SAN FRANCISCO, CA, USA– More and more we are hearing of writers crossing over from non-fiction to fiction and also from writing novels to writing memoirs. Enter long-established Bay Area author, speaker, coach and writing teacher Joan Gelfand– who is well-published in the nonfiction and poetry worlds- presenting her newest work, a first novel. EXTREME.
“I had started writing prose a long time ago,” Gelfand told us when asked “why a novel?”
“My short stories won awards,” she added, “but I had never tried to get a novel published. I really felt that I had something important to say about success, resilience, overcoming obstacles (in both personal life and business), unresolved love affairs, women in the workplace and class issues in the business world.”
A goal-attaining literary project in which Gelfand more than succeeds, EXREME’s synopsis- via Amazon pitch- intrigues:
“Hope Ellson is from the wrong side of the tracks, but her genius transcends class. When Hope joins FearToShred, a Silicon Valley extreme gaming startup, Hope’s mission is to groom the scrappy company for prime time. Enter Doug Wiser, her very married ex. While the two work in tandem, nefarious forces are at work behind the scenes. Adding to the excitement of this thriller are the stars and heroes of surfing and skateboarding. With a keen eye on women in tech, business ethics and dangerous stunts, “Extreme” will leave you breathless.”
And there’s much more…
Nicely reminiscent of Dave Egger’s The Circle– but with an appreciated focus on an executive level female lead- EXTREME offers a glimpse inside the world of Tech startups and the impact of that world on the individuals giving it life. Described by promoters as “a page turner that’s sharp, quick, entertaining, and hard-hitting—a perfect combination for the perfect Summer 2020 beach read,” Gelfand’s novel in fact proves itself more than a worthy distraction. Indeed the book lives up to its Amazon promise as “a read to take our minds off current challenges.” Further, Gelfand’s story telling shines as she cleverly pulls out all the stops with the perfect bells-and-whistles detail references to both Tech start-up’s as well as the women’s beauty and fashion industries- attention-getting for both an initiated Techie and even a wannabe.
Gelfand says writing a novel gave her “the joy of being able to deeply explore characters, ie what are their motivations, fears, dreams?” She adds, “I also loved being able to have the chance to explore risk, business and personal.” Gelfand’s challenges during the writing process were “many” as she tells us, but sounds like more in regard to industry and the time of our world rather than in the process and craft of writing.
“The first version of the book was ready to send out just as the first dot com crash hit in 2002,” she shares with Splash. “I put the book away for a long time and wrote poetry, stories and reviews. When Tech bounced back, I took the book out. I said, ‘if I still love it, I’m going to revise it.’ I did, but I had to update the Tech completely.”
EXTREME is written with an insider’s view of the “Tech” world, with some speculating that Gelfand’s husband- an exec in a large tech firm- may have whispered in her ear some of the finer points about the biz. We asked Gelfand about this, and she was remarkably candid.
“My husband, Adam Hertz was my advisor on the tech aspects,” she says. “He is an Engineering Director (currently at You Tube Music) who has worked in Tech for many years. In fact, he was personally recruited by Steve Jobs.” So, Gelfand’s husband was able to give her, as she calls it, “a ringside seat to the culture, personalities and quirks.”
EXTREME follows the journey of a startup from a bold idea to global presence. The company founders are, predictably, quirky. Add to that the complications of an app “built on scrappy code,” the tensions between commerce and idealism, and a side story love affair, and we’re presented with a fine read that is more than a pot boiler.
EXTREME is, indeed, a study of the internal workings of this thing called a “Start-Up,” but it is also a study in human nature- perfectly set in our present California culture that constantly strives, while setting trends for the rest of the world, for the newest “new thing” and the edgiest of edge-y. Gelfand’s got something for everyone here: greed, desire, insecurity, romance, and even a close-up look at the need for the thrill of the business kill. Know, in advance, that the plot has its share of twists…
Gelfand is perhaps best well know in the Bay Area for her writers’ workshops based on her how-to book You Can Be A Winning Writer: The Four C’s Approach of Successful Authors. You can see the author interviewed here, speaking about how to begin that book you’ve been putting off writing: See this
Gelfand is a winner of the Cervena Barva and Chaffin Fiction Awards, for poetry and short stories . Her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, Vanity Fair, Rattle, Pank! The Meridien Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Chicken Soup for the Soul (“Dreams and the Unexplainable” and “Dreams and Premonitions”) and over 200 literary journals, blogs and magazines.
“I needed a long form to explore all of those issues,” Gelfand adds, returning to that first question “Why a novel- now?” and further explaining this latest creative departure. “Obviously a novel allowed me that space to explore. Also, after writing poetry for a while, I wanted to write something that could reach a wider audience.”
Well, reaching a wider audience she has done with EXTREME, and what’s most fascinating to this writer is Gelfand’s amazing scope of writing and creative abilities. Not only is she a prolific, widely published writer, but she has also produced a fascinating poetry film The Ferlinghetti School of Poetics which gives the reader an idea, on screen, of the kind of imagination they’ll be encountering when they read her first novel.
We’re more than eager to see EXTREME on screen… and to preview the sequel…
Extreme: A Novel
Blue Light Press/First World
Publishing Release Date: July 14, 2020
Original Trade Paperback / $21.95