo’. How can people stay up-to-date with your busy life?
Visit my website, naomielanazener.com, where you can find all of my social media (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.) links, find out about my events, media coverage, and my personal blog. After reading and loving Deathbed Dime$, I’m sure you’ll want more so check out my other blog, satiricalmama.com.