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One downside to writing a novel about a "fidelity inspector" is it's apt to bring out your cynical side. That's what Jessica Brody discovered while working on her June title, The Fidelity Files (St. Martin's). The Smith College graduate caught so much alcohol-fueled inappropriate behavior when she was a member of the corporate world that her debut novel became an emotional outlet.
"The indiscretions that I was witnessing in my daily life were so common that they almost started to feel 'normal,'" says Brody, who worked for MGM Studio's Home Entertainment Group in Los Angeles. "The book was a way for me to internally cope with my feelings of doubt and frustration."
Her alter ego, investment banker Jennifer Hunter, copes by going undercover to test men's loyalties -- or lack thereof. Posing as "Ashlyn," she's on a quest to rid the world of cheaters for suspicious wives and girlfriends. Ashlyn transforms herself into an array of fantasy women to see if their husbands and boyfriends intend to stray (she never has sex with them, however).
Not surprisingly, early on the book took on a decidedly pessimistic tone that made finding a publisher a challenge. "My skeptical views about love and relationships were spilling forth onto the pages, and as
a result, Jennifer absorbed every single one of those views into her psyche," Brody recalls. "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."
That prompted Brody to re-evaluate her perspective. Concentrating on the idea that what you focus on is what you attract, she altered the environments she put herself in. "Not only was it an extremely unhealthy outlook on love and life, it also appeared to be stunting my chances at a publishing deal," Brody declares. "I stopped attending the happy hours and other functions where I witnessed things that made me uncomfortable and started focusing on surrounding myself with people who had the kind of relationship that I wanted to have someday."
Both Brody and her book were transformed, and she's already working on book two of Jennifer's saga, due out in 2009. This time Jennifer's the boss of a team of fidelity inspectors -- including a man -- and enjoying her own committed relationship. Brody's also working on a TV series based on the characters.
Jennifer's efforts may strike a chord with lots of women and men, but Brody feared she might alienate readers by coming across as too self-righteous. To that end, she tried to make sure Jennifer had her share of humbling experiences. "I've always liked the idea of creating a character who thought of herself as a kind of mini-superhero but slowly begins to realize that superheroes can crash and burn and even have emotional breakdowns."
-- Diane Snyder
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