Elise Sax draws upon her investigative skills, humor, and Jewish background to create the latest installment of her zany matchmaker series.
In Matchpoint – the second book in a series about single matchmaker Gladie Burger – the protagonist, after tasting success, is ready for her first paying client. But her best-laid plans go awry when her dentist, Dr. Doulur, drops dead under mysterious circumstances while Gladie lays in a stupor in his dental chair. She becomes a prime suspect. When suspicions finally disappear, a possible embezzlement scheme implicates receptionist Belinda Womble. Turning to Gladie for help, Belinda is desperate to prove her innocence, and perhaps even more desperate to find a George Clooney-esque match. On this dual quest, hunky police chief Spencer Bolton is of no help to Gladie, nor is gorgeous (but mysterious) next-door-neighbor Holden, who has disappeared to parts unknown, so Gladie strikes out on her own.
You were a journalist before you were a novelist, and I understand you planned to start writing a novel while working, but then decided to quit the day job and get started on a book. Tell us about that bold move.
When to start your dream? I don’t think I could have written these books when I was in my 20s because I hadn’t lived long enough, but when 40 reared its head, I realized I was waiting too long. So I sat in my home office working, and I stared at the house across the street, and an idea came to me. The rest was perseverance. My father asked me what my backup plan was if the writing didn’t work. I told him my backup plan was writing. I made it an all-or nothing part of my life.
What do you think it is about Gladie that your readers are so drawn to?
I think Gladie is honest. She’s an every woman, who just wants to find happiness in life. I think readers can relate to that.
On both of your book covers for this series, we see the main character, Gladie, standing between two buff and shirtless hotties – not something we typically see on fictional reads with Jewish characters. Do you feel like you’re in some way breaking new ground for Jewish women?
Well, I’m Jewish, and I regularly walk around standing between two buffs and shirtless hotties. So that must be where my publisher got the idea for the covers. (laughs)
In An Affair to Dismember (the first of the series), Zelda, Gladie’s grandmother and professional matchmaker, convinces Gladie to come join the matchmaker business. How did you learn about the inside world of this profession?
I didn’t! I come from a long line of yentas (busybodies). We are always butting into people’s lives and are always sure we know who should be with whom. Grandma Zelda is that kind of matchmaker – the yenta kind.
On your website, you encourage readers to send in questions to Zelda Burger, the fictional character in your Matchmaker series, and she’ll try to get Zelda to answer them. Is there a real Zelda? Are you Zelda? What are you able to tell us?
Don’t put me away in a padded cell, but I have no idea where Zelda comes from. She just appears as a voice in my head, doling out romantic advice. Actually, I did have a grandma Zelda, but she wasn’t a matchmaker, although, she had an opinion on just about everything. She was also a partier, very social and loved people, and she never went out without being fully made up… unlike me.
Grandma Zelda believes, “With enough time, any schlimazel can turn into a Cary Grant or a presentable ﬂoozy.” What did Zelda mean by this? Do you believe the same?
Zelda believes that any man can be transformed into a dapper Dan and any woman into a hot mama. Yes, I think a man can be taught to dress and groom and even to speak. Ditto for a woman. And although it’s impossible to chase the essence of the real Cary Grant or Marilyn Monroe, there’s a match out there for everyone. Someone, somewhere, will think you are Cary Grant or Marilyn. It’s all perspective.
The books aren’t just romance novels, but also suspenseful thrillers with murder. Do you tend to read one genre more than the other, and which do you prefer writing?
Oh, I read everything. My agent thinks I’m scatterbrained because I love to write and read across all genres, but my writing voice tends to come out zany, and I wind up writing a “romp.” So, yes, I kill people in my books, but I also bring out the laughs (I hope).
Why was it important to you that the characters be Jewish in your books? The stories could probably be told without having them be Jewish…
It’s not important that they are Jewish, they just are, which is kind of like being Jewish… we just are! But since I’m Jewish, I suppose it’s easier for me to write Jewish characters. I know these people, intimately. Grandma Zelda and Gladie are people I’ve lived with. They’re me. It also tickles me that even though they’re Jewish, they can be enjoyed by people from all cultures. I love hearing that a non-Jewish reader picked up my book from a Wal-Mart in Alabama and is enjoying it. That’s fabulous!
Will there be a third installment in the series, and do you know already where the story is heading or do you let it unfold as you are writing it?
I’ve finished the third book, which comes out in February. Love Game will introduce a new character in Gladie’s life and, of course, a new murder. Yes, I know exactly where the story is going. I’m hoping to write 12 books in the series (for a full year in Gladie’s life), and I know the journey Gladie will travel and where she’ll wind up. I hope you take the journey with her. It should be a fun ride.
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