My parallel universes – Toby Devens

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By Toby Devens

Welcome to my worlds. Both of them. Right now I’m celebrating the July 5th pub date of Barefoot Beach, my third novel. I’m also socked into writing my next one which means I’m currently inhabiting a couple of universes simultaneously. I live — well, half of me does — at my brick-and-mortar home in a Washington, D.C. suburb; the other half is currently residing (with an assumed identity) in a never-never land of my own creation.♥

We fiction writers chat about this craziness among ourselves, this voluntary multiple personality disorder and geographic disorientation. We actually sign up for it. On the dotted line, if we’re lucky enough to have a publisher offer us a contract. The open secret is … most novelists are deliriously happy neurotics who wouldn’t even consider trading places with the normals who are bound to a single existence.

I have been in my lifetime: a surgeon whose husband left her for a man — My Favorite Midlife Crisis (Yet); a half-Korean half-Jewish cellist who suffers from performance anxiety — Happy Any Day Now; and in Barefoot Beach I’m a certified dance therapist in winter and, in summer, the owner/operator of a ballroom and Zumba studio in a Maryland resort town.

I am fortyish in all my novels, a pleasant midlife place to hang out. Blonde in the first story, brunette in the second, an Irish-American redhead in Barefoot Beach. Mind you, these are just the leads, the first-person protagonists. Figure in the supporting players and I have lived as both genders, in almost every age group, and I’ve worked at occupations as varied as molecular biologist and purveyor of lox and other smoked fish. Such an interesting life — lives! — I lead.

What other profession, with the possible exception of acting, allows its practitioners the opportunity to inhabit, for most of their waking hours, a world completely different that the one that actually surrounds them? And mine, unlike the actor’s, is of my own making. I write the lines. I design the sets. I invent the adventures and determine the outcomes. I run the show. Not a bad way to spend a day, playing the role of Omnipotent Creator. I only wish my real world were as amenable to my manipulations as my fictional one.

“Are you Kat?” a reader sent a message through my website the other day. Kat is a character in My Favorite Midlife Crisis (Yet), a gentle hippie-dippie-type who loves her loom and grows organic herbs. Nothing like me. But thank you, kind reader.

After finishing Happy Any Day Now, a friend emailed me, “Loved it. Couldn’t put it down. But we’ll have to talk about those sex scenes.” As if they were mine. As if I had a young boyfriend who did tricks with a rolled-up blanket. Do you hear my laughter ringing through whatever device you’re using to read this?

So for the record, and to hammer it home for myself, I am not Nora or her best friend the hilarious Margo, or Emine, the Turkish owner of the Turquoise Café. And, by the way, you are not swoonable combat veteran Scott Goddard or Pete Manolis, the retired, but possibly still playing around, baseball player who co-star in Barefoot Beach. Some of my friends, males especially, see themselves in my characters.

A while back, my daughter gave me a t-shirt emblazoned with the line, “Be careful what you say around me, you might appear in my next novel.” Nah. Not to worry. Truly. My characters are all figments of a vivid, somewhat flamboyant imagination. And I love every one of them — even the villainous ones — with all my heart, soul and typing fingers.

I’d better. I’m living with them. In them.

Toby Devens has been an editor, public information specialist, and author of short fiction and articles for national magazines. Her first published book was a humorous and poignant collection of poetry that was excerpted in McCall’s and Reader’s Digest. She is also the author of My Favorite Midlife Crisis (Yet), and Happy Any Day Now. Her latest, Barefoot Beach, out July 5, is based in a Maryland resort town and deals with three women friends facing a summer of crises, challenges, and adventures. Toby lives halfway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.


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