Interview with Lilian Duval, Author of You Never Know
Before I introduce my next guest, I need to offer her an apology. I had some schedule changes and I didn't update my calendar properly, so I didn't post this in the morning as I was supposed to. I can only blame the fact that I am a stay-at-home mom with kids that are more than ready to go back to school buzzing around me all day long.
Sorry for the delay in getting this posted, Lilian.
Lilian has been fascinated with lottery winners for years, and they’re the inspiration for her intriguing novel You Never Know, which explores how an ordinary man copes with terrible luck, and later, amazing luck, when he wins the Mega-Millions lottery. Her story collection, Random Acts of Kindness, will be published in 2012.
Lilian and her husband are both survivors of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. They live in a small house in New Jersey overlooking a large county park. She’s an amateur classical guitarist and enjoys attending concerts, plays, and movies in New York City.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Lilian. I'm thrilled to have you here. Can you tell us where you grew up?
In New York City and Long Island.
What is your fondest childhood memory?
Going on an overnight trip for the first time with my class when I was 11 years old. Coming home from that trip to my very first babysitting job, right next door. I was so tired from traveling that my mother had to come over and relieve me so I could go home and go to sleep.
When did you begin writing?
When I was six years old. I finished a school paper in class and used my extra time to write a little story in the margins. My teacher was not pleased.
Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?
Most of my writing is done in spare moments—lots of spare moments—at my office, where I’m a technical writer. Corporations waste a lot of time! Rather than surf the web or do crossword puzzles, I write.
When I’m on a roll with a work of fiction, I bring paper copies of the latest chapter or story with me wherever I go, and jot down ideas as they come.
What is this book about?
To see how someone who could never rub two pennies together manages after winning more cash than he can handle, read You Never Know and land right in the middle of the world of the privileged. You’re in for a big surprise!
You Never Know looks deep inside the mind of Tobias, a lottery winner who buys a Mega Millions ticket, just as a whim, in the commuter railroad station. It’s the first time he’s ever played. And he wins—BIG!
But then what happens? No matter how hard he tries to ward off disaster, Tobias discovers that good luck can lead to problems he never thought he’d have. How does he cope with overwhelming good luck? How would anyone?
Tobias starts out in life much the same as any of us—not rich, not poor, with imperfect parents and unlimited ambition. When he’s 20 years old, his future is altered in irreparable ways after a tragic car accident pushes him down a new path. The once-promising anthropology major is forced to abandon his dreams in order to care for his orphaned, brain-damaged younger brother.
In his late 30s, Tobias works in a bookstore trying desperately to make ends meet to support his family. His daily grind only reinforces the sadness that broken dreams and bad luck bring in their wake.
How many times have you heard someone say, “If only I won the lottery.”
When Tobias finds he has won the Mega Millions lottery, his unimaginable bad luck seems to be turning into unimaginable good luck … or is it?
Over peaks and valleys, this uplifting journey challenges the limits of luck, life, and what we value most. Find out more about the complications of Tobias’s friendship and rivalry with his best friend, Martin; the effects of all this bad luck and good luck on his marriage; and the struggles of his brother, Simeon, once a talented cartoonist in ... You Never Know.
What inspired you to write it?
My inspiration for this novel about good luck and bad luck was a 1978 psychological study that asked the provocative question, “Lottery Winners and Accident Victims: Is Happiness Relative?” The researchers, Philip Brickman and Dan Coates of Northwestern University and Ronnie Janoff-Bulman of the University of Massachusetts, compared a group of major lottery winners with a group of paralyzed accident victims and a control group. Their study appears on the Web and can be viewed by anyone. To read their counterintuitive conclusions about people’s long-term reactions to life-altering events, look here: htttp://education.ucsb.edu/janeconoley/ed197/documents/brickman_lotterywinnersandaccidentvictims.pdf
In the words of book reviewer Dr. Jay Thomas, Distinguished University Professor, School of Professional Psychology, Pacific University:
“Are our lives ruled by chance or by ourselves? It is apparent that, in Tobias’s case at least, his life was better when he achieved the three Cs: commitment, challenge, and control. Is that true for all of us? As much as I’d like to win the lottery, I can be happy without it. But I’m willing to take the chance of winning and keeping that happiness. The key is to roll with the vicissitudes of chance, take advantage of good luck, and be hardy in the face of bad luck; but not let chance dictate who we are. Duval’s book reminds us all that even in the face of good luck we must continue to take both hardiness and happiness seriously; they come as much from inside as out.”
Who is your biggest supporter?
Oh, definitely my husband George. And he was my most important resource while writing the book. The following areas all depended on his contribution and corrections:
1. Anything about business, the economy, or the monetary value of anything in any year during the course of the book, which ranges from 1989 through 2010.
2. All details about tennis in the book. Tobias and his best friend Martin are accomplished amateur tennis players.
3. What a real, live man would do and say in certain situations. I’m a female novelist and my protagonist, Tobias, is a man. More than once, George caught me when Tobias did not seem realistic and authentic.
Are you a member of a critique group? If no, who provides feedback on your work?
I had a small army of dedicated volunteers who read along chapter by chapter while I wrote the book over the course of 14 months.
If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?
Yes, I would have selected Dorothy Thompson of Pump Up Your Book right at the very beginning. She’s the best internet publicist anywhere!
There, readers can learn about the fascinating facts that inspired the book. There are lots of reviews, and there’s a treasure trove of free information: writing tips for would-be authors who just can’t get started. These short and motivational articles are guaranteed to get your pen moving or your fingers typing!
Do you have a video trailer to promote your book? If yes, where can readers find it?