News & Reviews
Interview with 'The Fidelity Files' author Jessica Brody
Los Angeles native Jessica
is a former strategic analyst at MGM Studio whose debut novel "The
Fidelity Files" -- about a woman living a double life as an inspector
of men’s wandering eyes -- launches shortly with St. Martin’s Press.
Jessica (pictured left) answered some questions with WORD'N'BASS.com
Editor BPM Smith,
touching on her experiences in the corporate world, the cheaters she's
encountered, and how a willingness to adapt could be the
difference between a major publishing deal and lagging in the slush
WORD'N'BASS.com: June 10 (her
novel's launch date) is just around the corner. Are things hectic
nowadays or are you trying to enjoy the moment?
Brody: I'm trying to
enjoy the moment as much as I can, but yes, things are very hectic. I
am also getting ready to turn in the manuscript for the book's sequel
to my publisher. So that's really weighing on my mind as well. I'm
feeling a lot of pressure not to disappoint anyone. And at the same
time, I'm also trying to do as much as I can to promote the first book,
so there's a lot going on right now and it turns everything into a
giant blur. It's been very surreal from the moment I sold the book to
St. Martin's. But now that everything's coming down to the fast few
weeks, it's starting to feel very real. And very scary! I just want it
to do well.
understand you quit your job at MGM, then started writing "Fidelity
Files" -- why the sudden jump over the abyss?
Brody: I thought that I
wanted the big corporate career with all the glitz, glamour and
financial security, but it soon became apparent that getting creative
with PowerPoint slides just wasn't enough for me. I actually started
writing The Fidelity Files while I was still at MGM. I would work on it
at night (when I wasn't overly exhausted from a day in the cubicle) and
I would get so lost in the writing. I would look at the clock after
what felt like five minutes and it would be HOURS later and I realized
that anything that has the ability to take me away like that is what I
should be doing.
I always knew that I would eventually quit the MGM gig to write but
there was always the problem of money and how I would pay rent and car
payments. And then Sony bought out MGM and sent us all packing with a
big severance check and I knew it was a sign. I vowed to make that
check last as long as I could. I took on several random craigslist jobs
from transcription work to catering events. I had several opportunities
to return to the corporate world and received some very generous offers
from other studios to go back to analysis work, but I turned them all
down. I just couldn't do it. The book sold to St. Martin's about a year
and a half after I left MGM and now I write full time and I never look
people say that's the exact opposite route an aspiring author should
take, since the odds of hitting a home run with your first novel are
Brody: Yes, they are.
That's why the moment I sold the first one, I
started working on another one. And another one after that. I'm trying
to be as prolific as possible so I don't have to put all my eggs in one
book, so to speak. I recently sold a young adult novel to FSG in a two
book deal so I have those two books to look forward to. The sequel to
The Fidelity Files (which has yet to be titled) will be out next summer
and I'm already working on some new ideas that I hope to sell later
this year. So I try to stay busy. You definitely can't bank your career
on one novel. But I'm hoping you can bank it on four or five.
WORD'N'BASS.com: Did you
feel like you were taking a gamble, or did you have a sense that
nurturing this idea into a novel and then getting it published was
Brody: Inevitable is a
very strong word. It's natural to have fears and doubts about your
decision. But I knew this is what I was meant to do. There was no way
it couldn't be. I was far too in love with novel writing to see myself
doing anything else. It spoke to me like nothing had. So I was
determined to make it work no matter how long it took. The funny thing
is, when I went home to visit my parents after I had quit my job and
found all of the mini novels that I had written and self "published"
when I was a kid, I suddenly wondered why it took me so long to figure
out that this was clearly my career. My seven-year old self certainly
knew, why didn't I? I've always felt very strongly about the concept of
The Fidelity Files and knew that it had a place in the book market. It
was just a matter of how to present it. Which is why the manuscript got
rewritten several times before I even signed with an agent.
After two years of rejections, I just refused to give up. Then one
agent gave me some really great feedback (with her rejection) and I
asked if I could resubmit 100 pages of a revised version to her when
they were done. She said yes, and signed me on those 100 pages. I'm a
big advocate for taking criticism from people who know the industry and
know what sells. It definitely got me to where I am now. If I had been
stubborn and insisted that my original manuscript was the one, I'd
probably still be out there pitching it. And now when I go back and
read it, it's very clear to me why it didn't get picked up. Writing is
a lonely business, but it can't be done alone.
premise kind of leaped out at me when I first saw "Fidelity Files."
Where did the idea come from?
Brody: This is the NUMBER
ONE question I get after I tell people about the book. There were
several experiences in my past that led me to this. I used to witness a
lot of inappropriate behavior at work happy hours and other functions
when alcohol began to cloud people's judgments. And I always thought
that someone should tell these the conveniently absent wives and
girlfriends and significant others about it. Of course, I wasn't going
to be the one to do it. I didn't have the courage.
The idea of a "fidelity inspector" actually hit me one day when I was
sitting at my cubicle at work. I had been trying to get another
manuscript of mine published and it kept getting turned down because
there "wasn't enough story." So I knew that the next book I wrote had
to be all about story. And I wanted to write about a woman who had a
very unusual job. One that she couldn't tell her friends and family
about. I always LOVED the show "Alias" and Sydney Bristow was my
favorite character on TV. So the whole secret double life angle really
interested me. This paired with all the indiscretions I had witnessed
over the years, led me to The Fidelity Files. The concept of cheating
has always intrigued me. And the idea that you can never really know
what someone does behind your back. So I came up with a character who
will tell you exactly what happens when you're not around.
WORD'N'BASS.com: The idea
of a fidelity inspector seems like it will hit both women and men
readers on a gut level. Men in maybe a more anxious way than women.
Brody: Yes, this is
definitely true. Over the past year and a half as I've waited for this
book to come out, I've told a LOT of people about the premise and I
usually get very similar reactions. The women nod their head and smile
mischievously and say things like "Oh, that's great!" Or some will say,
"I would totally hire someone like that!" And the men just look
absolutely terrified. Some will even ask, "Is this fiction?" as if
they're just making sure they're not in any imminent danger.
One of the things I've always wanted to do with this book is to get
people thinking. Push the envelope. Strike up discussion and maybe even
some controversy. The biggest question I wanted women to ask themselves
is "would you ever do this?" Under what circumstances would you hire a
fidelity inspector? And is it ever the right thing to do? I'm hoping
this book will cause a little bit of stir. After the movie "Fatal
Attraction" came out, men were afraid to have affairs. It would be
interesting if men were afraid to talk to beautiful girls in bars after
this book comes out.
protagonist Jennifer Hunter poses as a flight stewardesses, a poker
player, another time as a woman who likes football. So she goes after
the men by morphing into exactly what they most desire. Isn't that
similar to real dating?
Brody: I never thought of
it that way, but I suppose it is similar to real dating. I don't know
any woman who has gone as far as to borrow a flight attendant's uniform
for a date, but you never know! But I do know a lot of women who will
research a guy's favorite sports team or learn how to play poker just
to impress the man they're dating and have something to talk about with
them. But eventually the truth always comes out, doesn't it? "I hate
football." "I think poker is stupid." Or in my main character's case,
"I was hired by your wife."
WORD'N'BASS.com: I also
picture a smoking hot woman here. Basically, she's the ideal woman for
these guys she hunts, is she not?
Brody: In my mind,
Jennifer Hunter was always very attractive. I have this friend who is
just so beautiful that every time we go out, she gets hit on. One time,
we were having lunch at a very nice restaurant and some guy just bought
our lunch. Without even saying hello or introducing himself! He just
paid for it and left before the waiter even came over to tell us. That
had never happened to me. But she admitted, very modestly, that "it
happens sometimes." I was in awe. I thought that stuff only happened in
movies! So I always pictured Jennifer to be like that. A woman who men
are just instantly attracted to.
WORD'N'BASS.com: Do you
think many men could resist this kind of temptation in real life?
Brody: Sadly, I think
there are a lot of men that wouldn't be able to resist it. But I also
believe that there are a lot who could. Some men are the cheating type
and some just aren't. It's really not rocket science. But I
specifically designed the fidelity inspections in the book to weed out
one category from the other. I didn't want it to be an entrapment sort
of thing. That's why she always follows and never leads. I wanted it to
truly be a test of what a married man will do when in the company of
someone who fits his "ideal woman." Will he flirt with her, kiss her,
invite her back to his room? Or will he just smile and continue on with
his night? I didn't think that her trying to outwardly seduce him would
be realistic. If he initiates the flirtation, then you pretty much know
what he would do with any other beautiful girl he meets.
becomes changed by her job. She sees too many cheaters, too many
unhappy people, becomes a little jaded. How did writing this novel
change you in any way -- creatively or personally?
Brody: I have to say, it
changed me in a very similar way. When I wrote the very first version
of the book, I was pretty cynical about love. It's probably one of the
things that compelled me to write it in the first place. The
indiscretions I was witnessing in my daily life were so common that
they almost started to feel "normal." Infidelity, in my mind, was
practically an inevitability. As a result, the tone of the very first
draft of the manuscript was significantly more cynical than the book is
now. And Jennifer Hunter absorbed every single one of my skeptical
views into her psyche. In the first draft, she was bitter, angry, and
she hated her job. She only did it for the money. I don't think I even
realized how cynical I had become until the rejection letters from
agents started flooding in. And Jennifer's cynicism was the number one
reason for rejecting the manuscript.
So I started a rewrite. And in that process, I started exploring my own
cynicism. Because I realized that not only was it an extremely
outlook on love and life, it also appeared to be stunting my chances at
a future publishing deal! So I stopped attending the functions where I
was witnessing things that made me feel uncomfortable and I started
focusing on surrounding myself with people who had the kind of
relationship that I wanted to have someday. My outlook changed
dramatically. And so did my novel. It was at this point that I was
inspired to give Jennifer Hunter a deeper purpose in her career path. A
meaningful reason for becoming a fidelity inspector. Something she is
trying to resolve within herself so that she can find the light at the
end of the tunnel.
Of course, I can't divulge what that secret purpose is. You'll have to
read the book to find out, but I will say that it completely changed
the entire tone of the novel. It went from a dark, cynical story about
a woman who felt trapped in her own environment, to a fun,
light-hearted tale about a woman who just wants to make a difference in
And not surprisingly, this was my very same transformation.
One hundred pages into the rewrite, I signed with The Levine
Greenberg Literary Agency and two weeks after the new
manuscript was complete, we had an offer. I guess optimism really does
go a long way.
WORD'N'BASS.com: I hear
St. Martin's already bought the sequel. What direction are you taking
Jennifer? Not asking you to give it away, just a hint?
Brody: I'm very excited
about the sequel. I'm just finishing it up now and I think it's going
to be a lot of fun. I get to explore Jennifer Hunter's life from a
whole new angle. Because in the next book, she's somewhere she'd never
thought she'd be in the first book -- in a committed relationship! And
there are all sorts of fun things to delve into there.
The second book still centers around Jennifer Hunter's life both at
home and at work, but she no longer does fidelity inspections. Now she
has a whole team of people who do them for her! She runs an agency
called "The Hawthorne Agency" (a nod to The Scarlet Letter) and she has
four beautiful women and one beautiful man that work for her. I think
the most entertaining part for me about writing the sequel is getting
to create all sorts of new and scandalous assignments for Jennifer's
staff of employees. And now that there's a male fidelity inspector
onboard as well, women are being tested too!
But once again, Jen will come face to face with a lot of challenging
obstacles in her new life. Because you can't break up relationships by
day and try to keep one together by night without running into a little
drama. And Jen will ultimately have to decide if her blinding
dedication to her life's work is worth possibly destroying her chances
of living happily ever after.
for your time, Jessica. And good luck with your debut.
Brody: Thank you! These
were really great questions. I'm so excited to be included on
wordnbass.com. You've done such an amazing job with the site. Good luck
to you too!
For more information about Jessica Brody and The Fidelity Files, check
out her website.
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