Saturday, March 30, 2013

Head Case Book Tour/Interview with Jennifer Oko

Tell me about HEAD CASE...what was the inspiration for the book?
First off, thank you so much for hosting me! I really hope you enjoy HEAD CASE. It was a lot of fun to write and (hopefully!) it’s a lot of fun to read!

It’s hard to sum up the book in a catchy sentence (I know! I need to be able to do that!), but the thirty second elevator pitch is that HEAD CASE is a comic mystery about trafficking psychopharmaceutical medication. But of course it’s about much more than that.

Sure, there are deranged mobsters, drug-dealing grandmothers, movie stars, greedy pharmaceutical executives and a number of other colorful characters, but at its heart, HEAD CASE is really about a friendship. Only in this case, one of the friends—the narrator—is the ghost of a murder victim. Olivia, the ghost, is trying to figure out both how she was murdered, and in doing so, how her relationship with her best friend had fallen apart. It’s her investigation of her own murder that become the narrative.

One of my friends said HEAD CASE is like a mystery mashup of Prozac Nation and Bridget Jones Diary, which makes me laugh because there is probably some truth there.

Did you always want to be a writer?
I think that I always wanted to be a writer, but I just didn’t know it. I co-wrote a novel with my best friend when I was eight (the title was It’s Nice to Be Together and it featured a “together monster” as the central character), but it wasn’t until my late twenties that I really started to embrace the idea of becoming a professional author. Now, being an author is a huge part of my identity. When my son was in kindergarten, he wrote me a card that said (his spelling) “my mom is a good mom bcus she rote books.” I love that! 

What do you do in your free time?
I read! I tend to read a few books at once, hopping around between them depending on my mood or mental agility at the moment. I also love (in no particular order) skiing, yoga, chatting with friends, playing board games with my kids, having date night with my husband and taking long naps (especially if I can snuggle with my kids at the same time). 

Top 3 things on your bucket list?
Skiing in South America in July.
Learning to play the piano well enough that I could do it in public.
Finish reading War and Peace.

Favorite literary characters?
Mostly, I tend to be a kind of “love the one you’re with” person as far as books and fictional characters are concerned. Right now I’m reading and loving The Museum of Innocence, by Orhan Pamuk, although in truth I don’t really love the main character. He’s a bit of a creep. 

That said, if I have to choose (and I suppose I do!), I have a great interest in Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment. He sort of makes a cameo in HEAD CASE, in the form of the name of a beloved animal. Although, beyond the name, they have nothing in common.

I also adore Isabel Spellman of Lisa Lutz’s Spellman series, who is about as different from Raskolnikov as it gets.

What are you working on now?
A couple of week’s ago I wouldn’t have been able to answer this question, but an idea I’ve been toying with for a long time has just started to come together. It’s about a writer who is trying to balance writing, her day job and family life—but she’s lost her creative mojo. To get inspiration, she starts to re-read some of her favorite murder scenes from literary history, and those fictional events start to influence what is happening on the pages she is writing—as well as events in real life around her.

Author Bio:
Jennifer Oko’s first book, Lying Together: My Russian Affair (written under her maiden name, Jennifer Beth Cohen), was published in 2004 and received numerous positive reviews. The New York Times Book Review called Lying Together “riveting” and twice named it an Editors’ Choice. The San Francisco Chronicle raved, saying it was “a heady cocktail” and “a quick, juicy read.”

Her second book, a satirical novel about morning television news entitled Gloss, was a Marie Claire “pick of the month” in 2007 and chosen as a “hot summer read” by USA Today.

Currently working as a freelance writer and media consultant, Jennifer is a “recovering” journalist and award-winning television news producer. A graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, her career has taken her across the country and around the world. She now lives with her husband and two young children in Washington, DC.

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