Colette Freedman is an internationally renowned playwright who also co-authored the edgy thriller novel “The Thirteen Hallows” with bestselling author Michael Scott. She also co-authored the humorous novella “Tennis Dates,” the tale of a woman’s adventures in Internet dating. Colette’s plays have earned her the distinction of being named “One of 50 to Watch” by the Dramatist’s Guild. “Sister Cities,” a black comedy surrounding four sisters who have reunited following the alleged death (I love the “alleged” part) of their mother, received international acclaim and resulted in the film rights being purchased. Movie buffs should keep an eye out for this one.
In spite of her success and growing fan base as a playwright, Colette couldn’t deny her passion to write novels as well. Currently, she is in the process of novelizing “Sister Cities.” But her love of writing drove her to pen “The Affair,” released Jan 29th.
“The Affair” is an outstanding story about three people caught in the events of a disintegrating marriage. Told in three segments, from the viewpoints/perspectives of the wife, husband, and mistress, the reader learns and understands the motivations, hopes, and misguided beliefs that send these people on a journey to find their version of happiness. Interestingly, there is no “bad guy,” just three people we all could know or be, who eventually find themselves confronting each other in a turn of events that causes them to examine not just who they are, but who they aspire to be as individuals and as partners.
In “The Affair,” Colette’s skills as a storyteller and writer truly shine. The writing is impeccable, the characters believable, the plot intriguing, and the ending…. Well, you’ll just have to find that part out for yourself. Trust me, it isn’t what you expect.
Q) I guess my obvious question should be (I apologize for not knowing); is “The Affair” the book version of your play Affari di Cuore (Affairs of the Heart, if I’ve translated that correctly), and if so, what alterations did you have to make to bring this fascinating story to print? If not, did the play serve to inspire this book and how?
A) The two projects are sisters as it were. They explore the same landscape but the two formats – novel and play – allow me to address the material in different ways. I actually wrote the play before I wrote the novel. Plays come easily to me. I was an actress for many years and developed my skills as a playwright long before I could genuinely call myself a novelist. I got to know the characters three dimensionally, workshopping the play several times in front of audiences, before committing them to the page. The play and the novel are very similar with the biggest difference being the setting. In the play, I went for a style ala Brian Friel’s Molly Sweeney. Each character spends most of the play in their stylized section of the stage delivering monologues to the audience. Occasionally, they cross into each other’s playing areas to create a scene and, during the big denouement, all three are together. What the play does not have is a sense of place. Affairs are universal and, even in the early stages, we knew that this play would work across the world. In the novel however, Boston plays a big role in the story. I set the novel in my favorite city, so I had fun personifying the cold, the energy, the rich history of this city as the backdrop to the story. The city becomes the “stage” against which the characters move and act.
Q) There’s a huge difference between writing a play and writing a novel. How do you make the mental shift from creating living characters to print characters a reader must see with their mind and not their eyes?
A) For me, it begins with the characters. If I can “see” them, I can write about them. One of the reasons I love writing plays is because I love actors. I love what they bring to their characters, sometimes above and beyond what I, as the writer, have imagined for them. During the rehearsal process of a play it is a give and take as I work with an actor to create the most authentic and engaging character possible. In a novel, it’s just me. I try to leave enough for the reader to fill in, using their imaginations to fill in the blanks the way actors do in the theatre. But I see everything as a play, so even in writing the novel of The Affair, Stephanie, Robert and Kathy were lifelike characters for me. I knew how tall they were, what they weighed, what they ate for breakfast, what their quirks were, so I just did my best to put that on the page.
Q) You’re working on the book version of “Sister Cities.” Do you have plans to share your other plays with readers?
A) I do. I think most stories work in all mediums and when you find a story you love, why not explore all of its incarnations? With Sister Cities, I’ve written the play and the film, now I’m working on the book. With The Affair, I’ve written the book and the play, now I’m working on the film. One of my more successful short plays Ellipses... I am turning into a web series. My short plays Bridesmaid #3 and First to the Egg were both made into a short films. I think the possibilities for stories are endless and if there is room to explore them in different mediums, I want to do that, because each medium enhances, alters or challenges the material.
Q) You learned “release day” isn’t always flowing champagne, tuxedoes and gowns, in a room filled with excitement that so many of us imagine the life of authors to be. You celebrated at home with two hard boiled eggs and coffee, and then went to work writing. So, I’m curious, considering your success as a playwright. Was the release of your novel as personally fulfilling as you expected?
A) Unlike the theatre, where you get flowers opening night and are showered with adulations and well wishes, novel releases are less about instant gratification than being in it for the long haul. While the release day itself was fairly underwhelming, the days after it have been quite wonderful. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t get an email, text, Facebook post or tweet that someone has read and loved the book. It’s quite wonderful because everyone reads the book on a different schedule, so it’s kind of like a never ending stream of well wishes. I sincerely hope it continues as people pick up and discover my book.
Q) “The Affair” will leave readers wanting more from you. Yes, the book is that good. What’s on the horizon?
A) On the immediate horizon is the sequel to The Affair which takes place ten minutes after The Affair ends. We become deeper embroiled in the lives of the three characters and there are a few surprises which, hopefully, you won’t see coming.
Q) Any parting comments for fans and potential readers?
A) I think I have two comments. Readers become writers. I was a reader long before I decided I was going to try it for myself. Perseverance, hard work and not listening to the nay-sayers have paid off. But here’s the thing: it will take me a year to write a book. It take a reader a few hours or days to finish it. Readers are always looking for more books to read. And someone had to write them. And that could be you.
If you read and enjoy the book, spread the word. I’m discovering more and more that the success of a book, especially one written by someone whose name isn’t Stephen King, J.K. Rowling or Danielle Steel, is about word of mouth. For all potential readers, I encourage you to spread the word, not only about The Affair, but about any book you like. Readers are a really wonderful community and always ravenous for a good read.
DA Kentner is an award-winning author www.kevad.net