Today, I have the privilege of introducing Tonya Plank, an author who would like to tell you a little bit about her unique new book, Swallow. Lets all welcome Tonya. At the end of the guest post, you can enter the three copy giveaway for a chance to win her book.
by Tonya Plank
The novel is called Swallow and it's about a 26-year-old lawyer, Sophie, who lives and works in Manhattan. She's originally from a small, working-class town in Arizona and through hard work she ends up getting into and graduating from a prestigious law school. She's just begun her first law job, as a New York City public defender, and she's just received a marriage proposal from her boyfriend of several years when she's suddenly stricken with a psychosomatic disorder called Globus Hystericus, or Globus Sensation, which is the sensation of having a ball in your throat when there isn't actually anything there. It's an anxiety disorder but it can have very real physical repercussions, such as difficulty eating and drinking, speaking, and sometimes even breathing. Sophie suffers all these things. She begins to lose weight rapidly, which eventually makes her physically as well as mentally weak, and she also has difficulty giving oral arguments in court due to speaking problems. The novel details her attempt to overcome her problem, by figuring out what's causing it and then by learning how to handle that.
I wrote this book because I suffered from the disorder and wanted to let people know what it was like. It's really not that uncommon and there isn't really much written about it. And, some of the things that can cause it - deeply rooted low self-esteem, anxiety, for example - are things that a lot of people can relate to. Writing helped me to deal with it.
I also wanted to write about New York, and I really tried to make New York a character in the book (I actually just won an award from Independent Publisher magazine for best novel set in the Northeast). Sophie comes from a very working-class background (her father makes porn movies, her mother does clerical work in a prison, and her sister lives in a trailer) but, because she manages to graduate from Yale, she ends up finding herself in this environment with all of these very privileged people, who can sometimes be rather elitist and talk down to her without really even knowing it. At the same time, her clients are the opposite -- some of New York's poorest. So, the dichotomy can be very jarring for her, and she ends up at times identifying with her clients more than her peers. The feeling of not fitting in, of having these class differences and being talked down to a lot, of constantly defending both her clients and herself, and of having family members so different from her who really can't understand her, really takes its toll on her.
I practiced law for several years as an appellate public defender and I developed strong feelings about the way the criminal justice system treated certain people, and I wanted to write about that.
Also, I was very affected by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center (I actually began writing the book in early 2002). My office was only a couple blocks away. And I really wanted to write about that -- not necessarily what happened that day, because everyone already knows that -- but about the aftermath, and how average New Yorkers were handling all the bomb scares and being fearful of people on the subways and buses all the time. You didn't want to be scared, and you definitely didn't want to fear people based on how they looked, because everyone knows how wrong that is, but it was very hard not to do that, and people struggled with it. Plus, there was the horrible sadness of it all.
And finally, I also wanted to write about a certain kind of father daughter relationship. I feel like there are a lot of novels about mothers and daughters and fathers and sons but not a lot about fathers and daughters. Sophie's father left the family when she was a child to go to LA to start a film career in soft-core porn. Through the years she retained more of a relationship with him than her sister, since he always favored her. But every time she sees him he focuses on her physicality and talks to her like she's one of his actresses and it makes her very uncomfortable. She basically has to learn how to set boundaries with him and with everyone else as well, and the novel's ultimately about claiming your own identity, about finding your own voice so to speak.
The novel was published in December and it won a gold medal for best regional fiction in the 2010 Independent Publisher Book Awards, the gold medal for women's fiction in the 2010 Living Now Book Awards, and was a finalist in general fiction in the 2009 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards and in the National Indie Excellence Awards.
I'm currently working on my second novel, which is about a police shooting. I also write a blog about dance performances that I see (I used to ballroom dance) and other things I do in New York, which you can find at http://www.tonyaplank.com/. You can read an excerpt of Tonya's novel here too.
Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to chat about my book and if you read it, I hope you enjoy it!
Thank you Tonya for that interesting piece- now, doesn't the book sound enticing? Don't you want to read it right now?
Luckily for you, Tonya is generously giving away 3 autographed copies of her new book. Just leave a comment telling us you would like to win.