The Wedding Beat
Sometimes the best man isn't even in the wedding party...
Gavin Greene is a hopeless romantic. He's also a professional one: he writes the wedding column for a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper, covering spectacular parties from coast to coast. But there's a thin line between being a hotshot reporter on assignment...and being a single guy alone on a Saturday night at someone else's wedding.
Everything changes on New Year's when Gavin meets Melinda, a travel writer with enchanting dimples. A moonlit stroll across a Manhattan rooftop seals the deal. Until an Aussie with attitude swoops in and whisks her away before Gavin gets her number.
Gavin crisscrosses New York City to find her again. And he learns that there's something worse than losing the woman of his dreams: Having to write an article about her wedding.
How did you begin The Wedding Beat? Did it begin with the character or the storyline?
The Wedding Beat started with a simple idea: My life as a single guy writing about weddings for The New York Times would be much more amusing if it wasn’t true. It seemed to me that the story of a guy who yearns to get married while spending his weekends attending other people’s weddings could be entertaining (as long as you’re not living it). From that conclusion, it was a hop, skip and a jump to deciding the ideal plot would be a wedding columnist falling in love with a bride. (No, this part was not based on my life, but I will admit to having a couple small crushes.) The challenge was figuring out how to keep the character from coming off like a jerk if he was pursuing an engaged woman. Making the protagonist a hopeless romantic helped. Okay, truth be told, being a hopeless romantic myself also helped.
You wrote The Wedding Beat from a man’s perspective, but with the intention of having it appeal to a female audience. How did you balance that when writing the book?
This was a major challenge. I initially looked for guidance from other male authors of romantic comedies—which would have been great if I had found any. It turned out that men rarely write novels in this genre (which is odd, because they frequently write films in this genre). But that meant I could offer female readers something unique: an opportunity to look inside a man’s mind and get a male perspective on dating and romance. Something I know a bit about, not only from my own experience, but from interviewing more than a thousand bridegrooms. What may or may not be surprising is that when it comes to falling in love, men have the same hopes, fears and hang-ups as women. The difference is they don’t like talking about it as much. So the trick was making my protagonist, Gavin, sensitive enough for women to identify with him, without having him engage in touchy-feely topics that would seem inauthentic. I also threw in a female character, Hope, to instigate precisely the kind of conversations that would be outside Gavin’s comfort zone as a guy.
In The Wedding Beat, Gavin finds dating and romance challenging in New York City. Do you think that’s reflective of how most New York City singles feel?
What’s great about dating in New York is that there are more single people here than pretty much any city in the country. More people. More activities. Which means more opportunities to feel badly about not meeting the right person. It’s easy to twist New York’s adopted theme song into an anthem of self-flagellation: “If I can’t meet someone here, I can’t meet someone anywhere.” But I don’t think Gavin’s dating problems stem from living in New York. They just seem a bit worse, because he’s having them despite living here. You can’t go far on a Sunday afternoon in Manhattan without seeing blissful couples cavorting in the meadows of Central Park or the aisles of Dean & Deluca—the kind of couples that Gavin inevitably writes about in his wedding column. Yet New York is a place where anything can happen at any moment. As long as you get yourself out of your apartment, you never know who you may pass on the street or, in Gavin’s case, who you may glimpse from across a crowded room.
How much has your experience writing for the New York Times influenced the writing of your debut novel?
Working at the Times has been an extraordinary experience. There’s a palpable energy when you enter the Times building, and the passion of the people who work there is matched only by their integrity. Under the guise of fiction, I hoped to share some of that, and I thought readers would enjoy getting a behind-the-scenes look at a big-city newspaper. Or at least the wedding section. The brides and grooms depicted in the book are also fictional, but they were certainly inspired by people I interviewed, who ranged from celebrity chefs to Presidential candidates. I set the story in 2008 to capitalize on the difficult transition taking place in the newspaper industry. Like Gavin, I was living out a contradiction, reporting on lifelong commitments while under the threat of corporate layoffs.
There is a charming and humorous tone in The Wedding Beat. Did you find that writing humor came naturally to you or did it come with practice?
Every time I write a funny line, I’m convinced it’s the last one I’ll ever write. Until I write the next one. (My writing process involves a lot of suffering.) That being said, I laughed out loud quite a few times while writing the book. Probably at lines that no one else would ever find humorous, but, still, I took it as a good sign. (When you’re staring at your computer at four in the morning, you look for any good sign you can find.) I purposely placed Gavin in situations that would maximize the potential for humor, so sometimes all I had to do was set him in motion and the funny lines would follow. Other times it took tedious effort, like taking a watch apart and reassembling it piece by piece. But I think comedy is essential to any kind of writing, even dark, tragic work. Especially dark tragic work. I think laughter opens people up and makes them more receptive to whatever you’re trying to communicate.
Can you say a little more about your writing process? What’s the first thing you do when you sit down to write?
Procrastinate. That’s not a joke. Procrastination is a key part of my writing process (along with the suffering). I literally set aside time for it in my schedule, because whether writing nonfiction or fiction, short form or long, the first thing I do is think of all the reasons I don’t want to write the article or chapter or whatever it may be. That’s followed by all the reasons I can’t write it. Somewhere along the line I transition from avoidance to despair. It’s sort of like the Kübler-Ross stages of grief, except in reverse. But after hitting my head against the wall for a day or two (sometimes literally), I somehow come up with an opening paragraph, and from there everything starts to flow. Sometimes fluidly, sometimes in fits and spurts, but there’s a growing sense of euphoria as I discover what I want to say and how I want to say it.
So is there anything else you’d like to say? Anything you want people to take away from your book?
My primary goal for this book was to write the best beach read possible. But there are some deeper themes about making commitments – both romantic and professional. I feel Gavin encapsulates the message of the book when he says that “Everything in life is a choice, and I was choosing to be happy.” Happiness is a choice. That’s what I’ve learned from writing about weddings, and that’s what I hope to share.
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