October 2014


Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of several novels, including Breaking the Bank and In Dahlia’s Wake. Her latest novel You Were Meant for Me is out this month. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and two children. (Interview by Jade Craddock)

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  1. 1. Can you sum up your novel with the dreaded elevator pitch?

    A single woman, 35, with no thoughts of having a child stumbles upon an abandoned newborn on a Brooklyn subway platform. She brings the baby to the police but can’t stop thinking about her and when the family court judge assigned to the case suggest that she foster the baby with the goal of adopting, she surprises herself by agreeing. She falls head over heels in love with the baby but then the biological father appears on the scene, wanting to claim his child.

  2. 2. Where did you get the inspiration for You Were Meant for Me?

    From an actual news story in which something similar happened, only it was a man who found a boy baby. He and his partner ended up keeping the child, who is a happy and healthy teenager now.

  3. 3. What were the challenges in writing the novel?

    I created a kind of dramatic triangle: the protagonist, Miranda Berenzweig, is torn between two men: the baby’s father, Jared Masters, and a new love interest in her life, Evan Zuckerbrot. Writing from the male POV is a stretch, but a good one; I found it challenging but also exciting and invigorating.

  4. 4. What are you most proud of with this book?

    The prologue and the epilogue. Both are very short but I wrote them over and over again to get them just right.

  5. 5. Did writing this novel teach you anything about yourself or your writing?

    I think I was more aware of plot in this novel because it contains a big secret, and I had to both plants the seeds for its discovery, yet make sure that discovery did not happen too soon. It was a tricky business.

  6. 6. What was the overwhelming feeling when you finished the novel?

    Relief of course! But a deep-in-the-bone happiness too. This is my craft and I am always happy to complete something.

  7. 7. What do you hope readers will take from You Were Meant for Me?

    I never presume to think about what readers will get from a book I write. But I do hope they are lost in the experience of reading it, and come away caring about the characters and the story.

  8. 8. You’ve written several novels now. How has the process changed and/or your writing evolved?

    There is always a process of refinement with each new novel, and a greater awareness of certain structural elements.

  9. 9. What has been the best and worst thing about the publishing process?

    The anticipation in the days leading up to publication is always exciting; they are the honeymoon period when anything and everything seems possible. But if the book does not live up to expectations - and let’s face it, most books don’t - you have to deal with the disappointment.

  10. 10. You took a fiction writing class at university, how important do you think such programs are for aspiring writers?

    I took a class at Columbia while I was enrolled in a different department, and later, I took classes elsewhere in the city. I think classes are great because they give you a community of writers with whom to discuss your work and critiquing the work of other students makes you more aware of certain technical issues in your own writing. Also, a class gives you an accountability to yourself: there are deadlines to meet, which is often a good incentive.

  11. 11. What’s the best preparation for being a writer?

    Read, read, read! Also keep a journal.

  12. 12. What do you think of the term chick lit?

    Just one more way to put women down! Historically and in the present, women have been the big readers of novels, so why disdain novels that appeal to their concerns and interests? When Tom Perotta (a writer I like and admire) writes Little Children, a book about moms and dads with young kids, it is hailed as a revelation; when a woman does the same thing, it’s chick lit. Sigh…

  13. 13. What one thing do all writers need to be successful?

    Talent of course. But talent without perseverance is essentially useless.

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