I actually struggled with the parts of the book that were close to my real life. I needed distance, which is one of the reasons why this book took so long to write.
Corie Adjmi – 2 August 2022
The Back Flap
Casey Cohen, a Middle Eastern Jew, is a sixteen-year-old in New Orleans in the 1970s when she starts hanging out with the wrong crowd. Then she gets in trouble—and her parents turn her whole world upside down by deciding to return to their roots, the Orthodox Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn.
In this new and foreign world, men pray daily, thanking God they’re not women; parties are extravagant events at the Museum of Natural History; and The Marriage Box is a real place, a pool deck designated for teenage girls to put themselves on display for potential husbands. Casey is at first appalled by this unfamiliar culture, but after she meets Michael, she’s enticed by it. Looking for love and a place to belong, she marries him at eighteen, believing she can adjust to Syrian ways. But she begins to question her decision when she discovers that Michael doesn’t want her to go to college—he wants her to have a baby instead.
Can Casey integrate these two opposing worlds, or will she have to leave one behind in order to find her way?
About the book
When did you start writing the book?
I started writing The Marriage Box around 2001.
How long did it take you to write it?
I worked on The Marriage Box on and off for twenty years. In that time, I wrote and published many essays and a collection of short stories titled Life and Other Shortcomings. I also wrote another novel.
Where did you get the idea from?
The Marriage Box is based on my real life.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
I actually struggled with the parts of the book that were close to my real life. I needed distance, which is one of the reasons why this book took so long to write. I also needed to allow the characters who were based on my parents and my husband to behave badly. I spent years protecting them and the Syrian Jewish community. I needed to write this book with the utmost respect while also incorporating the ingredients of good fiction.
What came easily?
My family has some colorful characters so they were fun to write about. Especially once I gave myself permission to play, using my imagination to permit the characters to do bad things. In addition, the Syrian Jewish community provided some really great material. I had a lot to work with.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
While this book is fiction, I borrowed from my real world, using my family and community as a springboard to tell this story.
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
Philip Roth, Nathan Englander and Jonathan Tropper were amazing inspirations for writing about family and Jewish themes with humor. I’m also a big fan of Tom Perrotta. Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye and Loorie Moore’s Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? were big influences in shaping the childhood/friendship scenes that take place in New Orleans.
Do you have a target reader?
I think people who like family dramas and the authors mentioned above will like my books.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
My favorite time to write is early morning with my first cup of coffee. I usually start with a pen and paper and in a dream-like state begin to write.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
I don’t formally outline. It’s a much more organic process. I usually write freehand, stream of consciousness. I’ll jot down random thoughts and ideas in a composition notebook or on yellow legal paper. I don’t use anything too precious.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
I edit as I go. Usually the creative new work happens in the mornings and in the afternoons, I write on my computer completing scenes and editing.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
Sometimes I listen to music. It depends on my mood and what stage of the process I’m in. Listening to music from the 70s and 80s was helpful while writing The Message Box as music is a big part of the novel. Listening to David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Blondie and Madonna was motivating while writing certain scenes and helps to elicit memories and visuals that can be useful.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
Yes, I had an agent for a few years. I found working through someone else frustrating as I could not control my own success. No one is going to champion your work the way you can and so we parted ways.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher?
I’d been hearing amazing things about She Writes Press and they’d just won best Indie Publisher. I submitted and got back Track 1, Ready-to-go!!
Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
It was a gradual process. One thing led to another.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?
She Writes Press did both of my covers and I really love them. I think She Writes Press is amazing at book covers and that their work is exceptional. Life and Other Shortcomings, my first book, actually won the IBPA: Ben Franklin Award for book cover design. And so far, people are loving The Marriage Box cover.
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
I do both. I have a plan to write essays and do podcasts, radio and television. I’ll post more on Instagram and give book talks in-person and on zoom. I’ll do written interviews like this one, but I also stay open to any new opportunities and wing it as I go as well.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
Never give up!! I mean it. I know it sounds cliché but it’s true. Keep reading in the genre you want to write in, study craft and write, write, write.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in New Orleans
Where do you live now?
I live in New York City
What are you working on now?
I’m always working on something. On any given day, I might be working on my other adult novel, some essays or a graphic novel for children that I started years ago. And I recently wrote a television pilot.
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