Amanda Stauffer talks about her debut novel set in the world of online dating.
1. Tell us more about your novel, Match Made in Manhattan.
Of course! Written in a serial/episodic format, the book follows the upbeat, open-minded protagonist, Alison, through her attempts to branch out and meet new people, with each chapter featuring a new man she meets online. In a rom-com style, with strong sub-themes of friendship and independence, Match Made in Manhattan offers probing reflections on relationships and the individual choices we make.
2. How did you come up with the plotline for the book? Is it in any way based on your own experiences?
Great question. My book began as a list of men’s names scrawled on the back of a cocktail napkin. I was at drinks with friends, relating the details of my latest Match.com dates. I’d been dumped before the first kiss, donned full HAZMAT gear on a third date, and, been set up with another date’s mom. At that bar, my friends and I charted out the highs, lows, and takeaways of my time dating each of these men. When we were done, I wound up with a dating history that, as transcribed on that fateful cocktail napkin, formed a quirky yet gripping romantic narrative perfect for readers of upmarket women’s fiction. So, names got changed, several men became “composite” characters, and my story became “Alison’s”.
3. Who would you want to play Alison in a film adaptation of Match Made in Manhattan?
Once upon a time this would have been a great role for Reese Witherspoon or Rachel McAdams – strong, confident ingénues who can make a joke, take a joke, but also convey bouts of vulnerability. Now I’d love to see Emma Roberts as Alison. I think she’d take the role to an interesting depth and profundity, while also expressing patience (a must for Alison on some of these dates) and charm.
4. Do you have a favourite character you can tell us a bit more about?
I actually adore 95% of the characters in this book, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be Younger Luke. In my writing and in general, I’m enchanted by the notion that different people can draw out different sides of us, and also that two people sitting on opposite sides of the table can experience the same conversation or date totally differently. I think he’s the embodiment of these two ideas . . . and also, what a charmer.
That said, my favorite audiobook character is Brooks because OMG the voiceover on his e-mails is magnificent. Better than I heard it in my own head.
5. What are you most proud of about the book?
The ending. Of course I won’t spoil it, but after many iterations of the final chapters were written and submitted, rewritten and resubmitted, I found myself fighting hard to keep the ending I originally penned several years ago. It’s a funny story, with an even funnier e-mail thread between me and my absolutely wonderful editor, Amy Singh, but after several rounds of edits, we both realized the original ending worked best. I’m glad I explored all the other possible conclusions – it was a good exercise in storyboarding and arc development – but at the end of the day, I’m really happy that my original intent and message were preserved. Maybe one day I’ll bind all the alternate endings into an anthology, or at the very least, post them to my author website 🙂
6. Do you listen to music when writing? And if so, what kind of music inspires you?
Interesting – I don’t think I ever realized authors listen to music when writing! I hear the voices of my characters in my head as I write them. Older Luke, for example, has a deep voice with a slight Southern twang; Forrest speaks softly and slowly; Dan has a bit more volume… Accordingly I need relative silence when writing so I can get “in the zone” and hear their (imagined) voices as I put their words and actions to the page.
That said, I write in surges and often put down 30-50 pages in a day or two, then wind up taking a break because work or life gets in the way. When I’m in the surge phase, I’ll listen to the soundtrack of that manuscript whenever I’m doing any in-between tasks (walking to the grocery store, going for a run, folding laundry). So when writing Match Made in Manhattan, for example, my iPod playlist was chock-full of Coldplay and Leona Lewis and Bob Dylan. As I work in surges on book 2, it’s all The Killers, Modest Mouse, and Outkast.
7. Who was your favorite author growing up? Has it changed?
When I first discovered Toni Morrison, I limited myself to one book a year so that I could savor her works and always have more to look forward to. Then one day in my early twenties, it occurred to me that you never know what life holds, and I could be hit by a bus tomorrow (sorry to be morbid; there’s a point here, I promise). The notion that there would be Toni Morrison passages and chapters that I never got to read felt profoundly chilling, so I went ahead and read literally everything she’d ever published – every novel, every essay, every commencement speech – all in that year. I’ve pre-ordered every novel she’s written since, and I’ve usually read it cover to cover (often twice) before it’s been out a week.
I didn’t read chick lit growing up, but now I obviously do. There are dozens of authors whose works I deeply admire and can never stop thinking about: Jojo Moyes, Jennifer Weiner, Dana Bate, Elizabeth LaBan, Helen Fielding . . . I could go on.
8. What message do you want readers to take away from your novels?
My goodness, there are so many threads and messages buried in those 312 pages, where to begin? I sum up (what I think are) the most poignant themes in the final chapter. But if I had to pick just one, I guess it would be: Finding your match can definitely be a challenge, but the dating process itself needn’t feel onerous or hopeless. If you’ve learned even one thing from your date – be it about a job you never knew existed, a neighborhood you’ve never visited, or a new outlook – then you’re ultimately emerging net positive.
9. When did you decide to write and what prompted you to start?
I outlined “my dating novel” five years before I got to sit down and write it. To me, it was a story that hadn’t been told already but should have been. When I moved to Paris and didn’t have a visa to work in the EU, I freelanced as a copy editor and proofreader for a major YA publishing house in the US, so that I could work remotely and still earn a living. Being around the business of books – and having an unpredictable schedule with busy streaks followed by multiple weeks of down time – inspired me to finally sit down and write it.
10. Can you tell us a bit about your plans for the future?
I’m midway through book 2: character-driven women’s fiction focusing on the ebbs and flows of a female friendship forged freshman year of college between two very different women: an outgoing, driven, hyper-rational New Yorker, and her ethereal, artistic, moody classmate, who hails from a broken-down log cabin in Kentucky. With chronological chapters that skip forward months and years in time, and settings that transport the reader from the northeast to Napa to Paris to Hawaii, the book follows these women from their teenage years through to adulthood and motherhood. The manuscript features a strong, chatty narrative voice, not dissimilar from that of Match Made In Manhattan, though it delves into different themes, like the give-and-take of female friendship, and how family upbringing, wealth, health, and failure can alternately bolster and undermine sisterhood — and how alternately easy and hard it can be to forgive and forget.
After two intense, dead-end relationships, serial monogamist Alison finds herself confused, lonely, and drastically out of touch with the world of modern dating. Refusing to wallow, she signs up for a popular dating app and resolves to remain open-minded and optimistic as she explores the New York City singles’ scene. With the click of a button, her adventures begin: On one date, she’s dumped before the first kiss; on another, she dons full HAZMAT gear; she meets a tattooed folk singer turned investment banker, an undercover federal agent, and dozens of other colorful, captivating personalities.
Match Made in Manhattan is a fast-paced, contemporary story about the struggles of dating in the digital age. Replete with online profiles, witty dialogue, e-mails, and texts, and a super-supportive group of female friends, this all-too-real and relatable debut novel will have readers laughing, crying, and rooting for Alison.
Amanda Stauffer is a graduate of Yale and Columbia Universities who works as an architectural conservator, restoring historic landmarks across the country. When she grew frustrated with New York City’s dating scene, Amanda headed to match.com. Her experiences provided her with a lifetime of warm and fuzzy memories, a few friends, and an abundance of material for a career in comedy or a book. Amanda is a fan of Italian neorealist cinema, mojitos, and — well, you can just read her protagonist’s Match profile on page 20 of Match Made In Manhattan, because Alison lifted heavily from her own profile. An erstwhile expat who has lived in Bangalore, Sicily, and Paris, Amanda currently lives in Manhattan, where she is busy writing her second novel.