Posted by Literary Titan
Year of the What? follows a young woman who’s newly single and sets out to discover who she is meant to be. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
The story for “Year of the What” began as a theatrical piece of writing loosely based on my life in my early 20’s when I was living in New York City following my first major heartbreak. When I first moved to Los Angeles I developed a solo-show to showcase my acting rage and writing ability. The story started off with my personal experiences and then I took many liberties in order to develop a cohesive story arc and a range of 10 hilarious characters to show how I could seamlessly flip back and forth between different accents, genders and ages. After the show gained some notoriety in New York City a colleague suggested I adapt the play into a novel. Once I dove into working on the novel the piece took on an entire life of its own; without the restrictions of a stage performance, the story could go anywhere so I decided to create an outrageous dating adventure of sexual and self discovery.
Dana is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character’s development?
I feel like Dana embodies the characteristics of so many young women trying to find their identity and their place in the world. First there is the insecurities and lack of self-esteem in a world where it’s simply impossible to live up to the beauty standards set out by the media, the inward judgments of never feeling enough, and the universal desire for love and acceptance. Although Dana starts off quite naïve, she learns that she is more judgmental about herself than anyone else would ever be towards her. This is a recurring theme I’ve seen both in my life and with many of my friends. It’s amazing how many things “we think we know” before we have gained the life experience to back up our opinions, I was also able to show this through Dana’s evolution and internal dialogue.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
Some of the themes I wanted to explore in this book were female empowerment and positive sexuality for women. The original title of this book (an title of the stage play) “Year of the Slut” was meant to be provocative as the story deconstructs a word that is weaponized against young women regardless of their actions. Calling a woman a slut is an easy attack, but what does it even mean? I feel like society discourages teenagers from having sex (understandably so), yet we never re-visit the topic of sexual health with women in their twenties and that a healthy sex life and sexual desires doesn’t make the woman a freak or a bad person, is completely normal for adult women. I used the character of Kelly the dominatrix, who lives on the opposite end of the sexual spectrum from Dana to help reframe our protagonist’s point of view.
The next theme I wanted to explore was a loving and supportive friendship between two women where they were unconditionally supportive of each other with zero competition, but still didn’t hold back from difficult and honest exchanges.
Lastly, I wanted to show the evolution of a character who was so focused on falling in love that she kept putting her own needs aside, because this is something so many young women do in order to please their partner, myself included, when we don’t have the confidence to assert ourselves in fear of being rejected. Dana ultimately realizes that until she is able to love herself and her flaws she will never have the confidence to be in the relationship she dreams of.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next book is Book #2 in the “Year of the What?” series: ‘Year of the Bitch’. In this book Dana’s journey towards love and success continues. In the vein of the first book, I am deconstructing another word that is used as a weapon against women as they mature and become more assertive both in life and in the workplace. This book has an expected release date of late 2022/early 2023.
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Posted by Literary Titan
Year of the What? by Jennifer Lieberman is an entertaining women’s fiction story adapted from the author’s award-winning solo show. Dana came to New York as a naïve young woman who was saving herself for “the one.” But after four years of being part of an “us” she realizes that she has lost herself and doesn’t know who she is as an individual once the relationship ends. While working as the executive assistant to a wealthy real estate investor, she sets out to rediscover who she is meant to be and finally follow her dream of acting and writing plays. Along the way she struggles through a series of adventures and misadventures in the dating world.
I liked the element of self-discovery in this story and Dana’s willingness to try new and different experiences. By stepping out of her comfort zone, she learned unexpected things about herself. I enjoyed watching her gain self-confidence and figure out what she truly wanted out of life, and the kind of people she wanted in her life. At the beginning of the story she came across as a bit too naïve about love and relationships after having lived in New York City for several years (and having a woman like Kelly as a roommate), but I was happy to see how the author showed Dana had matured by the end of the book.
I was pleased to find that this book is an empowering story about a character taking control of her life, especially towards the end of the book. Too many times, Dana engaged in sexual acts while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which brought into question whether her judgement was impaired while making decisions that were out of the norm for her. It seemed to me that she was letting things happen to her rather than making conscious choices to forge her own path, and she begins to realize this. As you can tell, I was deeply connected to the character. The fantastic writing makes it easy to form a bond and I was certainly invested.
The story structure is unique in a sense that the chapters start out with a provocative statement and then the narrative backtracks to explain the current scene and show how Dana had arrived at that moment. I liked this because the reader gets more context, giving the statement more meaning. While I enjoyed the story I felt there was a lot of backstory details when it came to secondary characters. I did like the recounts of the past when reading about Dana in the present because the reader gets to learn more about her as a person and what she has been through.
Year of the What? is an engaging story with a compelling character that goes on a lively journey of self-discovery that was so fascinating and very fun to follow.
Pages: 201 | ASIN: B08NT1PV64
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