The Debutante Ball welcomes Shana Mahaffey, author of the debut novel, Sounds Like Crazy (NAL/Penguin). It’s the darkly comic and ultimately healing story about Holly Miller, an Emmy Award winning cartoon voiceover performer who hears actual voices in her head, multiple personalities who make her career a huge success, and shield her from a terrible secret in her past. Sounds Like Crazy is a San Francisco Chronicle notable book for the fall.
Shana lives in San Francisco in part of an Edwardian compound that she shares with an informal cooperative of family, friends, and five cats. She’s a survivor of catechism and cat scratch fever, and is a member of the Sanchez Grotto Annex, a writers’ co-op. Her work has also appeared in SoMa Literary Review and Sunset Magazine. She welcomes all visitors to her website and is happy to meet with book groups in-person or in cyberspace (phone/webcam/the works).
If you’re in the Bay area, Shana will be signing books Tuesday, October 6, at 7 p.m. at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California.
Thank you, Shana, for getting us started with next week’s topic, Morning People/Night People ….
Morning or nighttime person, what about both?
People wonder how I could write a novel about a woman with co-conscious multiple personality disorder. But when I can’t even come to an internal consensus as to what kind of person I am—morning or nighttime—I am not surprised.
How does one become a morning or nighttime person? Well, growing up it seemed like the adults always perked up and became progressively happier when the sun went down. Cheeks would redden, they’d start smiling with sincerity, and as the night progressed, so did the laughter and the music. Of course I found the adults’ taste in music questionable even at age five, but I can safely say I know all the words to Neil Diamond’s Hot August Night and Olivia Newton John’s Let me Be There. Then, when on a particularly late night, one of the grownups slurred over the music, “You can sleep when you’re dead,” I started associating sleep with death. You better believe I made sure I wasn’t closing my eyes if it meant going six feet under, especially when the alternative was clearly so much more fun.
I didn’t spend every night hiding under the stairs listening to the adults say, “Play that song again.” There were quiet nights too. And on those, I hid under my sheets with a flashlight so I could keep reading long after my bedtime. After a while I had quite a reputation as the kid who never slept—the night owl. When cousins and family friends visited they drew straws to see who got to bunk with me. They liked to sleep, I liked to talk. And they knew dragging me away from the revelry and twentieth replay of “I honestly love you,” didn’t mean respite, it meant several more hours discussing the stars outside the window, Aslan—does he exist, or anything else I could think of. Suffice to say it was a lose-lose situation for those folks who needed more than forty winks.
That said, even pitted against a late night watching one of my parents’ friends direct traffic out of the driveway at three AM, in his wife’s nightgown, mornings held equal appeal. Good things came in the morning—presents from Santa Claus, candy from the Easter Bunny, the ski slopes, horseback rides, Cheerios, hot chocolate—the kind of stuff that made me want to leap out of bed and start the day. I even did this for school.
I admit I loved school. When my mother brought me to Kindergarten the first day, the school wanted her to hold me back for a year. My birthday falls on December 2, and the cutoff for kids to start school was December 1. But there I was an eager beaver in my Buster Browns, holding my books and pencils. I had no intention of going home; and, my mother had no intention of taking me. The zeal with which she convinced the principal to let me begin was influenced with a tenor one only saw in the morning, and that is how school got on my “Reasons to get up with a smile” list.
As I grew up, I discovered adult nights, red cheeks, and loud music were usually facilitated by red wine. Then I discovered red wine and this new awareness put nighttime in the running for a short while until I discovered the reason behind the early morning rush to the coffee pot and the transformation I witnessed on my parents’ faces after that first sip. Under the influence of Folgers, declaring myself morning or nighttime person once again became a tossup.
As a writer, my inspiration always comes in the morning, usually after that first sip of coffee. I am excited to get up and see what the morning has for me. I keep my notepad close to my coffee mug so I can jot down every random thought that enters my head. When the sun goes down and the stars come out, I find myself full of energy and ready to hunker down and pound out the pages I’ve assigned myself for the day. The glass of red wine waiting for me at the finish line is always a motivating carrot. Some nights I even replay songs by Bruce Springsteen and David Gray more times than Neil and Olivia repeated on my parents’ record player years ago.
Having a personality that is split between a morning and nighttime person made it a lot easier to write a book about a woman whose personality is split between five other people. To make it fair, though, I made two of them prefer the morning and two prefer the evening. Holly, the main character, she can go either way. –Shana Mahaffey